If you’re not a frequent traveler, you may have heard the terms “domestic travel” and “international travel and be wondering exactly what they mean. Alternatively, you may be curious as to the differences between traveling domestically and internationally.
To help you with queries like these and more, in this post, we look at the question of “travel domestically” meaning to give you all the info you need.
Travel Domestically Definitions
Let’s start by giving ourselves a definition of “domestic travel” so we know exactly what we’re talking about.
Essentially, domestic travel is travel within the borders of one country. This means if you’re flying, you take off and land in the same country, and if you’re traveling by train, bus, bicycle or any other means, you don’t cross any international borders.
In terms of the US, this would mean trips within the borders of the United States, and that would include traveling over state lines as well as traveling from one of the contiguous states to Alaska, Hawaii or any other US territory such as Guam, American Samoa or Puerto Rico.
This contrasts with international travel, which involves crossing an international border and traveling to another country.
However, this would not include flying from, say, Montana to Alaska since, although you would fly through Canadian airspace, you wouldn’t enter Canadian territory by passing through customs and immigration checks. Rather, this trip would still qualify as domestic.
Does it matter where you’re from?
One complication might come from the fact that you could be traveling within a country that you are not a resident of – so how does this change things?
Let’s imagine you are a US citizen, and you are traveling – either by plane or by train – from Rome to Florence in Italy.
In this case, the trip from Rome to Florence would be considered a domestic trip since you are traveling within the borders of Italy.
However, if you live in the US and are visiting Italy, your trip to Italy would be an example of international travel since you left the US and passed through Italian customs and immigration to get there.
Travel Domestically Examples
Here are some examples of the kind of thing that constitutes domestic or international travel.
- Traveling within your home US state
If you travel within a US state, it is domestic travel.
- Traveling from one US state to another
If you travel from one US state to another, it is domestic travel since you are traveling within the borders of the US.
- Traveling from one of the contiguous states to Hawaii
This would also be considered domestic travel since you are remaining within US territory.
- Traveling from one of the 50 US states to Guam
This is also domestic since you are not leaving US territory.
- Flying from NYC to Toronto
This would be considered international travel since you would be leaving the US and traveling to Canada.
- Driving one mile over the border into Canada or Mexico
This is still international travel since you are crossing a border and entering the territory of another country.
- Flying from the US to Japan
This is an international trip.
- Flying from Madrid to Fuerteventura
Flying from the Spanish capital Madrid to the Spanish island of Fuerteventura is a domestic trip, even though Fuerteventura is located off the coast of West Africa and requires a flight of almost three hours because the island is part of Spain.
- Flying from Paris to French Guyana
If you take a trip from Paris to French Guyana without stopping on the way, it would be considered domestic travel.
This is because French Guyana is considered an integral part of France – and is a part of the European Union – even though it is physically located in South America, bordering Suriname and Brazil.
However, it is likely that the flight would take off from the International Departures part of the airport rather than the Domestic Departures area (see below), simply because it would be a long-haul flight.
Domestic and international travel – Why does it matter?
So now we understand the difference between domestic and international travel, but why does this matter?
It’s because there are several ways this can affect your travel, so let’s look at these now.
There can be quite a big difference between taking domestic and international flights in several areas.
Generally speaking, you have to turn up earlier for international flights – usually, the airline states that you should be at the departure gate not later than 40 minutes before departure or you may be denied boarding.
With domestic flights, you may be able to arrive at the gate as little as 15 minutes before boarding – although check the details with the airline each time to make sure you don’t arrive too late.
This also means you need to arrive at the airport at least two or three hours before an international flight to allow yourself time to clear security – whereas for domestic, arriving just an hour before your flight is often sufficient.
International flights may be slightly more expensive since you will have to pay a transit fee, and domestic and international flights also often take off from different parts of the airport – and the waiting lounges are different – so this is also something to be aware of.
If you need to transfer on an international flight, it may take longer, and you may also have to collect your luggage yourself and then check it in again.
However, often the airline will do this for you, so you should check the details when you check in.
One of the most important differences is the documentation you need to carry. For example, to board an international flight from the US, you will need at least a passport and possibly a visa to be able to enter the country you are traveling to.
However, for domestic US flights, other forms of ID are valid, such as a state-issued ID card.
Also, note that many countries require at least six months remaining validity on a passport to allow you to enter. However, with domestic travel, you can use your ID to travel right up to the final day of its validity.
With domestic flights, you don’t need to pass through customs since you haven’t left the country and so aren’t bringing anything into the country from elsewhere.
However, on international flights, you need to pass through customs and make the necessary declarations for any goods you are transporting.
Your travel insurance may cover domestic and international travel differently – and you may not even be covered for international travel.
This means you should check your policy carefully before leaving.
When traveling internationally, you may find that the people in the country you are visiting don’t speak English.
Although English is the major international language, in some places, levels of English are not high, so you may find it more difficult to get by.
This is not something you’ll usually be faced with when traveling domestically.
Another issue to consider when traveling internationally is currency since most other countries don’t accept US dollars.
For example, most countries in Europe use the euro, so you should take local currency or make sure you will have access to some before you go. Alternatively, you can pay by credit card.
On the other hand, when traveling domestically, this is not something you will have to contend with.
When traveling to certain parts of the world, it is recommended that you have certain vaccinations before you go.
For example, some parts of Africa require you to have a yellow fever vaccination before traveling, and in much of Africa, Asia and South America, anti-malarial medication is also recommended.
However, for Americans traveling domestically, travel vaccinations are not usually required.
What are domestic departures and arrivals?
Domestic departures is the part of the airport that domestic flights leave from. If you are traveling domestically by air, this is the part of the airport you should head to.
Domestic arrivals is the part of the airport where you will arrive when returning from a domestic trip.
What are international departures and arrivals?
International departures is the part of the airport that international flights leave from. If you are traveling to another country by air, this is the part of the airport you should head to.
International arrivals is the part of the airport where you will arrive when returning from an international trip.
Is it international or domestic travel if you transfer in another country?
If, for example, you flew from one of the contiguous 48 states and transferred in a Canadian airport on the way to Alaska, would this count as domestic or international travel?
This is a slightly tricky question to answer since it’s something of a gray area, but this kind of trip would be more like a domestic trip, even though technically, you would have stepped foot on Canadian soil.
The important point here is that you would not normally pass through Canadian passport control or customs and immigration, so you would remain in the airport and not technically enter Canadian territory outside of the airport.
This is why this situation more closely resembles domestic travel than international travel – although there are arguments that it could be regarded as either.
However, these arguments are largely semantic, and it won’t have much affect on your trip.
Differences in meaning and practicalities
As we’ve seen, domestic travel means traveling within the borders of a country while international travel means traveling outside the borders of a country and going to another country.
However, beyond these simple definitions, whether you travel domestically or internationally can also affect your trip in several significant ways, and with this post, we hope you now have a clearer idea of what these might be.