Preparing for your first international business trip: Time changes, Visas, Global Entry

Getting ready for your first business trip abroad can be very stressful! I’ve put together a comprehensive list of items that can help you prepare, hopefully cutting down on your anxiety. The first installment covered passports, travel advisories, and vaccinations.  The second installment covered food, transportation, and language.  The third installment covered credit cards, currency exchange, points, and cell phone, data, and text plans. The fourth installment covered what to put in your carry-on for the travel. This time we’re talking about time changes, Visas, and Global Entry.two time zone watch

Time changes.  Make sure you and the office you’re visiting are on the same page with scheduling times.  It’s easy to get crossed
when scheduling things in different time zones. Manila is 14 hours ahead of Texas, but the office I visit works the night shift—that can get confusing fast!  So be sure to double (and triple!) check schedules with the people you are working with.  Not much is more frustrating than traveling a long distance only to find out they expected you there many hours earlier.  I’ve had personal experience with time mix-ups in Manila—that was a bad day. (Pictured: Dual-time zone watch by Gotham)

Global entry. I’ve talked about Global Entry a lot, and in my experience it deserves every bit of praise it gets. For $100, you get five years of going through a kiosk for customs vs. waiting in the long lines. You also get five years of TSA Pre-check. Even if you only fly internationally once a year I think this is worth it. For those of you that go overseas often it is a must have.

Visas. Make sure you take care of any work visas you need BEFORE you leave. Your company travel department should be able to help you determine what documents you need and how to get them. If you don’t have a travel department check the US Department of State website which will tell you need for any country you travel to.

Google Earth- When you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, before you leave I recommend finding your hotel and office on Google Earth. Take a look at what’s going to be around you.  This will help you find potential restaurants, places to shop for things you may need, etc.  It also can help to relieve some of the stress of going to a place you’ve never been before since you can actually see the area where you’ll be going before you get there.  Doing this definitely lessens my anxiety before traveling to a new international destination.  Of course, if the area looks worse than you expected there is the potential for more stress, so keep that in mind!

That wraps up the series on preparing for your first international business trip. If there is anything you think we missed, leave us a comment and we will add it.

Readers, anything else someone would need to know before going on their first international business trip?

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  1. I do a lot of international travel for business, and have been posted in China for a year (a while ago). Here are some additional points:

    For time changes, there are many apps for your phone that cover multiple time zones; some have a day/night world map that shows you times at a glance.

    Global Entry is a must! Not only do you clear passport control in 2-3 minutes, you get to bypass the customs line (special lane). This has saved me hours at IAH.

    Visas: It has been my experience that generally all you need is a business visa unless you are going to take up residency. Also, there are many services that can assist in securing your visa and passport renewal quite quickly (turn-around in a week or less), but they are pricey – and well worth it as it is one less hassle.

    If you will be doing a lot of international travel, when you get your pictures for your visa, get additional ones – it is cheap and will save you from having to get new ones for every visa (important for Russia as the max visa is something like single entry, 90 days).

    While Google Earth is good to let you know what to see/do in your location, it is also useful to learn what troubles are in the world near where you are going to be. Sing up for the State Department Smart Traveler program (and get the app). It has information on the different legal systems you may encounter and other information (such as travel warnings) that can be useful.

  2. The visas tip is a good one. Please make sure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months from the date you travel; some countries, especially those with which we have visa-free travel agreements, require a 6-month validity (minimum) on your passport. When in doubt, go ahead and renew your U.S. passport before you go – in plenty of time before you need to travel, as this can take weeks. Make copies of the biodata page in your passport (the page with your picture and information). Leave one copy in a safe place back home, or scan and store in a safe cloud location. In the event that you need to report a lost/stolen passport, having the number will speed things up and make it harder for someone else to travel on your passport. Keep a copy with you while you travel, ideally also with a copy of the entry stamp you receive when you enter the country where you’re working. Look up the contact information for the U.S. Embassy in the country where you’re traveling – it’s usually country.usembassy.gov – just in case anything happens. For female travelers, especially if you’re traveling solo, try to find out what the local norms are for women at your destination. Dining at your hotel’s in-house restaurant may lack local color, but in many parts of the world a woman out walking/dining by herself, especially during evening hours, is an open invitation to trouble of some kind. (Women know this. On one trip, I got twisted around in back streets in Ankara and found myself out alone after dark. I tried asking a local woman for directions in my best guide-book Turkish; this turned into a neighborhood gaggle of women while one auntie got her daughter, who spoke some English; the young woman got a friend and insisted on walking me to a major street where we could hail a cab. That simple act of kindness was one of the most hospitable gestures I’ve experienced in 15 years of living abroad.) Do your homework and enjoy yourself. If you can, ask a local from the office where you’re working to join you for a meal or show you around a bit. You’ll see more of the country you’re visiting than you could ever imagine.

  3. “…. Make copies of the biodata page in your passport (the page with your picture and information).”

    Great tip, thanks ~

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