Clearing customs like a pro

Posted Date: 24 February 2015
Clearing customs like a pro

After successfully arriving at the airport ready for your flight, and planning a little duty free shopping, the only thing standing between you and the next phase of your holiday is border control. Here’s some advice from frequent travellers on simplifying your trip through customs. 

Take a pen:

It sounds like really obvious advice but you’ll definitely need one and it’s so easy to forget. Keep it on you, somewhere you will remember.

Immigration form:

You know the drill, the flight attendant will give you a destination customs and immigration form to fill out. Remember that pen? You’ll be back to that movie before your less prepared fellow passengers. Filling out the form on the plane will save time when queuing for immigration - you don’t need the extra hassle while juggling your carry-on luggage, your passport and your suitcase. Remember,  to fill out a form for each family member. It’s a good idea to keep it with your passport and within easy access, but in a safe place so you know where to look every time.

Know your stuff:

You know the old saying “be prepared” – customs staff may ask you a few simple questions to check your intentions for visiting.

You’ll need to know what you have packed in your bags, how much money you’re carrying, cash and credit cards, and where you’re staying. The hotel name will not be enough in some countries, as there may be a few hotels with the same name. If you’re staying with friends make sure you have their full address and phone number, even if they are picking you up at the airport. If you’re not sure about where you are staying, you can probably expect more questions from the customs officers about your trip, and being vague can lead to further interrogation.  

Make the connection:

You’ve decided your holiday destination, now you just have to make your flights connect. Even the seasoned traveller can get this wrong. There’s not a lot you can do once you start your journey, so it’s all about pre-planning.

Some airports are so huge they have buses or underground trains for passengers to get around, and getting lost in an airport this size can be unbelievably stressful, especially if you have connecting flights. Give yourself enough time to get through customs, immigration and security, especially in the USA where it can sometimes take hours. It pays to give yourself at least two hours to meet connecting flights. Unfortunately travel insurance is for the unexpected, so if you simply get it wrong and miss your connection, we can’t help. Check out our tips on what to do when delayed.

Keep calm and carry on:

There’s no getting around the x-ray search so you might as well make it as quick and easy as possible. If you can, keep the contents of your carry-on bag to a minimum. The less possessions you carry, the less there is to check.

To get through security quickly have your carry-on luggage prepared, take your laptop, phone and tablet out of your bag so you’re ready to put them in a tray. Empty everything out of your pockets. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on. Try not to wear a big metal belt, as officials in some countries will ask you to take it off. Combined, all these little tips can help you save time.

Relax, but be cautious!

Many travellers consider the airport transit lounge safe, somewhere they can relax, but these areas can be rife with thieves. If you can’t keep your hands on your belongings, keep them on your body somewhere, or touching your legs etc. and keep a sharp eye on them. Don’t let fellow travellers distract you. Even under the watchful eyes of airport security, thefts regularly happen.

Sure, customs can be an intimidating experience when you don’t know what to expect, but it all comes down to being prepared as much as possible. Hopefully these tips will help you arrive refreshed and ready to clear customs like a pro.

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