Travel Information

Definition and Overview

Foreign travel is any travel outside the United States and the U. S. possessions and territories (American Samoa, Guam, Midway, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wake Island).

Travel within the United States and the U.S. territories and possessions requires claiming of actual expenses subject to the out-of-state limits for meals, and is not eligible for claiming a per diem.

Except as specifically noted, the following guidelines apply to all foreign travel, regardless of the funding source or employment status (employee/non-employee) of the traveler. Exception: the Ames Lab contract, 401-25-01, has different requirements. Contact the Ames Lab directly for questions on this account.

Approval of the Provost and/or the Vice President for Business and Finance is not required for foreign travel.

Before traveling to a foreign country for the first time, the university recommends travelers visit the U.S. State Department: Bureau of Consular Affairs Web Site at This site contains a wealth of information for U.S. citizens who will be traveling abroad.

Airfare - Foreign

If the traveler is being reimbursed for the airfare, attach documentation of the cost of the fare. As most tickets are now electronic, the documentation usually is an e-mail confirmation. The documentation must clearly state that the traveler's credit card has been charged, to ensure that the documentation is not merely a quote. Boarding passes are not required to be attached.

If an indirect route is used to accommodate a vacation, attach a quotation from the travel agent stating the fare for the business portion of the trip. Travelers will be reimbursed for the lowest cost direct route, or the business portion of the trip, whichever is less.

To ensure compliance with the Fly America Act, the Air Travel Requisition will print a message to travel agents reminding them when a ticket is being purchased with federal funds. (Federal funds are those that begin with the first three digits in the range of 401-437.) When purchasing a "consolidator" ticket with federal funds, the traveler must notify the travel agent that s/he is required to use a U.S. Flag Carrier. Travelers who purchase their own air tickets, especially those coming to the U. S. from foreign countries, should be mindful of this requirement when federal funds are being used.

U. S. State Department Per Diem Tables

The university uses the federal per diem tables as a guideline for limits on lodging and meals for foreign travel. The rates are set by city within a country and are subject to change monthly. Use the rates for the month traveled rather than the rates for the month the reimbursement is completed.

Each locale has separate lodging and meal rates. Any location not listed for per diem under a country takes the "Other" rate published for that country. An unlisted suburb of a listed location takes the "Other" rate, not that of the location of which it is a suburb.

Foreign per diem rates for meals and lodging can be obtained at

If the current rate is not available at the time the reimbursement is entered, the traveler should use the most current rate available. Rates generally are not available in advance of the travel dates.

Lodging Per Diems

If a traveler requires paid lodging, s/he may claim the full lodging per diem for that city. A receipt is required to document the need for paid lodging. The actual cost to the traveler need not be calculated.

If the traveler does not require paid lodging, no lodging per diem is allowed.

If the lodging per diem is inadequate to cover the cost of the lodging, actual cost may be used up to 300% of the per diem if appropriately explained. A lodging receipt that shows the actual itemized cost of the room (as opposed to a credit card receipt that just shows the grand total cost) is required. The conversion rate must either be noted on the room receipt, or a copy of the bank receipt for conversion must be attached.

Lodging for the entire trip must use either per diem or actual cost. Selected days cannot be at actual cost while others are at per diem. This is an IRS regulation and therefore cannot be waived. However, federal regulations for the U. S. Agency for International Development and the U. S. Information Agency awards restrict reimbursement for lodging to the lesser of actual or per diem.

Lodging cost, whether per diem or actual, should appear in the "Lodging" field of the Employee Reimbursement screen. Note the city for which per diem is claimed. All reimbursements must be submitted in U. S. dollars.

The cost of a sleeping car on a train will be reimbursed at actual cost. This cost is normally a part of the total cost of the fare and should be claimed in the "Miscellaneous Expenses - Other" field of the Employee Reimbursement screen.

Meals & Incidental Expenses Per Diems

The meal per diem must be prorated for meals not purchased. The following is a guideline for adjustment of per diem:

If a traveler is at a locale 12 hours or more – Claim one day's per diem
If a traveler is at a locale more than 4 but less than 12 hours –
      Claim half day per diem
If a traveler is at a locale less than 4 hours – Claim no per diem

These are only guidelines. It is assumed that the per diem will only be prorated in half day increments. Therefore, if extraordinary circumstances exist, note them on the Employee Reimbursement screen and claim a half day of per diem or a whole day of per diem, whichever is more indicative of the meals purchased. For example, if a traveler arrives at 9:00 p.m., no per diem would be claimed per the general guidelines. However, if dinner was purchased, up to half per diem could be claimed.

If multiple locales are visited in a single day, the traveler should claim per diem in a ratio that best approximates the time spent and meals consumed in each locale. The maximum charge for a single day is two half days or one full day. As in the lodging example, note the city for which per diem is claimed, and put the per diem charge in the "Foreign Per Diem" field of the Employee Reimbursement screen.

Meal costs enroute should be claimed in a similar manner. Adjustment to the amount claimed should be made for meals consumed on the airplane at no cost to the traveler. (Note: The $6.00 per day in- flight per diem has been eliminated.) Similar adjustment should be made for meals that are included as part of conference registration.

If meals are covered by a registration fee, the per diem rate claimed that day should be reduced. Refer to Appendix B of the Federal Travel Regulations to determine the amount by which the covered meal should reduce the per diem. Please explain the reason for the adjustment when entering expenses.

A traveler who incurs no lodging expense may still claim a meal per diem as described above. Meals for family and friends may not be included.

The incidental expenses portion of the meal per diem rate includes "fees and tips given to porters, baggage carriers, bellhops, hotel maids, stewards or stewardesses and others on ships, and hotel servants in foreign countries; transportation between places of lodging or business and places where meals are taken," laundry and dry cleaning expenses. Therefore, these expenses may not be claimed separately. When the per diem rate is used for meals and incidental expenses, these charges may not be claimed separately.

Determination of appropriateness is the responsibility of the administering unit. The Accounting Office will not question the per diem unless documentation clearly conflicts with the charges on the Employee Reimbursement. For example, if departure tax in Thailand is dated 6/1/09, Accounting will disallow Bangkok per diem for 6/2/09. Departments have the right to reduce any claims that they feel are excessive.

 Other Charges

Visa and passport expenses are reimbursable with receipts. Departure tax may be reimbursed without a receipt.

Transportation costs such as taxis and rental cars are not part of per diem and are reimbursable under the same guidelines as domestic travel.

If there are questions, please call the Accounting Office (294-5180) to discuss the procedure before the trip is planned.

 Foreign Currencies

When requesting reimbursement, all expenses must be converted from the foreign currencies to U.S. dollars. Please show the calculations on the individual receipts to speed the reimbursement process.

Travelers have at least four options when selecting a conversion rate.

  • Credit Card Rate: If the traveler charged expenses on a credit card, the credit card issuer will convert the amounts on the monthly statement. This is the most accurate rate, as it matches what the traveler actually was charged. Additional fees charged by the credit card issuer for foreign currency transactions also may be reimbursed, if itemized and explained.
  • On-site Exchange Rate: If the traveler converted dollars to a foreign currency while overseas, the traveler should have a receipt that showed the actual exchange rate received. This single rate may be used for the entire trip, even though actual exchange rates vary daily, assuming the rate was approximately the average for the trip.
  • Published Rate: If the traveler does not have either of the above rates to use, the traveler can use the published exchange rates in the Wall Street Journal, or any other nationally published rates. These rates are based on exchanges of one million dollars or more, and the two choices above probably are more representative of the rates travelers would experience.
  • On-line Rate: The traveler can also use an on-line currency converter at