Section Menu

Travel and Safety

Download the travel and safety guidelines (pdf)

Where can I get basic information about the country I am going to visit?

Learning about the culture, history and environment of the country you will visit is essential. By learning about the country you will visit, you can gain valuable experience and be a good representative of the United States and Des Moines University. There are several good sites for general information. The U.S. Department of State has summary information about many countries. The Central Intelligence Agency has produced a web-based fact book about most countries. Google will find other websites and you may consult the public library for more detailed information.

Do I need a passport? How do I get one?

You need a passport to travel anywhere outside the United States. Go to the U.S. Department of State website for instructions. Note: you will need to provide proof of your identity, photographs, complete an application and pay a fee. This process may take several weeks or months. Give yourself plenty of time. If you have a passport, be sure that there is at least 6 months remaining before it expires. Most countries will not admit you if you have less than 6 months remaining. To renew your passport, go to the U.S. Department of State website for instructions. Make a copy of the picture page and signature page of your passport and keep it with you in a different place than your passport.

What if I lose my passport while I am on an international rotation?

Contact the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible and arrange an appointment. Bring the photocopy of your passport’s picture and signature page. Replacing a lost passport may take some time and there may be a fee required. Act quickly if your passport is missing.

Do I need a visa to go to my international rotation?

Most countries require a visa for entry. Check www.state.gov for a list. If you need a visa, you will need to apply for one at the U.S. Embassy in Washington, DC, or one of the consulates located in various U.S. cities. Use Google to get to the website and download the instructions. They will require an up-to-date passport and other requirements, including an application, possibly photos and a fee. This may take some time, so start early with your request. When you check in for your flight, the agent will verify that you have a current passport and visa for the country you are visiting.

Can I take family or significant others on this international rotation?

Global health department policy on this matter is that family and significant others are not permitted on these rotations.

What is the best way to bring money on this trip?

Many countries have limits on how much currency you can bring with you. See the website of the particular country for details. Cash is the most convenient and exchange offices are readily available in most countries. Some American banks will exchange currency, but oftentimes this is limited to Euros or Yen. It also may require several days to accomplish and at a lower exchange rate. In your international rotation site, you should take large bills ($100 denominations) that are new, clean and without writing on them. This results in fewer problems with the exchanges and a better exchange rate. (To get a current exchange rate, go to www.xe.com/ucc/). Use prudence when exchanging money. Don’t flash a big roll of bills and exchange only what you will need. Credit cards (especially Visa, Mastercard or American Express are widely accepted). However, before traveling call their toll-free number to notify them that you will be out of the country and let them know where you will be and when. This should help avoid getting your card rejected. Traveler’s checks may be acceptable, especially if you will be in a big city-but in many areas they are not acceptable. It is best to check in advance.

How should I make my flight reservations?

You may make them on the Internet directly with the airlines, on other Internet websites or through a travel agent. DMU has an agent, Julie Boeding. She can be reached at 515-270-7070 or at Julie@alliedtravel.com. The price of the tickets may vary depending on how you make your reservations. However you do this, you must make the reservation in your name as it appears on your passport. No nicknames or abbreviations. When you check in for your flight, the ticket agent will compare your reservation with your passport. If there is a discrepancy, you may not get your boarding pass. Make your reservations as early as possible to ensure that you get the flight you want at the best price. However, be sure about travel dates before you make a reservation. If you make a change in a confirmed reservation, there will likely be a penalty (could be several hundred dollars) plus any difference in the price of the ticket.

How do I pack for this trip?

Do some careful planning. Check the website of your airline(s) for their requirements regarding number of bags, dimensions and weight, and fees as well as their carryon limits. International airlines may have different limitations than domestic carriers. Then check with the Homeland Security regulations regarding what is allowed in checked baggage and carry-on baggage. Be sure to bring enough prescription medications in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is lost or delayed. Also pack any necessary personal items. They may not be available where you are going. For clothing, review the customs of the country to which you are traveling and be sensitive to their culture. For example, in a traditional culture, it will probably be unacceptable for women to wear sundresses or shorts. Dress in a professional manner to avoid embarrassment by you and your hosts. Some rotation sites have dress codes for the hospitals where scrubs are a good choice. Don’t overpack-laundry services will be available at the sites. Bring your camera, but leave other valuable items and jewelry at home.

Are there any restrictions on how I spend my spare time?

The global health department assumes that its students are adults and have the freedom to do what they wish during their spare time. Students should exercise prudence and be aware of local laws and customs and obey them.

What do I do if I am the victim of a crime or am arrested.

If you are the victim of a crime, contact local police authorities and the US Embassy. If you are arrested, notify the U.S. Embassy. Note: The U.S. Embassy will help find you an attorney, but you are subject to the laws of the country in which you are a visitor.

How can I communicate with family and friends in the U.S. when I am on an international rotation?

It is likely that your cellphone will not work in another country although some providers do have provisions for this type of service. In your international rotation country, it is usually possible to purchase phone cards that permit long distance calls to be made from public phones. Internet access varies widely and for the most part, you will have lower bandwidth than in the U.S., which will limit the types of messages that you can send. In many places, there are internet cafes.

What are the procedures for returning to the U.S. from an international rotation?

On your return flight, you will complete a customs form indicating the value of any gifts or purchases you are bringing into the country. The form will indicate how much of an allowance you have before customs duties are applied. When you arrive in your first U.S. city, you will proceed to immigration and have your passport reviewed and stamped and your customs declaration form stamped. Note: It is forbidden to take photographs or use cellphones in the immigration or customs area. After immigration, you will pick up your luggage and proceed to customs where you will hand your customs declaration form to an official. Your bags may be inspected. After clearing customs, if you have another flight, you will be able to check your luggage just outside the customs area. Then you may proceed to your gate for the connecting flight. You will likely need to go through security again.

How will international rotations be affected by international emergencies?

The global health department will monitor the U.S. Department of State’s website, those of news organizations, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and others. Should an emergency arise before students travel to their rotation sites, the global health department may choose to cancel either an incoming or outgoing rotation. Should such an emergency arise after students are already in their rotation sites, the global health department will advise them to return at the earliest opportunity, recommend that they contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance and will provide as much assistance through its travel agency as possible. Students and their families can contact the global health department staff via email or telephone for additional information and updates.