Health & Safety Abroad

Preparing for Travel

As a condition of participation in a SUNY sponsored study abroad option you must visit the CDC Travelers' Health website to learn about the health risks for your destination. You may need to make an appointment with your family doctor or university health center to review your medical history and make sure you get the right vaccinations and medicines for your trip. You should be up to date on all routine vaccinations required for study in a New York State school measles/mumps/rubella, and polio, etc.), and should discuss with your health care provider vaccines which might be advisable in the region of the world you will be. Before you study abroad you'll want to make sure that you've gotten routine health check-ups from your dentist and any specialists, and have an extra pair of glasses and enough contacts to last the length of your stay.

You must complete SUNY Health Forms and inform us or the other-SUNY running your program of any issues.

As a condition of participation you must read the information on your destination and any other country you plan to visit available on the U.S. State Department website

We highly recommend that you go through the State Department's travel checklist available here.

We also highly recommend that you review the travel information from the FBI available here.

Another excellent travel safety site is the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) site. One of the more common serious travel mishaps occurs on roads. ASIRT offers very wise advice on minimizing the risks of road travel.

Register with the Smart Travel Program

After you’ve made your travel plans, you must register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so that the Department of State is aware of your presence in your host country and can better assist you in an emergency.

Learn about your destination

Talk to people who have been to the country you will study. Read newspapers, blogs and travel sites. Just about every country in the world has English language papers available, some specific to individual cities or regions. Of course, in English speaking countries every city has its own papers, many online. Some examples are:

Be street smart: Be alert, not scared. Use common sense and know what’s going on around you. Plan to travel in pairs or small groups, especially at night. Some places require more diligence than others, but you can be the victim of crime anyplace. Before you go anyplace new, ask locals if there is anything in particular to watch out for.

The vast majority of crimes against study abroad students are pickpocketing and other kinds of theft. Keep valuables like money and your passport in or under your clothing and not in your backpack or purse. Keep your passport safely locked in your residence, unless it’s required that you carry it for certain events or in certain places.

Keep a record of all bank card account numbers and the 800 numbers for reporting a theft. Keep a copy of your passport in your residence to facilitate replacement. Consider purchasing personal property insurance. SUNY has a contract with HFC to provide this kind of insurance or you can purchase through any provider you wish.

Health Insurance

All participants in SUNY study abroad programs are required to have health insurance while overseas. You will automatically be enrolled in and billed for the mandatory SUNY study abroad health coverage through GeoBlue which includes health insurance coverage AND emergency assistance coverage including evacuation and repatriation benefits. Participants will receive an email notification from GeoBlue with an individual ‘certificate number’ approximately 1 month prior to your program start date.

Information on the policy can be found here: Outbound Student Member Guide and Policy Details.

Additional information about the GeoBlue Insurance and how to use it can be found here: SUNY Outbound Student Training.

NOTE: If your program-specific materials reflect that your host university has its own mandatory health plan, then you may not be required to purchase SUNY Health Insurance coverage. You may buy it if you wish.

Please notify us at if your travel plans are different than the program dates posted on our webpage for your program so that we can try to arrange for you to have health insurance coverage for your entire stay abroad.

Learn about local health facilities and doctors before you go. Both the U.S. State Department and GeoBlue websites provide guidance in finding medical facilities and doctors abroad. Note that you cannot access all the resources on the GeoBlue website until you have been enrolled in the insurance and activated an account. If you have questions prior to that please contact our office. Once you have received your email confirmation of enrollment in GeoBlue, please set up your account on GeoBlue and familiarize yourself with the services and resources they provide.

Think carefully before canceling any other health insurance you may have because the SUNY study abroad health insurance coverage is not in effect if you are in the country of your home residence, therefore, it will NOT cover you in the United States. We recommend that you keep some sort of domestic health insurance in effect in case you need to return home unexpectedly from abroad for any reason.

Non-UAlbany students: your home campus may have its own mandatory domestic health coverage rules; please contact the Study Abroad Office or insurance coordinator at your home campus for specific information and/or instructions.

Medications & Prescriptions

If you take a medicine regularly, make sure you have enough for the length of your trip or make plans to have it sent from home. Don’t assume that you can get the same medications in the host country. Some medications may be illegal to import to certain countries—this includes some behavioral health medications, stimulants, amphetamines, etc. Information on what medications may not be allowed into a country can be found on the GeoBlue website referenced above.

Bring copies of your prescriptions and a statement of the diagnosis requiring your medications with you when you travel and keep all medication in its original packaging. Pack a travel health kit with over the counter medicines so you can treat any minor ailments yourself.

Remember to bring what you need to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

Know where to find help

After arrival make sure you pay attention to information on local emergency protocols and services available. Learn where health centers are located and how to call for help. Keep emergency phone numbers with you at all times, including the numbers for local staff.

Whenever you travel to a new place, try to find out how to get help. In most cities you can find a tourist brochure that lists emergency numbers. Pick one up and take it with you everywhere. Always carry the phone numbers for staff at your program site and GeoBlue insurance information (if covered).

Dealing with health issues and emergencies

Always communicate with local program staff first. The staff at your program location can quickly refer you to the appropriate local facility. For a hospitalization open a case with GeoBlue (if you are covered) so they can provide services available. Report the incident to UAlbany Education Abroad. If you are a UAlbany student on another SUNY’s program, report the incident to the SUNY sponsoring campus.

In a true emergency involving health or safety contact Education Abroad at UAlbany or University at Albany Police and we will try to assist. Keep in mind that in emergencies we are limited in what we can do from the States. You should always work with local staff first.

Protect Your Health Abroad

Have good hygiene: Wash your hands often. Always wash with clean water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner before eating, after you cough or sneeze, and after you use the bathroom.

In developing countries, be careful about food and water: eat fully cooked food that is served hot or fruits and vegetables you can wash or peel. Drink only bottled, sealed water or water that has been boiled, and avoid ice.

In tropical and subtropical countries, diseases spread by insects may be common. Use an insect repellent and wear long pants and sleeves to protect yourself from bug bites. Take Malaria medications as recommended for your destination.

Avoid Risky Behavior: To prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B, which are spread by blood and bodily fluids, don't get tattoos or body piercings. Have and keep to a sensible STD and pregnancy prevention protocol.

Alcohol and Drug Use Abroad

Drinking and drug use are the cause of or contribute to most illnesses and injuries. Attitudes toward alcohol and drugs in other countries can differ widely from the U.S. and it is important for students to have a strategy for staying safe while abroad. Alcohol and drugs, even if legal, can impair judgment and reduce safety. It is recommended that students go out in groups and never walk home alone at night, especially if impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Students should determine the cultural norms and laws regarding drugs and alcohol for their study abroad destination and act accordingly. Not knowing the law is not an excuse.

The drinking age differs country to country and in many destinations you will be able to drink alcohol legally even if you can’t in the States. Don’t develop bad habits while abroad and don’t miss out on your study abroad experience by over indulging. Remember that you are on an academic program and learning is the ultimate goal.

Students who struggle with alcohol or drug addictions now should be aware that studying abroad can often make the problem worse. Access, loneliness and culture shock symptoms can trigger substance abuse problems.

Drug laws also differ country to country and there are consequences. You will be subject to the drug laws of any country you travel to and those laws can be more severe than in the United States. The U.S. embassy will not intervene, nor can the University at Albany.

When you participate in a study abroad program, you are not only representing yourself but also your program, the United States, UAlbany, and the State University of New York. We expect you to behave as an ambassador and represent your country and university well.

After You Come Home

After you return from your trip abroad, get medical attention right away if you aren't feeling well or have been injured. It is especially important to see a doctor if you have a fever, rash, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other unusual symptoms. If you are returning from an area where malaria is a risk and become sick with a fever or flu-like illness for up to 1 year after you return, see a doctor immediately, and tell him or her that you have traveled to a place where malaria is present.