Find a good travel guide and use it.
Remember that cheaper is not always better.
Prior to leaving your program site for travel, develop an itinerary and leave it with your program director and with your designated emergency contact. Inform people of your plans. When making plans, keep in mind that it is best to save pleasure travel for after you have acclimated to being in the region and are more fluent in the language.
Always travel with a friend and share a room. Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you.
Keep in mind that there might be customs regulations in the U.S. and abroad that apply to computers, expensive electronic and photographic equipment. It is a good idea to find out if you really need to take your laptop. Consider purchasing special insurance for these types of electronic devices.
Schedule your initial flight to arrive in the morning or early afternoon. Remember that arrival procedures, including customs can take a bit of time. By arriving early, you will be giving yourself enough time to find food and accommodations or to get to your final destination before it gets dark and shops close down for the day.
Register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate upon arrival if you did not do so before departure. They will require a copy of your passport. This will be handy if you lose it because they will already have the basic information or if they need to contact you to alert you to potential problems.
Carry at least $200 cash with you to take care of unexpected arrival expenses, such as taxes or fees and/or other incidental expenses. You can change some money before you leave at any major bank or use the airport money exchange. Keep your money, passport, traveler's checks and all other important documents close to your person. Never leave them in your suitcase or carry-on. It is a good idea to use a neck pouch for your passport, some cash and credit cards and some kind of money belt or bag you can put under your clothing for extra cash and valuables.
When You Arrive
Get some water or carry bottled water with you, and get a bite to eat. This will help ease your mind and body of the culture shock.
Remember this is the time to calm down and not get frazzled. Pay attention to the location of your passport and visa documents. Put them away in your neck pouch right away after going through customs and immigration.
Get the address of your destination before you leave the U.S., just in case your contact person doesn't meet you at the airport. This is also where having some local currency can be extremely helpful.
For more information on health and safety issues, as well as health and safety updates, please visit the following related links:
Tips for Students Studying Abroad (Department of State website)
Safety Abroad Handbook (USC Center of Global Education's resources and preparation tips for students considering studying abroad)