5 Steps to Plan a Safe International Business Trip

Don't let scary headlines keep you from pursuing opportunity overseas. Arm yourself with information and some basic precautions.

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By John Boitnott • Aug 20, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the course of a career, many professionals have become comfortable with routine air travel but, as businesses go global, the need to hop a plane for a 12-hour international flight is more common, too.

As professionals head overseas, though, they often have safety concerns, usually based on information they've seen in the news. It is possible for you to safely conduct business in all corners of the world, as long as you are well informed before booking a trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind before doing that.

Related: What I Learned About Business Travel on the Way to the Taj Mahal

1. Know the landscape. While news events can create unfounded paranoia, there are many instances when travelers should avoid certain areas of the world. The U.S. Department of State issues alerts and warnings based on incidents in a country. While some areas are on the list are temporarily based on recent incidents, some countries have been on the list for years. Stay educated on international hot-spots as well as safe-zones.

Most recently, two incidents involving Malaysia Airlines have many air travelers concerned about international air travel. Air experts assert that it has never been safer to fly, with one aviation expert stressing that the industry flew 3.3 billion passengers last year with the lowest number of overall fatalities in the history of air travel. Both incidents were completely unrelated, with the main connecting factor being that the planes were from the same airline.

2. Heed the warnings. To make sure you're notified as soon as a new alert is issued, register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling each trip you plan to take in STEP, you will be registered with the U.S. embassy in that country, which will keep you informed of any new warnings being issued for that area. If there is an emergency, STEP will have contact information to let you know. If your family needs to reach you in an emergency, STEP can put them in touch with you.

3. Have documentation. You need a valid passport to travel outside of the U.S. If your passport isn't current, you should allow plenty of time for processing. The U.S. Passports & International Travel website states four to six weeks is normal. The site gives an up-to-date account of current processing times. Thes site states a passport application can be processed and the document returned within three weeks under an expedited process. The service costs an additional $60.

Related: The 15 Countries Spending the Most on Business Travel

4. Remember connectivity. You are probably accustomed to having access to all the information you need through your mobile devices but you may not have connectivity once you arrive at your destination. Before you leave, gather the information you need and either save it in a file on your laptop or smartphone or print it out to take with you.

5. Know your embassy. Contact information for the U.S. embassy and consulates in the area where you'll be traveling is essential. If you plan to drive overseas, be aware that your United States driver's license won't suffice. Prior to leaving, learn about the driver's license requirements in your destination country, as well as the restrictions of your own insurance policy internationally. Some countries will recognize an International Driving Permit, which can also serve as identification in some countries even when you aren't driving.

The U.S. government offers numerous resources to help Americans traveling abroad but it's important to learn about these resources before you leave home. Your ability to access the websites you need might be limited overseas. Save the necessary documentation locally on your devices or print it to avoid being stranded without it.

Don't limit your business travel out of fear. Take the necessary precautions when you plan your travel abd enjoy the peace-of-mind of knowing you're well prepared. Your next international business trip will go more smoothly.

Related: A Guide for Using Mobile Devices When Traveling Abroad

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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