Have you ever felt apprehensive about entering a foreign country? If yes, welcome to the club. If no, then you are very lucky........so far.
A common cause for traveler anxiety is entry and exit through foreign ports of entry. Although most countries list their laws and regulations regarding entry and exit, many do not update their websites or they change regulations arbitrarily. This can end a wonderful trip before it even starts, as every country has the right to deny foreigners entry.
The number one cause for detention upon arrival or departure in a foreign country, outside of purposeful illegal activity, is.........medication. Many travelers do not realize that there are certain doctor prescribed medications that are illegal in some countries. Often opiates, psychotropics and pain killers are illegal and can result in confiscation, fines or at worse, jail time. Even the amount of pharmaceuticals the traveler is carrying can mean the difference between drug possession and narcotics trafficking, which is punishable by death in many countries.
Here are some solutions to this problem;
1. If the traveler must bring a prescription drug of any kind, they should keep it in the original bottle, make sure the prescription is not expired, bring a letter from their prescribing physician (on official letterhead), and only bring enough for their own use during that trip (and possibly a few days over the planned time frame in case of unforeseen crisis).
1. If the traveler requires pain medicine, psychotropics or opiates, they should go to a local doctor upon entry and have them prescribe the medicine locally. If the traveler has travel insurance, they may be able to be reimbursed for some of the cost.
Unfortunately, there may not be a good answer for those that are dependent on medicine that is banned or illegal at their destination of travel. In that case, the traveler may have to reach out to the government of that destination to receive special permission, or determine to go elsewhere.
Most countries require visitors to carry a passport. On top of having a passport;
1. The passport must be at least six months from expiration before the planned completion of the travelers visit. It is best to ensure the traveler's passport is good for at least a year, before they book travel.
1. The traveler should have some blank pages for visa, entry and exit stamps.
1. The passport picture must show the travelers facial features accurately. If the traveler has had surgery, gained or lost weight or suffered injury, they should receive a new passport. Often travelers will be denied entry or even a preordered visa due to photo disparity.
Every country has laws regarding how much cash you can take out of your home country and into your destination. Money laundering is a huge problem globally, but the issue for most travelers is unknowingly transporting too much cash. If caught, at a minimum the traveler is going to lose their cash and never get it back.
1. Travelers should check with their bank, regarding government reporting requirements for taking cash out of the country. Usually a form must be filled out at the bank or at customs if the traveler is taking over a certain amount.
1. Travelers should check with their destination's official government customs website, or with the host nations embassy, to determine how much cash they can take into the country without declaring.
1. Travelers should not try to split up cash from one source between multiple travelers in their group as this is considered layering/structuring and is a crime outside of laundering money.
The best solution to this problem is to use credit cards and pull out cash from a local bank or cash machine. Many credit card companies and banks offer cards free from foreign transaction fees for people that travel often. It might be a worthwhile investment to avoid a money laundering charge.
When in doubt, declare. Travelers are typically not going to get in trouble for declaring an item not on the list, but could be fined or detained for not declaring something. Travelers should respect the local government at their destination and not try to skirt a country's sovereign laws in order to save time. Declare, declare, declare.
It's important to understand that the destination a travelers visiting is also the home of that customs government official These officials are usually underpaid and have to put up with a lot from foreign (often ignorant) tourists. Travelers should put themselves in the shoes of a customs agent, treat them how they would want to be treated and take the time to research and follow the rules. A little respect goes a very long way.
Blessings and Safe Travels!
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