Travel Documents to Prepare Before Going Abroad

Edit: Check out my post Week #7 because I had some updates on the whole residence permit process. 


One of the less glamorous aspects of going abroad for any length of time is making sure your butt is covered in case of extraneous circumstances. There are lots of posts on this issue and I would highly suggest first checking with the Department of State as well as a governing body of your destination country.

Obviously you’ll need a passport but something else to consider are other entry requirements for your country. As a US citizen, I am free to enter and remain in the Schengen States (basically the European Union) for up to 90 days before becoming illegal. After this time, one must have a D class visa.

To avoid having to apply for my visa in Germany (the thought of processing important documents with broken German between Masters level school work just didn’t appeal to me), I took a day trip to San Francisco. Turns out, with all of the refugees entering Germany, I made the right decision as the gal I spoke with at the consulate said their system is getting super bogged down.

Turning in my application at the German Consulate in San Francisco.
Getting my visa in advance may have cost time but it saved a headache.

Besides entry and residence permits, another document you will certainly want is a written copy of your prescriptions. This is so that you can prove that you legally own the medicine you are bringing into the country. I have never been asked for proof when traveling but if you were and didn’t have it, your important pills could get confiscated. As I mentioned in my First Aid Kit post, I will have a separate post about my prescription strategy which is scheduled for July 13th so keep an eye out for it.

EDIT: See my completed prescription post here

Aside from these obvious necessities… there are other papers you will want to have as either a paper or electronic copy which I will outline for you below.


School Acceptance Letter: This is necessary if anyone asks for proof as to why I’m in the country. If you are going abroad for reasons other than study, you should bring appropriate documents. Proof of employment works if you are entering the country to work and hotel reservations are suitable if you are just a tourist. Either way, have a copy printed for easy access if requested.

Copy of Housing Contract: I will need this to set up my internet upon arrival but proof of an established residence may also be asked of you if you try to set up a foreign bank account.

T-Mobile Info: I already have a German SIM card under contract with T-Mobile so I will be bringing it as well as the papers that go along with it.

Important Addresses: If your electronics die or are stollen, you will still be able to get to where you need to go. Important places to include would be where you’re staying, your work/school, a location of your bank or an afiiliated bank that’s near your residence, your closest embassy/consulate, and a doctors office nearby that speaks English. Also important and somewhat related are local emergency numbers. Not every country has a single number to call for all emergencies as in the US so be sure and figure them out, add them to your contact list and put them on this sheet so you have them in a crisis.


Lets be honest, most of our documents are on our computers and backed up somehow. Things that I would make sure you have either on the Cloud or on a flash drive in case your laptop breaks or gets stollen include:

  • School Acceptance Letter
  • Proof of Funds (for me this is my US financial aid acceptance form)
  • Flight Confirmation
  • Housing Contract
  • A map of the local rail system
  • A list of previous addresses and employers
  • Copy of your transcripts if you’re studying like I am


After you have assembled the necessary documents, it’s time to make copies. Keep one for yourself on your person but in another bag as the originals (i.e. keep the originals in your personal bag and copies in your carry-on) and leave another with your family or trusted friend. These are the bare minimum that I would make:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Drivers License
  • Insurance Information
  • Debit/Credit Cards
  • Flight Info
  • Important Addresses

All of my documents will be accompanying me in a padfolio big enough to accommodate larger European paper. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Feel free to message me in the Contact section if you are going to Germany and need help with the whole visa process.


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