Doing business overseas can be an exhilarating and inspiring experience that opens gateways to new cultures. It can also provide new ways of looking at your company’s role in the worldwide marketplace and open up lucrative new business opportunities.
Traveling to foreign countries requires careful preparation. Specifically, you’ll need to obtain and take care of the following items:
Carry Proper Documentation
First off, you will need a passport, and you may also need a entry visa depending on the country you will be visiting. Each of these documents can take upwards of a month or more to obtain, so if you don’t already have them, plan on applying for them far in advance of your trip. If you already have a passport, make sure it hasn’t expired. (Some countries will not even accept a passport that is due to expire in a few months. Research the requirements of the specific country you will be visiting.)
Inquire About Vaccinations
Your primary care physician will be able to tell you which vaccinations, if any, you will need when traveling to a particular foreign country. There may also be medications you need to take in advance of your trip. Be aware that certain medications and vaccinations can cause nausea, and consider those side effects while physically traveling. If you’re taking a certain medication for the first time, do so at least 24 hours before your departure.
Gain Familiarity with the Local Language
If necessary, study the basics of the language spoken in the country to which you’re traveling. Invest in a pocket dictionary and carry it with you when heading to the office or to business meetings, when going out to eat, and even when going out for a stroll. If you have food allergies, it is especially important that you have a knowledge of the local language, since you’ll want to ask the waiter about any problem ingredients in the dishes you order.
Use Street Smarts
Determine in advance whether the foreign cities and neighborhoods that you’ll visit are safe or potentially dangerous. If pickpockets are a problem, carry an empty wallet in your back pocket and keep all your money in your front pocket. If you have a purse, tuck it under your arm instead of carrying it over your shoulder. Also avoid going down dark alleys or side streets late at night (alone or otherwise), and avoid being in the middle of large crowds.
Back Up Your Work
Make multiple backup copies of the work that you’ll be bringing with you. Carry one set with you, and leave another set at the office that your co-workers can e-mail to you in a pinch. Also make multiple photocopies of your passport and leave one at home and another back in your hotel room in case something should happen to the original while you’re out and about. Take as many precautions as necessary to ensure that you have what you need and as insurance for your safe travel.
Organize Your Health Information
Carry your medical insurance card with you when going overseas, as well as the names and phone numbers of your emergency contacts. Write these names and numbers on a small piece of paper and put it in your wallet. Also know what your blood type is and keep a list handy of all the prescription medications you’re currently taking. Check in with your health insurance carrier to see if coverage applies outside the United States. If not, look into getting an adequate amount of travel insurance.
Also read Communicating Effectively Across Cultures for additional helpful tips.