My employer will be sending me to the Philippines for 3-6 weeks. I checked the employee manual and it doesn't really have anything in there about travel expenses, so I need to talk to my boss about specifics and ensure I have all my bases covered.

What questions should I ask to make sure that I don't end up with any unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses? e.g. Is it reasonable to ask for a stipend for food and lodging? Should I pay for my passport, even if I will never use it again? What other items should I consider asking for reimbursement for?

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    ... ask your boss? – enderland Feb 26 '13 at 11:54
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    @Tag A passport is a pretty useful thing to have even if you don't plan to leave your country. It is the most authoritative form of identification one can have. I have never heard of an employer paying for a passport, and you would probably want to have one anyway. – maple_shaft Feb 26 '13 at 13:49
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    @Tag In the US, employers can use your passport to quickly identify you and fill out tax forms, as opposed to carrying around a drivers license and SS card wherever you go. – maple_shaft Feb 26 '13 at 18:17
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    +1 vote for reopening - some answers are very US centric but the general question is reasonable. – Michael Feb 27 '13 at 11:21
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    @scaahu : In my experience, (I've only seen this issue come up when working for very large companies), maple_shaft's experience is the norm. The company will pay for expediting the passport but not the passport itself. I'm not an accountant but I'll bet it has something to do with IRS regulations on what the company can legally deduct as a business expense or not. – Dunk Feb 28 '13 at 16:46

Paying for a passport yourself is not unreasonable - it's a personal document.

Off the top of my head for 6 weeks I'd expect:

  1. Transport
  2. All meals and sustenance (this can include snacks) up to a reasonable daily limit
  3. Calls home / internet access
  4. All accommodation
  5. If you need a car, then car hire, a reasonable daily fuel allowance and all insurance
  6. Laundry costs
  7. Toiletries
  8. Medical bills if appropriate (or more likely, insurance to cover such issues)

There will almost certainly be more things but that would be a bare minimum initial list.

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    I'd disagree with toiletries, because they are something you'd have to buy for yourself anyway; and because if you are staying at a decent hotel most of them are provided. – DJClayworth Feb 26 '13 at 17:40
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    "Paying for a passport yourself is not unreasonable - it's a personal document." OTOH if you wouldn't bother with a passport it's an expense you wouldn't have had otherwise. I did work for an employer that paid for the passport when they were going to send us abroad, based on that reasoning. – Andy Feb 26 '13 at 18:13
  • @DJClayworth If you were at home, you'd have one you already bought. But not when traveling. And hotels don't provide everything. I've had things like Q-tips reimbursed before, so it's not unreasonable – Grant Feb 27 '13 at 20:28
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    I would add Visa Costs to the list – Neuro Feb 27 '13 at 20:50
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    toiletries? Really? I'd fully expect to have to bring my own toothbrush and razor. Insurance yes, if not already covered by your existing insurance policies. I'd not expect them to pay for things I can be reasonably expected to have to pay on my own when at home. – jwenting Mar 6 '13 at 9:19

Generally speaking, your employer should pay all the necessary business travel expenses.

They should pay for your passport application fee if you don't have a passport yet. They are supposed to pay for your airline ticket. Some employers are generous enough to let the employee use business class - this is why it's called business class.

As for the food and lodging, it depends on your company policy. Usually they follow the US government policies.

The following is the link for the per diem rate for US government civilian employees traveling on official business in foreign areas. Click on Per Diem rates by location, you can get the rate for Philippines.

The out-of-pocket expenses also depends on your employer, so does all other necessary expenses.

Note that the above info is for short time travel. If the travel schedule is long, such as two months, it would be a completely different story.

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  • The per diem rates for the Philippines are a little out of date, but still really useful, thanks! – Tag Feb 26 '13 at 12:24
  • @Tag The publication date of that table is 02/01/2013. Why is it out of date? – scaaahu Feb 26 '13 at 12:30
  • You are correct. I misunderstood the "Effective Date" column. :-} – Tag Feb 26 '13 at 12:32
  • @Tag The effective date means the rate has been the same since 2000. For some locations(favorite vacation places), the rate would be different depending on the travel time. – scaaahu Feb 26 '13 at 12:37
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    It's probably also worth noting that Uncle Sugar is generous with its per diem rates for meals, partly because they only have a single scale for all levels of employees and they're set high enough to keep people at senior levels happy. If your boss is a tightwad you might have trouble justifying that part of the rate to him. At the same time the USG is able to use the volume of business it offers to get better hotel rates than the generally available one in many cases; so you might need more money than that for lodging. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Feb 26 '13 at 14:27

This is what I have generally received for travel:

  • Accomodations (up to a set limit per day which is told to you in advance) will require a receipt
  • Food (can be a set limit per day or per meal - does not usually include alcohol except for sales people) may or may not require a receipt, check with your employer
  • Long distance Travel - airfare generally paid in advance by the company, do not pay for this yourself and get reimbursed later!
  • Local travel during the trip - either a rental car or taxi/bus fares. Note that local travel generally does not include paying for a taxi to go out at night for entertainment purposes or mileage for the rental car other than to and from teh place of work and the airport (unless you get unlimited mileage which is preferable). Includes the cost of gas. Receipts almost certainly needed.
  • Fees - things like parking, tolls etc. but again only those associated with travel to the airport or to and from work or work requirements. If you choose to visit somewhere on your day off, then the toll to get there is generally not covered. Receipts might be needed unless you have a policy of receipts not being needed under a certain amount. Fees for overweight luggage will generally only be covered if you are taking heavy stuff specifically for work.

I have never traveled anywhere that toiletries and calls home were reimbursed. However, it can't hurt to ask.

In general, if the cost is required to get you to the work place or to maintain you in the other country, it will be covered. Entertainment costs are generally not covered unless you are entertaining clients.

One real caveat of the 3-6 week trip is that you want a cash advance for expenses or a corporate credit card. Otherwise, you could easily cost yourself a ton of money using your own cards or cash. Especially if the bills will come in (as in the 6 week trip) before you get reimbursed. So when you talk to your boss, talk about how these expenses will be paid for at the time of the expense. And make sure to get and keep a receipt for everything.

You should also be able to get local currency from an ATM. Keep good track of exchange rates and fees involved. If you are there for that length of time, you should also consider bringing an unlocked cell phone and purchase a local sim card with low rates to call and text home. In some cases these services can be extended to smartphones. Access to services such as Skype can be quite useful for contact with the office, friends and family.

If you run out of cash or have difficulties it is fairly easy for someone at home to send you money via Moneygram, Western Union or an equivalent service. The transfer can be completed in minutes and picked up at many locations. This is particularly easy in a remittance based economy like the Phillipines. Keep track of fees and exchange rates for such transactions.

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  • Good point about the bills coming due before the trip is over. About telephone calls: It has been several years since I've travelled internationally for work, but in my experience, government travel (including contractors) allows one telephone call per day to your home to check in and let family know you're okay. When I did this, there was a five minute limit to the call's duration. – GreenMatt Mar 5 '13 at 19:37
  • It's interesting that the general sentiment is "No Alcohol", and yet I've been told to expense it so far in my short career. At my current company, it's seen as an important social lubricant, so it's a valid expense if you're meeting a client/vendor/rep, or at some sort of event where you may be networking. I'd imagine this is quite prevalent in sales roles, in particular. – Sonny Childs Oct 31 '16 at 12:03
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    @SonnyChilds, it could be different in Sales. – HLGEM Oct 31 '16 at 13:22

Nearly everything I can think of has been covered in other answers, so I won't repeat that here. However, there is something I've not seen mentioned yet: For long trips (over one month), it is reasonable to ask to go home for a few days (a weekend to a week). In fact, it's my understanding that allowing (and paying for) such a trip is required in some places. (A friend who works on a government contract frequently travels for one to two months and has told me that government rules state that he is entitled to a weekend at home every month.)

Of course, if travel time is lengthy, it may be logistically difficult and not worthwhile if you are only going to be home for a couple days. Whether or not a trip home would be good for you is a decision only you can make, but I'd recommend that you only ask if you plan to use it.

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