If you read our blog or listen to our podcasts at all, you know we are great supporters of the State Department. There are some practical reasons for that, including the fact that they recommend travel insurance for every overseas trip, a concept we can get behind completely. And then there’s the fact if we ever plan on escaping these borders at some time in our lives, it isn’t going to happen without a little help from our friends at State.
Also they have awesomely engraved business cards. Take our word for it.
In addition to the STEP program, the bone-simple travel safety program we cannot speak of without adding, “… which we highly recommend,” the State Department has a plethora of aids for travelers, including the one we’re spotlighting today: the Consular Information Program.
The CIP is another super-simple, super-helpful travel aid that you have to add to your list of things to do before you leave on vacation, right before cleaning under your refrigerator and right after briefing the cat-sitter.
However, the CIP is probably more of a travel essential than dust-bunny removal and cat-complacency assurance. It provides a cornucopia of vital information on your destination, everything from active travel alerts to visa requirements to LGBTI status.
Here’s how it works: Follow the link. Go to the map. Click on your destination. Expand the headings. Read.
Tough sledding, we know. But you’re an international traveler now; you can handle it.
So let’s suppose you’re going to do the irresponsible-student thing and go to Cancun for spring break, only you’re not going to be totally irresponsible because you’re going to check out the CIP before you leave.
You navigate to the page and click on the map of Mexico. You’re directed to the Mexico page and promptly see there’s a travel warning for Mexico. When you click on that you learn that, “U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states.”
Ooooh; that’s not good. But you read further and discover that Cancun’s state, Quintana Roo, is not one of the states being referenced. However, you do discover that, “U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto or east of Jose Maria Morelos as cellular and internet services are virtually non-existent.”
Fair enough. Once you return to the main page and navigate to the “Safety and Security” tab, you can learn about the incidence of violent crime, credit-card scams, and other illegal activity in Mexico. For a change of pace, click on “Health.” There you’ll discover that, “Mexican facilities often require payment ‘up front’ prior to performing a procedure,” and, “Hospitals in Mexico do not accept U.S. health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid” – good reasons to have travel insurance like ExactCare with robust emergency-medical coverage.
The Mexico page also contains multiple links to other resources, including a link to the Mexico fact sheet, a document that details relations between the two countries, key areas of cooperation, border security, exchange programs, and much, much more – including even more links.
By now you should have got the message: You need to visit travel.state.gov before you travel … and you have to check out the CIP.