Customs: What you should not say
Passing customs, and its degree of intensity, depends on many factors. For example, where you come from, your travel history, finances, age, appearance, and intentions will all come into play at some point during an official checkpoint.
Customs officers are highly trained officials that are taught to effectively screen all people coming into their country. They are the guardians of the borders, and they decide who gets in our out of the country. Customs checks will vary from country to country. There are some countries that will flag you through where others might interrogate you and pester you with questions.
In my time of crossing borders, I have learned a few things that will help you speed up the process. However, you need to first know what a customs official does not want to hear from your mouth.
- I don’t have much money. Customs officials are supposed to be checking and ensuring that ever person that passes through their gates is an upstanding citizen. Moreover, they are not looking to house freeloaders or anyone who might feed off of the system. Therefore, make sure you have money to cover your trip and proof of it.
- I don’t know how long I will be here for. Visas have a limit. A standard visa stamp for most countries can range between 30-90 days. Other visas are extended stay visas or work visas. Each country has its own types, but the point to keep in mind is that they are limited. Customs officials want to know that you have an entry date and an exit date. They want you to prove that you are not going to just enter a country and not leave. Therefore, it is never a bad idea to have your plans laid out before you.
- I don’t know where I am staying. Much in line with the previous two comes this statement. It does not matter if you are going to be switching around some and changing between hostels, hotels, and friends. You need to be able to show that you have a place in mind. Customs agents do not want you to seem plan-less.
How to make your customs check more enjoyable
Maybe that last sentence was a bit of a paradox, I mean customs and enjoyable in the same sentence? Well, I will go out on a limb and say here that if you work with the officials your experience might not be so drawn out. There are a few things that you can do on your own to help the process.
- Have your documents out and ready. I am not only talking about your passport here. Have your hotel bookings, flight information (both entry and exit), and yes sometimes even a copy of your bank statement. That way, if they have any questions you can promptly give them the information that they seek.
- Get your story straight. Tell them exactly what you are planning to do and visit, and your intentions. Giving a round-a-bout flakey story is not going to be well received.
- Be polite. It never hurts to show someone respect. You should always be respectful and cordial with officials as they do their job. If it helps you, have respect for what they are doing as their job is important.
Things that customs agents typically want to know:
- That you have a plan
- That you can support yourself
- That you are not a bum
- That you plan to leave at some point in your given time period
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