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You should be aware of the risks and problems that can be associated with travel to unfamiliar places, and informed about ways to minimize risk and avoid problems. Harvard University requires all students who are traveling under university auspices (that is, receiving either credit or funding) to review, sign and return the appropriate Assumption of Risk form.
HLS students should review Harvard's Global Support Services' travel risk ratings. Students who are considering travel to an area that is categorized as high-risk must:
This is necessary for travel in conjunction with courses or clinics as well as independent travel. Please be aware that HLS may advise against -- and may even withhold support for -- travel that is deemed to pose excessive risk. Students should also review Harvard’s policy on high-risk travel by graduate students.
Below is health and safety information for Harvard students traveling abroad, pre-departure tips, and traveling suggestions. Also provided is a list of emergency contact people at Harvard Law School.
The challenges you may face will vary from place to place, and may depend on your degree of familiarity with the destination. Nevertheless, it is always important to carefully assess all manner of risks and to act accordingly. You should use this information for general guidance but tailor preparation and actions to suit your particular situation.
You must have health insurance and you should be familiar with what is covered and what is not when traveling abroad. Also, before traveling, you should acquaint yourself with the health care system in your destination country including the quality of facilities and cost of services.
All registered Harvard students are automatically enrolled in the student Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) plan. All the benefits are based on the academic year, August 1 through July 31, and cover you while traveling abroad.
Important Travel Abroad Information from Harvard University Health Services
Important Health Insurance Contact Information
Harvard Travel Assist provides medical and security advice and referrals and emergency evacuation services to Harvard travelers abroad. To ensure access to these services, it is crucial that all international travel be registered in the Harvard Travel Registry. See below for a summary of benefits, eligibility details, and Frequently Asked Questions, and visit the Harvard Travel Assist portal for country-specific information.
To reach Harvard Travel Assist in an emergency call +1 617-998-0000 (worldwide, 24/7/365). You may call collect. You can also use this number to access non-emergency assistance.
Summary of Harvard Travel Assist Benefits
These services are available for eligible travelers (see eligibility details below).
Medical Assistance Services
The following medical assistance services may incur a charge to the traveler or their insurance if a third party is engaged to deliver services (health care providers, transportation, hotels, etc.).
Security Assistance Services
Travel Assistance Services
The following individuals are eligible for services from Harvard Travel Assist. Phone and online services are free to all eligible travelers.
Students traveling outside the U.S.
Employees and Fellows (including faculty, staff and other paid appointments) traveling outside the U.S.
Other individuals covered while traveling outside the U.S.
IMPORTANT: Given the nature of these individuals’ affiliation with the University, it is of the utmost importance that their information is entered in the Harvard Travel Registry. Contact Global Support Services for assistance entering travelers who do not have an active Harvard ID.
Exclusions to coverage
The following exclusions apply to insured Harvard Travel Assist coverage. In cases when these exclusions apply, Harvard Travel Assist will still provide services to the best of their ability, but they may be at the expense of the traveler. This is not an exhaustive list, but is intended to cover the most commonly applicable exclusions.
Frequently Asked Questions regarding Travel Assist
What is "University business" or a "University-related activity"?
For this purpose, University business and University-related activities include any activity that can be broadly construed as part of academic or professional work at Harvard, including research, study abroad, attendance at a conference, travel with an officially recognized student organization, or even a summer or January job or internship if registered at Harvard the following term.
Personal travel, including vacations or travel home to visit family, is not covered.
Faculty traveling as part of an ongoing or long-term relationship with a non-Harvard organization should normally be covered under that organization’s evacuation and security procedures, services, and coverages. In general, travel by staff will be considered “University business” if it is at the request of a supervisor. Please contact Global Support Services (+1 617-495-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions about your eligibility.
What should I do before traveling abroad?
Review and complete the steps outlined on the Travel Tools page of the Global Support Services website, including registering your itinerary in the Harvard Travel Registry and familiarizing yourself with Harvard Travel Assist's services and resources. Be sure to review the country-specific information available from Harvard Travel Assist.
Is the Harvard Travel Assist program an insurance policy?
Harvard Travel Assist is a program provider for emergency medical and security evacuations, as well as a source of information for travelers; it is not an insurance provider. However, the services provided under the Harvard Travel Assist program are insured by Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. For eligible travelers (see details above), medical or security evacuations deemed necessary by Harvard Travel Assist will be covered by the Chubb insurance policy. This policy also provides coverage for costs associated with repatriation; proof of such coverage is required by some countries during the visa application process (see below).
Does Harvard Travel Assist replace health insurance?
No! Harvard Travel Assist is not health insurance. When necessary, Chubb Insurance, via Harvard Travel Assist (and the associated service providers), will pay a clinic or health care provider on the traveler’s behalf. However, these expenses will typically be billed to the traveler’s health insurance later; if uninsured, expenses may be billed to the traveler. Therefore, travelers should familiarize themselves with their insurance providers' policies on overseas coverage.
Are there situations where I would be charged for these services?
In some cases, yes. Harvard Travel Assist may refer travelers to third-party providers who charge directly for services. If Anvil Group/Chubb Insurance paid for medical care, Chubb may bill the traveler or his/her insurance provider for the cost of services provided. Note that phone and online services are always free to eligible travelers, so travelers are strongly encouraged to contact Harvard Travel Assist if they need medical or security advice or assistance.
I am required to show proof of coverage for repatriation in order to obtain a visa. How can I request such a letter?
If you are applying for a visa and required to document repatriation coverage, you must submit a letter request form to Global Support Services. (Access to the form requires a Harvard University PIN.)
Global Support Services will e-mail you the required letter as a PDF, unless otherwise specified.
How can I purchase an International SOS plan for personal or leisure travel or for a traveling companion?
Since Harvard is maintaining a relationship with International SOS, you can still receive a 20% discount on International SOS services by calling 1-800-523-8662 or online by visiting the International SOS Harvard portal. Once you are on the I-SOS website, click the link at the bottom of the page, which reads "Inquire about/sign up for 20% discount on SOS services and assistance while traveling for leisure/on vacation." Next, select your country of residence, and click the "GO" button. Fill in all the required information under the "Get a Quote" column, and click "select my plan." Enter the required information, including the Harvard membership number (11BSGC000038) and click "See Plans Pricing." Following these prompts will give you a list of options regarding pricing and coverage, and allow you to purchase I-SOS directly from this screen.
|Call Harvard Travel Assist worldwide, 24/7:|
Many countries will require visitors to have immunizations prior to granting a visa or entry into the country, and you will also want the immunizations for your own health. You may contact University Health Services at Holyoke Center for a travel consult, in order to determine the inoculations or other medical services you may need prior to departure, and to learn about relevant health conditions. During your pre-trip planning you should consider that some vaccinations must be administered up to 4 to 6 weeks before travel. Remember to photocopy your immunization record and bring a copy with you when you travel.
If malaria is endemic in the country to which you will be traveling, start and follow your prophylactic malaria treatment conscientiously.
Important Immunization Contact Information
Law School Health Clinic
Prior to departure it is important for you to educate yourself about your destination country. You should review the country guides and security reports available from:
and be aware of any advisories and travel warnings regarding your destination(s).
Local news websites, guidebooks, or tourist bureaus can also provide good in-depth information on local services, rules, customs, and values. Examples include Lonely Planet, Economist country briefings, and the CIA World Factbook. Harvard University research centers and programs and the HarvardWorldwide website can also be helpful.
If you are traveling to high risk or remote areas, where access to medical care may be hours away, you are encouraged to complete wilderness first aid training available through Global Support Services; please contact them for more information (+1 617-495-1111 or email@example.com). Global Support Services can also assist you in obtaining a satellite phone, should you deem it necessary.
You should be aware of the prevailing national sentiment toward the U.S. and U.S. citizens in the countries that you will visit. If you are a citizen of a country other than the United States, you should contact your consulate or embassy for travel advisories and other relevant information, and be aware of how your travel might be perceived. You should be aware of the prevailing local sentiment toward people of your cultural background, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and be aware of the laws and codes of conduct that are likely to affect you.
In addition, you should:
Be sure to have the necessary travel documents. Your passport should expire no earlier than six months after your return. Your visa should cover the time of your stay and be appropriate for your activities (e.g., specific visas may be necessary for study or work.) Harvard University has identified two vendors that can assist with visa and passport issues for international travel. These firms can answer questions about visa requirements free of charge either via their websites or by phone. For a fee they will assist travelers with the application process (especially beneficial for rush orders) by reviewing and submitting the traveler’s application, passport, and any other required information or documents. Visa processing firms are often able to obtain visas more quickly than individual travelers. If you place an order for services with either vendor, please do so via the Harvard portals so that you will receive the negotiated Harvard rates. For more information, see the Global Support Services website.
Consider the possible threats to your safety, when they might occur, and how you might react if you are faced with them. These include, but are not limited to, physical violence or threats of violence, theft, assault, sexual harassment, traffic accidents, health risks, natural disasters, kidnapping / hostage situations, defamation campaigns, natural disasters, and terrorist activity.
Prepare a list of key telephone numbers you may need and know how to use them. These should include Harvard Travel Assist, police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. (or other relevant) embassy or consulate. Compile 24-hour contact information for your sponsor/organization, not only office numbers, even if they plan to meet you at the airport, as you or they could be unexpectedly delayed. Know how many digits of the entire phone number are needed to make a local call. Research in advance how to phone the U.S. from a pay phone or house phone from each country you will be visiting. A good website is www.countrycallingcodes.com. Please note that 1-800 numbers will not work from outside the U.S. Check with your credit card company for the alternate number in case you need to report the card lost or stolen.
Put together a health / first aid kit. Include water purifying tablets and re-hydration salts for use in a gastrointestinal crisis. Add rubber gloves to protect you from blood-borne infections should you be administering first aid. If you are traveling to a country where hypodermic needles are routinely reused, ask your physician to provide you with a small number of needles and a note to explain they are to be used in the event of your needing intravenous treatment. Take supplies that may not be readily available, such as contact lens solution and feminine hygiene products. If possible, take a first aid course before you go. If you are traveling to high risk or remote areas, where access to medical care may be hours away, you are encouraged to complete wilderness first aid training available through Global Support Services; please contact them for more information.
Establish an emergency communications plan. Choose an out-of-town contact (e.g., a friend or family member) who will regularly check in with you by phone or e-mail. Make sure your contact has a copy of your main documents such as passport, health insurance, Harvard Travel Assist evacuation services information, and Harvard Law School emergency contacts. Remember that sometimes during emergencies e-mail can get through when calls don’t.
Familiarize yourself with the local language. Learn some basic phrases and in particular at least the key phrases to seek help for an emergency. It can also be useful to carry with you such phrases in written form so you can signal the need for assistance. You should also know which non-verbal behaviors are considered rude or inappropriate and which are commonly used (hand gestures, greeting by bowing, kissing or shaking hands, etc.)
Take precautions to avoid HIV/STDs. Some countries may require an HIV test before allowing you to enter; check with the embassy or consulate. If you choose to be sexually active abroad, use a condom, preferably treated with a potent spermicide. Women as well as men should bring their own supply of condoms and store them in a dry place away from heat. Educate yourself on the customs, beliefs, and laws of your host country regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Basic Packing Tips
In addition to pre-departure preparations, you should continue to take active precautions after arriving at your destination. The advice below is intended to help you minimize health and safety risks while in-country.
Money and Valuables
⇒ travelers’ checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company
⇒ credit cards to the issuing company
⇒ airline tickets to the airline or travel agent
⇒ passport to the nearest U.S. (or relevant) embassy or consulate
⇒ assume the people staffing the checkpoint are armed
⇒ always slow down as soon as a checkpoint comes into sight and put on the car lights, both inside and out, so you are visible
⇒ when your documents are examined it is desirable that you maintain possession of them throughout the proceedings
⇒ whatever the procedures, and they may take a long time, maintaining patience and good humor is important; avoid arguments or confrontations
Local Laws and Customs
Risk-tolerance tends to creep up. It is well known that expatriates over time get a little blasé about security and even start to take foolish risks. Be cautious and trust your own judgment even though an ex-pat may claim, “I do that all the time.”
Go to the U.S. Department of State Travel Tips Website for further information relating to travel and safety. The Overseas Citizens Services office at 1-888-407-4747 (+1 202-501-4444 from overseas) can answer general inquiries on safety and security.
In addition to taking the necessary steps to ensure your personal safety while traveling abroad, you should review and follow Harvard University’s guidelines on data security, and other useful tips on protecting your computer and your data. Visit the Data Security for International Travel page to learn more.
The U.S. Department of State provides information on crisis preparedness and emergency services it offers here.
Harvard Travel Assist also provides emergency information and services. Please see the Harvard Travel Assist section above for more information.
If you experience an emergency while abroad, it may be necessary to first call local responders (i.e. police or fire department) or Harvard Travel Assist (for medical emergencies) and then notify the appropriate HLS contact person.
|Program/Type of Travel||Contact||E-mail/Telephone|
Winter Term International Travel Grants
|Sara Zucker, Director, International Legal Studies Programsfirstname.lastname@example.org|
+1 617-495-9030 (office)
[Students who received an international travel grant to do a clinical abroad should see the contact information for Winter Term International Travel Grants above.]
|Jill Crockett. Associate Director, Clinical and Pro Bono Programsemail@example.com|
+1 617-495-5202 (office)
|Human Rights Program||Mindy Roseman, Academic Director, Human Rights Programfirstname.lastname@example.org|
+1 617-495-6912 (office)
|Institute for Global Law and Policy||Neal O’Connor, Administrative Director, Institute for Global Law and Policyemail@example.com|
+1 617-495-3145 (office)
|Islamic Legal Studies Program||Ceallaigh Reddy, Program Administrator, Islamic Legal Studies Programfirstname.lastname@example.org|
+1 617-496-3941 (office)
|Program on Negotiation||James Kerwin, Assistant Director, Program on Negotiationemail@example.com|
+1 617-495-9688 (office)
|Student Organizations||Dean of Students Officefirstname.lastname@example.org|
+1 617-495-1880 (office)
|Summer Public Interest Funding (SPIF)|
[For the Chayes Fellowship or Human Rights Program Summer Internships, see relevant sections above.]
|Natasha Onken, Assistant Director, Low Income Protection Plan and Summer Public Interest Funding, JD Student Financial Servicesemail@example.com|
+1 617-495-0643 (office)
Any Harvard traveler who experiences or witnesses a serious medical or safety incident while abroad should, after the emergency has been properly handled, report the event to help the University support the safety and security of the community. Please see Harvard's Incident Reporting web page for more information.
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