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Doing Business Overseas Part 1

Follow these tips to tackle your next international trip.

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Taking your business global can translate into lots of travel. Unfortunately, braving long lines at the airport, chasing lost luggage and enduring bland in-flight meals are only half the challenge. There are foreign languages and customs that must be understood before your new partners sign on the dotted line-never mind all the paperwork worries: passports, visas and other documents you need in order to do business in a foreign land.

How do you keep your head when you're on the road? Here are 5 tips:

1. Avoid hot spots. They're everywhere you don't want to be. Know which cities are safe to walk around in at night to steer clear of any dangerous areas.

Insider tip: Private organizations such as Kroll Associates (800-824-7502) also offer reports on global hot spots.

2. Know your airlines. Code sharing can confuse even the most seasoned travelers. This is when your ticket is issued through one carrier, but the flight is shared with another carrier, and may even use the other airline's plane. This usually doesn't make a lot of difference unless you're counting on a particular service or amenity. For example, you might pack a power adaptor that fits the outlets on a U.S. carrier but end up on its European code-share partner without the correct plug. Or, if you're counting on a favorite meal on a particular flight, you might have to go without. Another downside to code sharing is that sometimes there are dramatic price differences between tickets for the same flight.

Insider tip: 1travel.com (http://www.1travel.com) gives you the lowdown on airline rules and regulations.

3. Phone home first. Rent a cell phone before you leave. Depending on which country you're traveling to, using a rented cell phone is probably less expensive than using the phones at your hotel. Checking with an expert before you leave will also ensure you'll have the right cell phone for the country you're in.

Insider tip: Most of Europe and Asia is on the GSM (global system for mobile communications) network, and their phones operate on a frequency that is incompatible with the majority of U.S. mobile phones.

4. Use the Web. The Internet is an excellent resource for business intelligence. Whether it's a pre-trip briefing using financial data from a service such as Dow Jones Interactive or a random Internet search for the best restaurants in an international city, logging on beforehand can help prevent problems. The Internet is also a must-have tool for making lightning-fast airline, hotel and car rental bookings when your travel agent is unavailable.

Insider tip: Web sites such as TheTrip.com (http://www.thetrip.com) can even help you track a flight.

5. Brush up on the language. New programs can help you learn to speak like a native. Berlitz Passport to 31 Languages, a CD-ROM tutorial that helps you grasp the essential elements of 31 major languages, is a great crash course. With the help of a microphone plugged in to your PC, the multi-CD set compares your speech to that of a native and lets you hone your pronunciation until you sound like you fit in. The set costs about $30.

Insider tip: For more in-depth language study, Berlitz also offers CDs that teach you a single language.