Personal travel documents

Taking your money on holiday

Before setting off it’s important to find out what travel documents you will need to enter your destination country.Sometimes all you need is a passport, but there may be certain conditions applicable to residual validity and/orduration of stay, while in other countries you may need to apply for a visa from the embassy or consulate, or it may be issued to you when you enter the country. Citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program may enter the United States for a maximum of 90 days without a visa; they must however obtain an online authorisation known as ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) prior to departure for the United States. ESTA replaces the previous paper forms for visas which travellers filled in during the flight. To request an ESTA document, go to the ESTA websiteand obtain authorisation at least 72 hours prior to departure. ESTA authorisation will be valid for two years from the date of issue.Starting on September 8 2010, all applications for and renewals of ESTA registration require payment of a fee of $14.00 by credit or debit card. Previous ESTA registrations will remain in effect until their expiry date. For further information, go to the ESTA page on the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of the Department of Homeland Security.

Travel documents for minors: passport/identity document

Minors under the age of 14 may travel abroad but must be accompanied by at least one parent or guardian; if not, the name of the person, organisation or travel company to whom the minor is entrusted must appear on the minor’s passportor on a statement of accompaniment issued by a person entitled to provide their consent or authorisation and approved by a competent authority. In order to facilitate international travel of minors while avoiding the danger of illegal expatriation of minors by third parties, since 2010 parents may ask passport issuing offices to print their names on the minor’s passport. If this information does not appear, it is recommended that you obtain a certificate of family status or a birth certificate of the minor in question to show at the border if requested.

Medical documents

For more information, go to the health ministry website of your country of origin. You should always have a medical check-up before travelling; women should determine whether they may be pregnant, as particularly long or stressful trips can be harmful in the event of pregnancy. It is important to know that it may be difficult to find the medications you are used to taking at home in another country, and even more difficult to find a physician who can prescribe medications requiring a prescription. For this reason it is a good idea to purchase any medications you may require before travelling and take a sufficient amount with you to cover the duration of your trip. Consult your physician about any special vaccinations that may be necessary or recommended in your destination country (such as vaccination against yellow fever, typhoid fever, rabies, Lyme disease, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, etc.).

Children

Children in good health may travel even in areas of high risk for certain infectious diseases such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever or meningitis, but some measures may be necessary prior to departure to prevent nasty surprises during travel or upon your return. For instance, prior to departure you should check that the child is up to date with the vaccination programme and, depending on your destination, discuss the need for specific vaccinations with your child’s doctor or with a specialist in travel medicine. Certain vaccines may be given to children, while others are not recommended under a certain age. For instance, no vaccinations are recommended under the age of one year except vaccination against meningococcus when travelling in a high risk area. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for children over one year travelling to areas where the disease is endemic. Children over the age of one year may be vaccinated against yellow fever in high risk areas where it is obligatory or recommended; vaccination against typhoid fever is recommended over the age of two when visiting high risk areas. Areas where there is a high risk of malaria are not recommended for very small children, and you should be careful about not only antimalarial drugs but mosquito repellentsused on the skin under a certain age. The medications used against malaria are not 100% effective and must be administered to children in specific ways, depending on their weight. Children are at particularly high risk of contracting diarrhoea,and are more likely to become dehydrated than adults. Breast-fed babies are partially immune thanks to their mothers’ immunity, while special care must be taken to protect older children through basic sanitary measures such as determining whether water is safe to drink and purifying it if necessary by boiling, filtering, etc. In the event of diarrhoea, immediate rehydration is very important, for instance with a formula made of one teaspoon salt, 8 teaspoons sugar and one litre water.

Seniors

Provided they do not suffer from particular pathologies, seniors can travel, with the same precautions: it’s a good idea to consult your physician and a travel medicine centre before travelling, to assess the health risks involved in the trip, any vaccinations you ought to have and any medications you will need to take with you. Take special care during long flights because of the risk of deep vein thrombosis; it’s best to wear comfortable shoes andsupport hose, and above all to get up frequently and move your legs during the flight. If necessary, you may take an anticoagulant; ask your doctor about this. Air travel is not recommended in the event of severe anaemia or a history of heart problems such as heart failure, a recent heart attack or stroke, or angina pectoris. It’s not a good idea to visit tropical countries during hot, humid seasons, as dehydration and the electrolytic unbalance resulting from heat and potential diarrhoea are more likely and more serious in seniors due to reduced kidney functioning and a reduced tendency to experience the sensation of thirst. It’s also important to take into considerationthat older travellers have a less effective physiological compensation mechanism as a result of reduced muscular strength andelasticity of the joints, so that seniors aremore likely to injure themselves; they also take longer to recover and tire faster, are more likely to get heat stroke due to the skin’s reduced ability to give off heat and reduced dilation of blood vessels; they can also be more prone to infection as the body’s immune system produces less protective antibodies in old age. As for vaccination, travel can represent a good opportunity to check whether you are up to date on basic vaccinations such as tetanus, polio and diphtheria. Other vaccinations such as those against yellow fever and hepatitis A must be assessed by your physician, as they may not be recommended after the age of 65. It is of course advisable to take a stock of all the medications you normally take with you so that you will not run out in a place where they may be hard to find. If you purchase travel insurance, take note of all the clauses, as seniors are sometimes excluded from some forms of coverage.

Disabled travellers

A physical disability should not constitute a barrier to travel: airlines have regulations regarding travel conditions for disabled travellers. Obtain information on assistance offered by various different airlines in advance.

Pregnant women

Pregnancy should not prevent you from travelling, but extra care must be taken. The best time to travel is the second trimester, as there is a greater risk of miscarriage in the first trimester and a greater risk of complicationssuch as haemorrhage, toxaemiaor premature breakage of the waters in the third trimester. It’s also important to find out what the airline’s policy is regarding travel during pregnancy, and notify the airline that you are pregnant, as airlines will not take responsibility for pregnant women beyond a certain point in the pregnancy. A pregnant woman is at greater risk of contracting an infection during travel, and as some medications can be harmful to the foetus, it is best to obtain a stock of essential medications which are safe to take during pregnancy prior to departure. Not all countries have facilities for pregnant women, so find out about whether such facilities are available prior to departure and avoid travelling in isolated areas, or in places where yellow fever is endemic (unless you have been vaccinated), regions with a high risk of malaria orareas where there is a high level of resistance to antimalarial drugs. Remember that vaccines containing compromised living virusessuch as the vaccinations against yellow fever, measles, German measles, rubella and chicken pox are not recommended for pregnant women. The yellow fever vaccine is not normally administered during pregnancy, and if a pregnant woman is travelling to a country where this vaccine is obligatory, she is usually given a special permit, unless there is an epidemic of yellow fever underway, in which case travel is not recommended; consult your doctor if in doubt. Vaccination against tetanus and polio are necessary; vaccination against typhoid fever is recommended only if travelling to a high risk area, as is vaccination against meningococcal meningitis. Vaccination against hepatitis A is optional but recommended if a serological test reveals that the patient has no immunity, and pregnant women may be vaccinated against hepatitis B. Rabies vaccination is administered only if necessary, as is vaccination against Japanese encephalitis. Consult your physician if you have diarrhoeaand before taking any medication, particularly antibiotics and other drugs that could harm the foetus. Another risk pregnant women should keep in mind during long haul flights is deep vein thrombosis, particularly in the last trimester. If you travel on a long flight at this time, wear comfortable shoes (or even slippers) and support hose, and try not to stay sitting down for too long, but get up and move around the plane as much as possible.

Information on the destination country

Before choosing your destination country it is important to obtain as much informationas you can, especially about the political situation in the country you wish to visit. It’s also important to find out about the customs and lifestyle of the people who live there, which may be different from your own, to prevent misunderstandings. And lastly, it’s important to take into account the climate of the country you will be visiting, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises such as arriving in the middle of the rainy season or at a time when there is a risk of potentially hazardous meteorological events.

When you get there

To mitigate the effects of jet lag when changing time zones, try to adapt to the new time of day or night right away. You might attempt to move your mealtimes and bedtime an hour or two forward or back prior to departure to begin to compensate. Jet leg is of course proportionate to the number of hours of time difference. When travelling to high altitudes, remember that a sudden change of altitude and therefore atmospheric pressure can have a negative impact on your health, resulting in loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, insomnia and headache; it is advisable to climb slowly to a higher elevation when travelling to destinations above 2000 metres. It is a good idea to have a medical check-up prior to departure to check that you do not suffer from any circulatory or respiratory ailments, for at high altitudes the body must compensate for unusual conditions such as lack of oxygen and low temperatures. In addition, if you will be doing physically tiring activities such as trekking at high altitudes, be sure to get enough energy from your food and to drink enough to make up for fluid loss. Lastly, make sure you have appropriate clothing to protect you from the sun by day (as well as sunscreen and sunglasses) and from low temperatures at night. When travelling to particularly hot parts of the world, be sure to prevent sunstroke and heatstroke; abstain from physical exercise during the hottest hours of the day, dress appropriately for the climate (with light, well-ventilated clothing, made of cotton if possible), wear a sunhat and sunglasses and protect your skin with sunscreen. The direct effects of UV radiation (UVA with high wavelengths and UVB with medium wavelengths) not only damage the skin but can be carcinogenic. It takes time for the skin to adapt to the new environment, and skin diseases are particularly frequent among travellers. These diseases can be prevented with simple measures of personal hygiene such as washing your hands before meals and before and after using the toilet. Do not put on perfume before going out in the sun, to prevent unfortunate consequences such as irreversible pigmentation. Be careful about bathing, particularly in fresh water and stagnant water; as well as representing an attraction for mosquitos carrying pathogens such as malaria-causing protozoa, stagnant water involves a risk of contracting other parasitic infections such as schistosomiasis. When bathing in the sea, be alert to the possible presence of venomous creatures such as the stone fish, red lionfish, coral, etc. Wear sandals or flip-flops on the beach and on the rocksand sit on a towel rather than on the sand. Never go swimming alone in a remote area.

Documents required to drive abroad

Most countries require an international driver’s licence,which is not valid alone but must always be accompanied by a valid national driver’s licence. International conventions on this subject provide for two types of international licence: the "Geneva 1949" licence and the "Vienna 1968" licence. The "Vienna 1968" licence is valid for 3 years, while the "Geneva 1949" licence is valid for 1 year, in both cases provided the national licence accompanying it remains valid. A number of countries (such as the United States) only recognise "Geneva 1949" international licences. You must present a request for an international driver’s licence to the offices of the land transport department in your country. It is advisable to contact the diplomatic representatives or consulate of the country you will be visiting to check the validity of the document issued by your country’s land transport department.

  • International permit

    An international driver’s permit is required to drive in countries that have not signed the international conventions ratified by Italy

  • Permission to drive

    It is not a good idea to travel abroad with a vehicle owned by someone else. If you do so, you should have the owner issue a permit to drive it and have it certified by a notary public.

  • Green card

    A green card is an international insurance certificate which allows a vehicle to travel on the roads of another country with civil liability insurance coverage. Ask your insurer to issue one. It is not necessary in European Union countries and in many other countries.

Taking your money on holiday

Cheques

It is expensive to write a cheque abroad, and in many cases shopkeepers will not accept a foreign cheque, because it is also expensive for them to cash it.

Cash

Exchanging cash into another currency is not free. The cost depends on the currency requested, for there are three types of currency: those in the "euro area", or "in area", including the eleven currencies of the European Union; the currencies of the "out area" (the British pound, the American dollar and the Japanese yen) and non-convertible currencies, which cannot be exchanged outside their own country (such as the Turkish lira, the Moroccan dirham, or the Russian rouble...).If the currency you purchase is "in", you will have to pay a commission (to cover the cost of exchanging the currency) which varies depending on your bank, from 2.5 to 4.5% of the amount of the transaction, often with a minimum charge of 3 to 6 euro.This commission is 5% in exchange offices, which are best avoided for purchasing "in" currencies. If the currency you need to exchange is "out", banks will charge you a commission and an exchange fee equal to about 4-5% of the amount of the transaction. In this case, it is often cheaper to go to a currency exchange office, where you can expect to pay a commission of about 2.5% of the total amount of the transaction.

Suggestions

If the currency of the country you are travelling to cannot be exchanged, ask for a currency that will be easy to exchange when you get there, or even accepted, such as American dollars in Cuba or Russia, or euros in the Maghreb or in Africa. Currency exchange offices normally have currency available immediate. As a general rule, do not change money in airports or hotels. It’s best to choose a bank, as they charge very high commissions.

Traveller's cheques

Traveller's cheques are worth a specific amount expressed in a choice of thirteen currencies, including the euro. They are issued by American Express and Thomas Cook and may be purchased directly from them or at a bank.The commission for purchasing them is 1% of the total amount in the case of American Express travellers’ cheques and 2.5% for Thomas Cook traveller's cheques (with a minimum fee of €5). Traveller's cheques are therefore cheaper than exchanging cash, andyou can cash them at a bank in the country you visit. They are also accepted by many shopkeepers, who give change in local currency. A double signature system (you must sign the cheque before it is accepted) makes them safe. As traveller's chequesare only issued in certain currencies (such as the American dollar, the pound and the yen), you should take cheques in American dollarsif travelling in Asia orSouth America, where it’s easy to change dollars. If travelling in the Maghreb, French-speaking Africa orthe Middle East, take travellers' cheques in euros. With the exception of a few areas with local regulations, travellers can normally take as many travellers' cheques with them as they like. If lost or stolen, travellers' cheques are replaced free of charge, normally within 48 hours. They have no expiry date. Travellers' chequesmean you don’t need to carry too much cash, for you will be able to cash them one at a time at your destination. To avoid paying commissions when you arrive, cash Thomas Cook travellers' chequesat a Thomas Cook exchange office. A fee is always charged for cashing American Express travellers' cheques. Keep the numbers of your travellers' cheques carefully, separately from them, along with the number to call if they are lost or stolen.

Credit card

You can use an international credit card to make purchases and withdraw cash at ATMs anywhere in the world. For a fee, of course. Every time you withdraw cash at an ATM you may be charged a lump sum as well as a commissionproportionate to the amount withdrawn. For currencies in the euro area, this commission is 1 to 2%of the amount of the transaction, depending on the bank. For currencies outside the euro area, it is 2 to 3%. A credit card allows you to pay for major expenses on your trip without having to carry large amounts of cash (hotel bills, excursions, etc.).If your card is lost or stolen, you can easily obtain a replacement or a cash advance from the credit card company to allow you to continue your trip.Your credit card company also guarantees that you will receive insurance and assistance abroad. Visa, Eurocard MasterCard and American Express ATMs are very common in Europe and in the world’s major capitals, but may be rare in smaller towns, and may even be out of service; contact your bank for information on particular destinations prior to departure. There is a commission for withdrawing cash from an ATM abroad, so it is best to take out a large sum at a time. American Express is not accepted in Cuba. Check the limits on withdrawal from ATMs abroad prior to departure. When you pay for purchases with a credit card, if the cashier passes the card through the metal slot in an old-fashioned credit card reader, check the amount that appears; it must be shown in local currency, not in US dollars. Make a note of your complete credit number and expiration date on a bit of paper to be kept separately from the card, along with the number to call to cancel your card; you will need it if your card is lost or stolen.

Money transfers

If you run out of money on the other side of the world, MoneyGram can solve the problem in minutes. Simply contact a relative at home and ask them to go to a Thomas Cook office, pay the amount of money you require and the transfer fee (about 5% of the amount sent) and note down the reference number to give you. All you need to do is go to a Thomas Cook office (there are 25,000 of them all over the world) and quote the reference number to get the cash right away, in local currency.

Cheques

It is expensive to write a cheque abroad, and in many cases shopkeepers will not accept a foreign cheque, because it is also expensive for them to cash it.

Cash

Exchanging cash into another currency is not free. The cost depends on the currency requested, for there are three types of currency: those in the "euro area", or "in area", including the eleven currencies of the European Union; the currencies of the "out area" (the British pound, the American dollar and the Japanese yen) and non-convertible currencies, which cannot be exchanged outside their own country (such as the Turkish lira, the Moroccan dirham, or the Russian rouble...).If the currency you purchase is "in", you will have to pay a commission (to cover the cost of exchanging the currency) which varies depending on your bank, from 2.5 to 4.5% of the amount of the transaction, often with a minimum charge of 3 to 6 euro.This commission is 5% in exchange offices, which are best avoided for purchasing "in" currencies. If the currency you need to exchange is "out", banks will charge you a commission and an exchange fee equal to about 4-5% of the amount of the transaction. In this case, it is often cheaper to go to a currency exchange office, where you can expect to pay a commission of about 2.5% of the total amount of the transaction.

Suggestions

If the currency of the country you are travelling to cannot be exchanged, ask for a currency that will be easy to exchange when you get there, or even accepted, such as American dollars in Cuba or Russia, or euros in the Maghreb or in Africa. Currency exchange offices normally have currency available immediate. As a general rule, do not change money in airports or hotels. It’s best to choose a bank, as they charge very high commissions.

Traveller's cheques

Traveller's cheques are worth a specific amount expressed in a choice of thirteen currencies, including the euro. They are issued by American Express and Thomas Cook and may be purchased directly from them or at a bank.The commission for purchasing them is 1% of the total amount in the case of American Express travellers’ cheques and 2.5% for Thomas Cook traveller's cheques (with a minimum fee of €5). Traveller's cheques are therefore cheaper than exchanging cash, andyou can cash them at a bank in the country you visit. They are also accepted by many shopkeepers, who give change in local currency. A double signature system (you must sign the cheque before it is accepted) makes them safe. As traveller's chequesare only issued in certain currencies (such as the American dollar, the pound and the yen), you should take cheques in American dollarsif travelling in Asia orSouth America, where it’s easy to change dollars. If travelling in the Maghreb, French-speaking Africa orthe Middle East, take travellers' cheques in euros. With the exception of a few areas with local regulations, travellers can normally take as many travellers' cheques with them as they like. If lost or stolen, travellers' cheques are replaced free of charge, normally within 48 hours. They have no expiry date. Travellers' chequesmean you don’t need to carry too much cash, for you will be able to cash them one at a time at your destination. To avoid paying commissions when you arrive, cash Thomas Cook travellers' chequesat a Thomas Cook exchange office. A fee is always charged for cashing American Express travellers' cheques. Keep the numbers of your travellers' cheques carefully, separately from them, along with the number to call if they are lost or stolen.

Credit card

You can use an international credit card to make purchases and withdraw cash at ATMs anywhere in the world. For a fee, of course. Every time you withdraw cash at an ATM you may be charged a lump sum as well as a commissionproportionate to the amount withdrawn. For currencies in the euro area, this commission is 1 to 2%of the amount of the transaction, depending on the bank. For currencies outside the euro area, it is 2 to 3%. A credit card allows you to pay for major expenses on your trip without having to carry large amounts of cash (hotel bills, excursions, etc.).If your card is lost or stolen, you can easily obtain a replacement or a cash advance from the credit card company to allow you to continue your trip.Your credit card company also guarantees that you will receive insurance and assistance abroad. Visa, Eurocard MasterCard and American Express ATMs are very common in Europe and in the world’s major capitals, but may be rare in smaller towns, and may even be out of service; contact your bank for information on particular destinations prior to departure. There is a commission for withdrawing cash from an ATM abroad, so it is best to take out a large sum at a time. American Express is not accepted in Cuba. Check the limits on withdrawal from ATMs abroad prior to departure. When you pay for purchases with a credit card, if the cashier passes the card through the metal slot in an old-fashioned credit card reader, check the amount that appears; it must be shown in local currency, not in US dollars. Make a note of your complete credit number and expiration date on a bit of paper to be kept separately from the card, along with the number to call to cancel your card; you will need it if your card is lost or stolen.

Money transfers

If you run out of money on the other side of the world, MoneyGram can solve the problem in minutes. Simply contact a relative at home and ask them to go to a Thomas Cook office, pay the amount of money you require and the transfer fee (about 5% of the amount sent) and note down the reference number to give you. All you need to do is go to a Thomas Cook office (there are 25,000 of them all over the world) and quote the reference number to get the cash right away, in local currency.