We have been strip searched in Sri Lanka, been caught in Japan with over the prescribed amount of liquid, been taken to a security room in Sydney, paid a ‘bribe’ fee in Indonesia. We have had an elephant taken from us because its penis was too big, and been generally through anything that anyone wants to throw at us.
Be Aware of each Countries Requirements in Getting through Customs
Each country has their own peculiarities and it pays to be more than a little aware of what each countries requirements are. It is also well worthwhile reading other travellers tales about the idiosyncrasies of some countries that are not often written on the official sites.
What You Should Do
It is pretty much customary that you must not carry more than 100ml of fluids or gels and those must be in a see-through bag, so be aware of that. Start taking your boots, belts and jewellery off while you are in the queue. Don’t wait to be asked. Ditto, get your computers out of your bag and put them on the tray with your wallet and camera and phone. Don’t bother waiting to be asked. Take your jackets, sunnies and hats off as well. Just basically get most of your gear off and put everything on the trays. You will only annoy people behind you, read ‘me’, when you know full well what is coming and you start your undressing procedure at the counter holding everyone up. Dress for the occasion!
Wait until you are told to walk through the scanner and hope you don’t hear the alarm and all of the people behind saying ‘dickhead’. Expect to be randomly selected for a scan or a general shake down. Big deal they are doing their job. If you get taken to one of ‘those’ cubicles and I am assuming that you have nothing to hide, suck it up and do what you are told, particularly in countries where they are very strict. Australia is one of those very strict countries and this is actually a very good thing. Think about it, don’t you want to be protected from threats of malice, disease or whatever. I do.
Be aware that you have something that you might consider is funny or is accepted in your country but may well cause a big issue in another. We saw this when a man had what I hope was a fake bullet emblazoned with some “I’ve been to …” and he was hauled away in a Middle Eastern country airport. Who could be bothered and then trying to explain that you are just a twit who likes crappy souvenirs?
Many airports have full body scanners, which some people are complaining about. Why? Do you have something to hide? Are your bones sensitive to being photographed? Of course, those with legitimate medical or physical conditions are excused but the rest of us .. put up with it. The alternatives are a lot worse aren’t they? If you refuse a body scan in Australia, you will not be getting on the flight, simple.
Now where we went wrong.
I had gone to a café in a Sri Lankan airport while Gordon was doing something or other and overheard a conversation where they were talking about some excellent drugs that they had got in the hills. I told Gordon who said that is it; there will be an issue, they will have been listening. I assumed that he had watched too many movies until we were all told to line up and were strip-searched and the plane left 3hrs later minus a few passengers. Not us.
This next example was odd, but just one of those things. We had bought an elephant in Thailand that had a big penis, which in all honesty I had not noticed when we purchased it. It was taken from us for being wooden and well endowed at another airport.
We have both been taken to ‘those’ rooms in many countries and felt up and down. We had nothing to hide so just had to answer questions and get frisked a bit. I don’t mind if they have gentle hands. It seems a random thing so this can be expected.
The next mistake may or may not have been mine. We were leaving Nozawa Onsen, Japan on Australia Day and someone had given us a gift of bourbon. I do remember Gordon telling me to get rid of it before the airport and we both tried on the train to give it a nudge. We got to security and were caught, well I was, and the nice man gave me a choice in broken English – drink it or tip it. Gordon was not happy but we took the first option and slept the whole way home.
And the bribe fee, was … ‘you want to wait 6 hours or 3 minutes?’ on a relatively remote Indonesian Island. 3 minutes worked.
Security is there for a reason. That is that. Just do some homework, learn from Gordon’s mistakes and get through the process quickly.
Once I was at Milan airport and we’ve crossed the security. As we were moving towards the gate, a young security guard called me and asked “How much cash are you carrying” I declared 500 euros.
He next asked me “How will you sustain for 15 days on 500 Euros”. I explained that all my hotel and internal travel is already paid for. I’ve got credit card and can always withdraw money from ATM.
Just than my wife and 2 kids aged 9 & 14 walked in. He was confused. stopped and asked us to move on
it can be confusing can’t it.
I’ve never had any problems like this, luckily!
Because you do the right thing
Glad he drank it – my motto is never waste booze.
Back in the old days, just after hey put the ban on liquids, I had gone through San Francisco airport with a half dozen bottles of fine California wine. They were sealed, so I figured no problem. Threw a shit fit when they told me I couldn’t bring them on the plane. So I went back out, bought a box and some tape, and checked in the wine at the Air Canada counter.
Got back just in time for boarding and was pretty happy. But I no longer take chances…
LOL, it was pretty funny then – but as you say, times after different now. I have no intention of upsetting any customs official.
I don’t understand why people freak out about the body scanners. I’ve been through them a number of times in Detroit and in Florida and it is quick and easy. There is a monitor on the far side and when they identify something that warrants further investigation like an unusual zippered pocket you can see your own scan. Nothing to worry about at all.
I have to agree about the incompetent travellers, though. Nothing is more frustrating than watching some knucklehead get undressed right in front of the scanner. That same person is invariably the one who has to redress as soon as his bags come off the conveyor and hold everybody up. I’ve had terse words with offenders on occasion. “PUT YOUR EMPTY BINS AWAY!!” Or “grab your stuff and GET OUT OF THE WAY!!”
Totally agree, the last thing you need is someone who thinks that they are above the law and are somehow too special to think of others 🙂
Great post! I am also “that” person that is getting annoyed behind people who can’t work the system out. Watching how different people behave at the security check is amazing. It’s not that difficult! Like you said, there are things that are standards. Liquids, computers out of the bag, no metal on your person, etc. But it seems that, worldwide, there are people who can’t get their head around this concept!
Though of course it does happen that things go wrong. I got (half) strip searched in India once…now THAT was awkward.
Wow Paula, those are a lot of interesting experiences you had at customs. Luckily I was always spared and never encountered any trouble, but it seems you learned a few lessons you never wanted to learn the hard way. Anyway, the body scan looks very graphic already and I am not so sure how I feel about that, but it might still be better than being physically strip searched… 😉
The lady who strip searched me had soft hands – 🙂 I think it is just a random thing and one that despite a bit of a pest is better than alternatives. Take care
GREAT post Paula.Coming from Israel I get seriously pissed with people who whine about airport security. The guys and gals there really know what they are doing and are polite and efficient and do an excellent job for our safety so it is so daft to complain about it right?
Great elephant story. .how could you have overlooked it? 😉
I agree, suck it up at security – if they weren’t doing their job we could be in a lot of trouble. The elephant – we still laugh about it as I am sure the security guard does at our shocked reactions.
Wow Paula! I’ve never run into any of these before…the worst for me is always going through the States…takes so long! I love the elephant story…
The elephant was so funny because I seriously had not noticed.