By Mark Okrant,
NH Travel Guru
So, you’ve climbed all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers, visited the many quaint small towns the state has to offer, and challenged your stamina by shopping in all three outlet centers.
Now, with weeks of accrued vacation time, you are itching to travel somewhere exotic. Standing in your way are those news headlines about terrorists, political unrest, and disease outbreaks. While it would be safer—not to mention more beneficial for the local economy—to stay in New Hampshire, you’re determined to visit another part of the globe. How can you accomplish this while minimizing the risk of becoming a headline yourself?
This is a good time to become familiar with the online resources of the U.S. Department of State. The State Department has a program designed to keep Americans who travel in other countries out of harm’s way. Whether one is crossing an international border for an overnight business meeting or vacationing long term, the federal Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) is a valuable information source to be consulted before leaving home.
ACS administers the Consular Information Program, which “informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security.” Consular Information Sheets are available online. These provide information on whether a visa is needed, details on crime and security issues, health and medical concerns, drug penalties, and a list of specific areas to be avoided. All travelers should avail themselves of the Consular Information Program before leaving home.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; therefore, a good example must merit at least a few hundred. Let’s say you are determined to spend this year’s vacation on the beaches of El Salvador. Step one is to go to www.travel.state.gov. There, you will see a heading titled, “Learn About Your Destination.” Simply type in the name(s) of the nation(s) you are interested in, and be ready to take copious notes.
In the case of El Salvador, the first thing that pops up is a detailed travel warning. Gang warfare, violent street crime, as well as narcotics and arms trafficking are more than the subject material of video games in El Salvador. Warnings extend to backpacking expeditions, hotel and restaurant experiences, and travel on public transportation.
“Oh, come on,” you say, “I’m an adventurer!” If you insist on proceeding with your escapade, the ACS website contains helpful information about passport validity, visa requirements, vaccinations, and currency restrictions. It will provide basic factual material about the history, geography, and economy of the destination. There is essential material about U.S. embassies and consulates, entry and exit requirements, local laws, health concerns, and transportation.
If you persist with your plan to visit El Salvador, it will be helpful to know that: a passport and an El Salvadoran visa are needed, the country has one of the highest homicide levels in the world, and passport stealing has become a rite of passage. Concerned about health conditions? It is important to know that hospitals in El Salvador do not meet U.S. standards and require up-front cash payment for services.
If you aren’t convinced that New Hampshire is a better setting for that well-earned vacation, the ACS offers a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This free service allows you to register your trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate . . . just in case.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, go here.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.