Know Before You Go

Start now and get prepared for your international travel.  Below are several topics that students often have questions about when traveling abroad.  Contact the BYU International Security Office if you have additional questions.  



Visas and Passports

How to Apply for a Passport

If you need to apply for a U.S. passport or renew your existing U.S. passport, visit the Department of State’s “How to Apply for a Passport” webpage.  You need to plan ahead and submit the passport application at least two months prior to departing the United States.


Do you need a visa for your international travel?  Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question.  It depends on which country you are traveling to and how long you will be staying.  Check with the embassy of the country you will be traveling to and ask about the process of applying for a visa.  You can also look at the country-specific page on the Department of State’s website  For ISP students participating in a BYU study abroad or similar program, talk to your director about visa requirements.

Safety and Security

Start now and research the security environment of the country you will be traveling to.  Become an expert on the following:

  • what kind of crime is prevalent
  • what areas of cities are more dangerous
  • safety and reliability of public transportation
  • the political situation in the country
  • culture and etiquette

Use websites like the U.S. Department of State’s and the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports to begin your research.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

STEP is a free travel registration service provided by the Department of State that allows US citizens to enroll their foreign travel with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Enrolling in STEP will allow you to receive current travel warnings, alerts, and special advisories directly from the US embassy while you are in-country. By registering with STEP, the US embassy in your destination will know how to get a hold of you in case of an emergency, such as a natural disaster, civil unrest, or a family emergency back home.

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Cell Phones Abroad

As you prepare to leave for your trip abroad, we recommend talking with your cell phone provider (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.) to discuss the costs of using your cell phone while abroad under your current plan.  Many cell phone providers offer international plans that allow for free texting and cheap international calls.  Be advised that many of these plans only come with a small amount of free or cheap data usage.  If your provider's international plan does not offer sufficient amount or a cheap enough rate for using cellular data, you may want to consider turning off your data roaming option in your cell phone settings while abroad.  

One alternative for connecting with friends and family back at home is using free communication apps such as Skype, FaceTime, or WhatsApp.  Be cautious when using these apps on free or public WiFi networks such as in cafes, airports, shopping malls, etc.  When using public WiFi, your electronic devices and personal information is subject to cyber theft.  Using a VPN or a secure WiFi network is the safest route when using these types of apps.  Again, using data to Skype or FaceTime your family can often be extremely expensive while traveling abroad.

Another option for communicating with people back in the U.S. is relying on the WiFi calling feature on your cell phone.  Some providers allow for free WiFi calling from one U.S. phone number to another no matter where you are in the world.  We would again recommend that you talk to your cell phone provider to discuss these options.


All BYU students are required to enroll in the BYU-contracted GeoBlue travel insurance.  The GeoBlue student plan offers extensive coverage at an affordable cost to all student traveling on a BYU program and their faculty directors.  This plan has 100% coverage for up to $250,000 of medical care with additional medical, security, natural disaster, and political unrest evacuation coverage. There is no deductible, and the plan will also cover pregnancy and most prescription medication costs while you are abroad.

BYU International Study Program (ISP) students, Individual Experience interns, and faculty directors are automatically enrolled in GeoBlue, and the subsequent cost is included in your program's cost.  For other non-ISP student travelers, you will need to personally fill out and submit our GeoBlue online application to be enrolled.  Once you are enrolled, you will be billed through your BYU My Financial Center account.  For more information on GeoBlue travel insurance, visit the BYU TravelSmart website.

Additional Resources