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I’ve been dying to write about this since I came up with the awesome title! I must admit customs is one of the most annoying things to deal with in travelling, hence I thought it would be appropriate to compile some tips on how to get through it as quickly and smoothly as possible.
There are fewer things to worry about if you’re not leaving the country that you’re in, so I’ll start with national trips, and then provide tips on international ones.
In general the better prepared you are the less of a hassle it will be for you. Their job is to make sure the air stays safe for everyone – this, unfortunately, comes at the price of being a pain in the neck to those who don’t know the “customs” of customs. Yeah, you see what I did there, don’t you!
A few general tips before I begin. Remember that if you’re cooperative with them, they’ll be cooperative with you. I will admit here that so far, as an adult I’ve only been on one trip outside of Australia, and that was to New York. However, there are quite a few stops and changes between here and there, so I became quite accustomed to the customs of customs! On top of that I went during the Qantas dilemma with the air busses, so on the way home there were a lot of different issues to deal with and questions that needed to be asked.
So let’s get this underway, shall we?
1. Strip off!
Now I don’t mean completely but you do have to pass through the scanners without it going off. If it beeps you have to go back through, and someone more organized will go through, making you have to wait again. Anything metal will trigger it, so belts and their buckles, shoes with steel caps, or anything metal on it. Jewelry and other nick-knacks need to come off, and everything in any pockets you have and all put in the one tub. Also anything in coat pockets (although it’s sometimes easier just to take it off) If you pass through quietly (without the beep going off) then you’re more or less safe to go.
2. Take out your portable computers.
Laptops, notebooks and other devices, even if you have them in a bag or carry case of some sort, they have to be scanned separately. All other power cords, chargers etc are safe to keep together.
3. Take off your shoes, this is holy ground!
I mean this is customary to do so. I think this mainly applies internationally or only in some places, but you don’t want to have to go back through and put your shoes through the scanners separately. This is especially true if you have a lot of valuable stuff waiting on the other end. Quite frankly, their job is to make sure that nothing dangerous gets through, not to make sure your stuff is safe. Sure, if it looks like someone is taking what isn’t theirs they’ll stop them, but with so many people going through, they really don’t know.
There is also (internationally) a clause about soil on your shoes. For example if you go to the grand canyon, and then go to another country, and take bugs, soil, etc from there to another country it can have disastrous effects, and so they don’t allow it.
4. Declare it to the air! (or beware)
This is in international rule, but food items like fruit, and other edibles need to be declared, and fruit is a big no no. I got reprimanded because I didn’t ‘declare’ my fruit cup, although truth be told, I had plainly said to the officer that I “have a few snacks to keep my energy up and a cup of fruit” obviously this wasn’t passed on. After being told I spoke up “I said I have a fruit cup – how is that not declaring it?” Was I supposed to put it in musical form? Seriously though, they take this stuff very seriously, and if you do to it will go much smoother for you.
Does going through customs make you shudder?
5. No liquids, or empty bottles of 100 ml or more.
This one got very old very fast. Humans are something like 80% water, and we need liquids to keep our bodies running. I lost track of the many times I had to throw out a perfectly good bottle of water (and before you say “why not just drink it?” I will get to that in a minute) or had to skull a scalding hot coffee before entering the waiting areas at each airport. Why not just drink it? Well when you’re like me and you need your liquids on a pretty regular basis chances are you can’t drink the bottle of water in one go because you’ve just finished drinking your apple juice, and whatever other drinks you had previously, and you don’t know if it’s worse to be insanely thirsty or have to carry all your luggage around while possessing a bulging bladder!
On this note, when you are in the waiting area (1 hour before your flight) you are able to purchase drinks, but I still think it feels like a big waste throwing out a bottle or two of liquids a few minutes earlier, only to buy some more again, just down the hall.
6. One handheld computer, 1 backpack or carry bag (of no more than a certain weight and size as mentioned in detail on the sites of each airline that you’re travelling with) and a partridge in a pear tree.
Each person can only take with them a certain amount of weight for the safety of everyone on board, but these 2 items are allowable. Anything else will go in the main luggage section. Oh it helps to have a goofy tag or a bag that will stand out if you’re worried about losing your bag. When I landed back in Melbourne my main luggage bag was nowhere to be found. We were about to put in an enquiry, and it would have been a nightmare waiting around, or to have to leave it till a few days later to be notified by mail on the whereabouts of my stuff, but I mentioned I had a bright blue tag that read “this is not your bag” and suddenly the lady was like: “OHHH I saw that bag not long ago! Let me go check!” A few minutes later, it was safely back in my possession again.
7. 10g or less please!
By ‘g’ I mean “grand” or “thousand”. You cannot take funds or items equal to or more than 10 thousand dollars from one country to another. If you’re like me, then you don’t even have to bat an eyelid at that one because you don’t own stuff to that kind of value full stop let alone stuff that you can carry with you!
Also this works combined, so 5 k cash and 5k in possessions adds up to the 10 k limit.
8. Nothing metal.
This might seem rather obvious since you are passing through a giant metal detector, but there are some things that you might not realize at first. I had an incident with some “scissors” (just the tiny nail cutting variety because my nails were in need of a trimming) and they made a big deal out of it, like I was smuggling them on for some sinister reason. In the end I just told them to keep it because it really wasn’t that important to me. Keyrings, anything that might have even a tiny strip of metal in it will set it off.
9. Pass the Passport!
Make sure you always have your passport handy as they will be wanting to check it at every waiting area, every time you get on a plane, every time you go through the baggage screeners.
So that’s it – these are tips that I picked up on my trip that I thought would assist others in getting through customs. If you’re well prepared you will be in and out in a flash and forget the whole painful experience.
For now, I bid you farewell, and good day – as it is customary to do so!