When I was younger – and really, it’s not that long ago – we could blithely skip across the border between Canada and the US with nothing more than a passport. Where ya headed, ma’am? Oh, sure, nice there this time of year. Have a nice stay, welcome to Canada!
Fast forward a bit, and lots of things about travel between countries has changed. We do need a passport now to travel to Canada, and obtaining one/renewing one isn’t a completely awful process if you leave yourself enough time. US citizens have somewhere over 120 countries where passports are sufficient (most of Europe and the Americas) but sometimes you need a visa. That can be more complicated.
When my family went to China, we had to go to Washington DC to obtain visas – there was no visa office closer. Follow the instructions carefully and, again, leave yourself enough time.
Are you going for a conference? Are you bringing things you need to declare? Are you shipping things ahead of time?
Different countries have different rules (obviously) regarding what you can bring in, if you can sell items, and how customs and such are calculated. The best, very best thing is to have a local contact – and when you attend a conference, the organizers are usually your best bet. (Other local contacts who understand the local bureaucracy are a good addition.)
Shipping can be a bit of a pain as well since most conferences have narrow shipping windows and late packages can cause terrible anxiety. Research your shipping options, (the post office is not always the cheapest) pack a checked bag with as much as you can, and see if you can arrange a local contact for shipping. If you don’t have to ship to the convention hotel, you have that extra time and peace of mind.
Are you selling at the con? This can get complicated. Utilize your conference organizers as much as possible – they live there, they’ve done this. They’ll tell you what you need. Get familiar with the currency and figure out how you’ll communicate. In countries where you have a language in common, you’re all set, but we found even in Chengdu, where we only spoke badly inflected courtesy phrases, that transactions could be done with the help of a calculator and a lot of pointing.
For those of you with out-of-country cons, what have you run into?