20 Ways to Get Flagged at Customs
One of the most stressful parts of international travel is going through customs. Sometimes it seems as if customs officials are chosen on the basis of how intimidating they are. Of course for most travellers going through customs is simply a matter of answering a few questions and then being sent on your way. But certain things can make customs officials more suspicious and may get you flagged for a more thorough inspection...
Going way over your duty-free limitAccording to Smarter Travel, a sure way of inviting that dreaded delay at customs is to spend more than the allowed duty-free amount during your trip. In Canada, you can bring in goods to the amount of $200 if you've been out of the country for between 24 and 48 hours and up to $800 if you've been away for longer. If you're bringing back alcohol or tobacco, remember those items have specific limits too.
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Crossing the border oftenA thread on the FlyerTalk forum suggests that if you cross the border much more often than most people do, for instance once a week, it can raise suspicion and you may be flagged.
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Returning from certain countriesSmarter Travel says that travel from some countries and regions immediately raises suspicion and searches will be more thorough if you return after a visit to one of these areas. This is especially true of countries or regions on the drug routes, such as Central America and South East Asia, or countries with more relaxed drug laws, like The Netherlands.
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Having visited certain countries in the past
Importing fruitSmarter Travel says that even if you don't have fruit in your bag as you go through customs, the sniffer dogs may still smell the fruit you had in your bag a week ago and this can get you flagged for an agricultural inspection.
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Wearing or carrying dirty hiking bootsAccording to Smarter Travel, hiking boots can still carry traces of soil, water or seeds from another country and this can bring alien species into the country you're entering. For some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, this is a big issue and you need to declare your boots so they can be cleaned.
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Travelling with animalsYou can't take an animal into another country without the right documents and CITES-listed species require a special permit. In Canada, you need the right paperwork even if the animal is only coming for a temporary visit. Smarter Travel says that having an animal with you is a guarantee that you'll be flagged at customs.
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Not having a return or onward ticketAccording to the website Travel Insurance, border officials may ask you to show your return or onward ticket as proof that you won't be staying on for an indefinite period if you're not a citizen of the country you're entering. Alternatively, they can ask for proof that you have enough money to buy that ticket.
Not knowing where you'll be stayingTravel Insurance says that it raises suspicion if you don't know where you'll be staying, so you should have the address of your hotel or your host on hand.
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Having had previous run-ins with the lawA Reddit AMA with a retired Canadian border security official reveals that previous run-ins with the law, whether it's a criminal record or past altercations with border officials, may pop up on the customs official's computer screen. These incidents may make the official feel compelled to take a closer look.
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Standing out in some wayAccording to Matador Network, it's best to look neat and tidy when crossing the border and not to wear sunglasses or earphones. Sadly, because of institutional and systematic racism, as a thread on Travel Stack Exchange reveals, is that even your perceived ethnicity can raise suspicion in some parts of the world.
Travelling on your ownBecome Nomad says that solo male travellers can be tagged as potential troublemakers.
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Joking aroundTravel Insurance says that you should never, ever joke about criminal activity or potentially dangerous behaviour when talking to a customs official.
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Offering a bribeBribing customs officials is illegal everywhere in the world and according to Travel Insurance, offering a bribe can get you thrown out of the country. Or worse!
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