My top tips for international travel
My top Tips for travel out of the country
Including customs interaction
First let me say, most of my advice comes for learned experience. Not all pleasant lessons learned. So I feel it’s my civil duty to pass these tips along in order to prevent others from unfavorable experiences with immigration and customs.
Tip one, always apply for and renew your passport at least 6 months before travel out of the country. right now, due to security issues, there are major delays in processing. You may have seen this with drivers licenses as well. If you need a visa, also obtain as early as possible and research your point of entry ( country you will be traveling to), so you know exactly what you will need,before planning your vacation/ work trip. Countries such as Asia or brazil are very strict with this.
Tip two, if traveling to underdeveloped countries, find out which vaccine is needed. Customs usually requires documentation ( proof) of vaccine. Also, if a vaccine is needed, ie yellow fever, hepatitis, make an appointment with your doctor and find out exactly what is needed and what is not. As well as, the side effects, how far in advance to get the vaccine, how to take it, and how it may effect you personally.
Tip three, when you are in any customs office/ site, do NOT use your cell phone in front of the officers. they are not a fan of this and will express their dislike in a variety of ways (again, another lesson learned on the road).
Tip three, make sure you have copies of your identification documents, as well as the hard copies. Even download them to a computer, iPhone, etc so if all copies are lost, stolen, etc you can still access them. You do not want to be detain in a foreign country!
Tip four, answer all questions honestly and politely but donor give information that is not asked. depending on where you are, Americans are not always accepted with open arms… Shocker.
Tip five, do not think you can hide items, even high cash amounts. Be honest on your immigration forms.. Worse than not following the rules, is lying about it. Even on a private plane.
Since iam sure you all way want an example of this from my experiences, I will tell you a short story;
Working a trip from Europe back to the USA, i knew that upon our arrival into the point of entry airport, any fruits, vegetables, and meats I had on board, needed to be thorn out. However, I did not want to waste some of my catering that I may need for the next 5 hour leg back to my final destination, so I attempted to hide some items.( Honestly just a fruit tray and some gourmet meats and cheeses).. I figured, what’s the big deal..
Well, Customs came on board with their gadgets and dogs and asked me if I had thrown away all my “international Garbage”, and did I have any foreign foods left on board? I replied NO, and started to sweat.. The officer then walked through my little galley and began digging around in my drawers and cabinets.. And, as my luck would have it, found the damn fruit tray…. They looked at me with this questioned expression and I shrugged my shoulders and said- “sorry, I must have missed that”… Luckily, all I got was a good talking to, but I was told I could have been fined, along with my company, a lot of money.
Now this was early on in my career, but I will never forget how nervous and freaked out I was… Every country and city station handles things differently, some may not even look or ask, but on the chance that they will… I have never again attempted to hide anything…even a strawberry.
Tip six. You can never be too careful with the foods you eat and the beverages you consume. Be safe with bottled water, little to no ice cubes, steer clear from meats you don’t recognize, and seafood that is sold at an outdoor vendor. In addition, eat separate items than the people you are traveling with. One person getting sick is not as bad as all! A lesson learned over and over by flight crew.
Tip seven. Travel advisories put out by the government can be very helpful. Prior to your trip, read up on the suggestions and restrictions made by your government and other travelers.
And finally, tip eight. commercial plane or private, always know who the hell you are! Ie. your social security number, address, emergency contacts, where you are going and where you are coming from! Don’t look like an idiot and not have the answers to the customs forms.. You wouldn’t believe some of the passengers I have flown that can’t fill those things out by themselves! And sorry, no names 🙂
If you have any additional questions that pertains to international travel, feel free to comment and ask!