Sometimes people ask me whether they need a visa to leave an airport during a layover, or what it costs to enter a country, or some other question related to their ability to enter a country with a certain passport.

I hesitate to answer those questions because I would sure hate to be wrong. Even if I have first-hand knowledge, something could have changed.

So I send them to the country-specific info at travel.state.gov, the US Department of State’s very helpful site.

On the left hand side, select the country you are visiting from the drop down menu.

At the top of the country’s page will be links to specific information about the country. Here is the top of Chile’s page.

To get up-to-date warnings from the local embassy, check the Recent Embassy Notices for American Citizens. Here are the ones from Chile:

As you can see, they might be a little useful, but they also illustrate that the US government is like your mom on your first trip: scared to death of every little danger.

Scrolling down the main page, you come to the Country Description. Here is Tanzania’s:

 

This is always a nice overview of the country, but no substitute for guidebooks or wikipedia on the subject.

Below that is the location of the US Embassy in the country and its other contact information. This is crucial information to have handy. Here is that information for North Korea.

The next section is where I pay the closest attention: the entry/exit requirements. Here you’ll find out whether you need to pay to enter the country, whether you need a visa in advance, and any other peculiarities. Here is the information for Argentina.

The rest of the page has interesting information about criminal laws, transportation safety, and other local issues. It’s all worth a read.

Recap

I make sure to read the travel.state.gov country-specific information for every country I am visiting to get the US government’s perspective in addition to relevant entry requirements.

Does anyone else have any other resources they recommend for this stage of trip planning?

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