While many products can be brought from one country to another, certain items – like food, alcohol, plant matter, and even essentials like baby formula – come with specific rules and limitations. Fail to plan ahead when traveling, and your trip through customs might take a little longer than you expected. To ensure a smooth trip through the airport lines, let’s take a look at six more tips for getting through customs quickly:
1. Have all your documents ready to go
A big part of customs is making sure you have the right documents to be allowed into a new country. Alongside a valid passport (which is essential in most cases), you’ll want to have your visa (if needed) and other travel permits. Make sure to look up the necessary requirements for entry beforehand so you don’t run into any nasty surprises at the gate.
2. Know where you’re staying
After arriving in a country, officials want to make sure that you’re not going to wander through the streets aimlessly. To do so, they ask where you’re staying. It’s important to have that information at the ready. Otherwise, you may look unprepared and slow down the process.
Alongside a hotel address, custom agents might want to see a departure ticket as well. This is to make sure you have a plan for leaving. Although not every country requires this, the ones that do often check it.
3. Leave behind fresh food
Most (if not all) countries have restrictions on what kinds of veggies, fruits, and meats you’re allowed to take out of or bring into the country. Forgetting to read the fine line can result in some pretty serious consequences – especially in New Zealand, where an intentional “smuggling” of banned foods can lead to an NZD $100,000 fine.
The reason countries are often so strict with fresh foods and agricultural products is that they can carry pests and diseases.
4. Save the humor for later
Customs (and airports more generally) can be stressful places. Jokes (and humor in general) often break up stress and tension. However, this general rule does not apply at airports. Cracking jokes at customs can lead to stern faces and enhanced searches.
It’s not the quality of the joke that matters. Instead, it’s the fact that you feel the need to ease the tension. This might signal that you’re stressed and that stress might set off the custom agent’s radar. So, keep up a smile, be courteous, and save the jokes for later.
5. Keep the camera off
When you’re lining up or walking through customs, it’s best to put your phone’s camera away. Taking any kind of picture in the customs area – even a relatively benign selfie – is a great way to raise the suspicion of an agent who may pull you aside for questioning. To avoid that, leave the phone in your pocket until you’re safely through the line.
6. Apply for Global Entry
The Global Entry program allows you to significantly reduce time in customs when flying through the U.S. and certain other countries. Rather than waiting in line, all you have to do is head to the automated kiosk for an identity confirmation and declaration check. After that, you’re free to go.
The program costs $100 and requires fingerprints and an interview to apply. Although it isn’t supported by every airport, it’s still a great option if you’re a frequent flyer looking to make it through customs in a breeze.
Keep the six tips above in mind, and you’ll spend less time in customs and more time exploring the world.