Have you ever smuggled something into a country?
If so, what was it? Did you get caught?
If so, what were the consequences?
I once brought a kilo of a really good tasting Dutch cheese from the Netherlands to Ireland.
All dairy products and meat are supposed to be declared when entering Ireland.
I suspected that if I declared my cheese they would take it away from me, because analysing it for whatever disease it might bring into Ireland would be too much trouble for just one kilo of cheese. I didnt declare.
On our first trip to Ireland, my ex husband grabbed some clovers from the ground (clovers might be the wrong word... the things that have 3 leaves and are supposed to be good luck if they have 4). His father was very proud of the small town in Ireland that his ancestors came from and my ex thought it would be the best souvenir to bring him back authentic plants from the actual ground. Obviously, this would have been frowned upon and probably for good reason but he was very excited about it and I couldn't squelch his enthusiasm. We did not get caught luckily!
On the reverse, we once brought back enough alcohol that we declared it because we would definitely have gotten caught. When we walked through customs in the U.S., they waived us through without checking. We said "but we have stuff to declare" and they basically said don't worry about it and just let us go on our way. This was before 9-11 though and I suspect now they would have been a bit more strict.
I would have declared my packet of Hob-Nobs to customs at Auckland only I took the precautionary measure of finishing them off before landing (offering them around my fellow passengers of course). No animal ingredients but why have the hassle anyway?
Maya: when they waived you through it probebly meant that they have caught some durgs smuggelers or was going to, so they did not have time to deal with alcohol. I think that is quite normal. On the other hand, i do agree with your 9-11 theory.
I have not smuggeld anything that i know of. Did eat my apple and grapes before we landed in beijing😊 Unless spice counts... (is that legal?)
Perhaps, though we were literally the first people off the plane and the customs area was very dead, the officers were just all standing there. Either way worked out well for us! Oh and i bring food, including fruit, from the U.S. to other countries all the time. I am hypoglycemic so I always bring some my own food in case I need to eat right away and can't find something that will help my blood sugar, and fruit is good for this. I've never been questioned going from the US out - I am just careful on the return to the U.S. which I think generally tends to be more strict anyways. And I believe spices are legal but I might be wrong on that. I also bring back seeds (packaged) all the time. Not sure if they are ok if they are prepackaged though I do not believe so. Either way, I don't declare them. I figure they are small enough I can always say I forgot that I had them :-) That's a little tougher to do with bottles of wine or whisky!
Oh I forgot to mention that when we came back from Amsterdam, my dad brought tulip bulb with no problem and didn't declare it. I guess either they are ok (I don't think so) or he doesn't look like a trouble maker so they didn't question him.
Speaking of looking like a 'trouble maker'. One of my friends parents in their 60s went to the US a few years ago to stay at a holiday home they own there. They are a typical conservative looking elderly type couple. The US customs gave them a really hard time. They had nothing to declare and were not carrying anything illegal into the country. They were so annoyed about it that they sold their holiday home and said they are never going to the US again. They used to go there a couple of times per year. Their daughter and her husband and 2 kids live there.
I have to say that U.S. customs officials are not the nicest to foreigners entering the U.S. It's why I do not mind being check when I'm overseas... i know we are often so tough (unnecessarily so) on non-citizens so I feel it's only "fair", or equally as unfair, if I'm subjected to it elsewhere.
and I totally forgot another story from Amsterdam about boarding rather than customs but similar idea. So we go through several security checks. They literally stick their hands in the waist of our paints and under our bra in the back; they flipped through my mom's checkbook page by page to make sure she had nothing hidden in there. So we go through all of that, I walk through and as I am sitting at the gate, notice i have a half drunk bottle of water in my bag - in plain site, and which was definitely not allowed past security. I joke around that it's a good thing i hadn't tried to hide it in my pants, because they would have found it!
Some of these security people are not very consistent.
I was at the security check in at Munich airport and they wanted to throw out my mini bottle of deodourant. I asked them why they are doing that because it is less than 100 ml. They said it is in a glass bottle and that is not allowed. They did not confiscate my empty half litre glass bottle that I brought along to fill with water after I got through the security check.
I agree, i think sometimes they just have to look like they are doing their job. One time, before they made us take off shoes to go through security, my brother walked through and they told him to take off his shoes, then told him to put them back on and then asked him to jump up and down. He was convinced they were just doing it because they were bored and it was amusing to them :-) I'm sure they had their reasons (e.g thought he had something explosive or dangerous in his shoes perhaps?) but they never actually told him why he had to do it.
I've never had any excessive searches, (even in the U.S.) but I have a story from the other end of the spectrum.
When I was in California once, I walked accross the border into Mexico (Calexico to Mexicali). Since the Mexican government was really trying to crack down on drugs in the area, I thought there would be soldiers with assault rifles and drug sniffing dogs and who knows what else guarding the border. As it turned out there was nobody there! Not a single Mexican official!
There was just a pair of revolving doors that only spun one way so nobody could get back into the States and just like that you were in downtown Mexicali!
What I want to know is, is this common in other places around the world? I mean, how do countries expect to enforce their own laws without border guards?
Maybe two years ago there was a terrible double murder in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The murderer then got in his truck and drove a NB / Maine border crossing. He was covered in blood, had a bloody chain saw, machete and brass knuckles. He claimed he was a US marine. After holding him for a few hours (they did suspect something), they couldn't get the marines to confirm or deny this guy's identity so they let him enter the US but they did confiscate his machete and brass knuckles for good measure.
Meanwhile I once had a slice of pizza I was eating confiscated at the same border crossing because the pepperoni might have contained some beef...but he got to keep his chainsaw.
Sorry, just double checked for accuracy and realized they did confiscate the bloody chainsaw. So maybe they would also have confiscated his slice of pizza had he been eating one.
HaHa Beth :D
Maybe the border security hope he will not realise that he can buy a new chain saw and brass knuckles in the US. :D
The Canadian border seems very wishy washy with how strict they are. Overall, though I have had a lot more trouble with the Canadian border than just about anywhere! They actually almost made me step out of the car because my hair color was slightly different (e.g. instead of just brown, it was brown with blond highlights) in my passport picture. I realize they have to double check but they really made a big deal out of it - i think it would be rather common that a woman's hairstyle has changed in the past 8 years but he seems really suspicious and kept questioning me. On the other hand, when i passed through the border at Bosnia/Herzegovina , where I thought it was going to be really strict, they barely stopped us. I didn't even get my passport stamped :-( I guess this could spawn off into another thread of where have you had the most/least stringent border patrol/immigration. For me, it's been Canada, Singapore, Germany and Amsterdam (but in Amsterdam, only leaving, for probably obvious reasons!).
most/least stringent border patrol/immigration...
Romania pre 1989 certainly wins the most stringent. The border guards used to strip search people leaving Romania and take away anything they bought in Romania and all the camera film they had. Lucky me and my boyfriend were wearing very light t shirt and shorts that could not hide anything so we did not have to take them off. They made us empty our bags. After mine was completely empty and while the border guards obsessed with my tent pegs we slipped the camera film from my boyfriends bag into my already searched bag. Then they emptied and searched his bag.
That does sound pretty stringent! I can't say I blame them, but it's not fun for traveling - although I guess it's all part of it! Good thinking on the camera film!
Kind of to pick up on Maya's tangent, years ago I was staying at the Youth Hostel in Maastricht and decided to border hop across to Liege for the morning. I left my passport locked away at the Youth Hostel because I knew I wouldn't need it. I was planning to border hop across to Aachen the following day, but when I got back to Maastricht the bus was there so I thought why the hell not, to say I've been in three countries in one day.
When I got off the bus at Aachen Hbf, a couple of policeman came up to me and asked me something I didn't understand. Naturally I said 'Ich spreche nicht Deutsch, sprechen Sie English bitte' at which one of them asked for my passport, then gave me a lecture about Schengen and told me he could have arrested me. I didn't realise that I had entered Germany illegally
. He asked to look in my carrier bag which had bumpf that I had picked up that morning in Belgium, then asked me in perfect English:
'You don't have any grass on you, do you?'
At which point I had to resist my natural sarcasm to say no, but I know where I can get you some. After all I had entered the country illegally, I had no Deutsch Marks, just some Dutch Guilders and a few Belgian Francs and a return bus ticket across the border. Oh and he had a gun. When I was trying to find a cash machine to get some DM, he helpfully pointed one out to me, but didn't fine me as he could have done.
Very polite these German policemen you know.
Lots of fun stories in this thread. Talking about security screenings I am always surprised at how different the policies are in different places. In this day and age more and more electronics seem to find their way into my carry on and the officials always feel that they need to rifle through the lenses and camera parts every single time I board a plane. I even got a complaint by a staffer at the gate in Kota Kinabalu this April, she thought my packaging was too messy.
Someone mentioned strict screening in the U.S., I was once selected for something called special screening
on departure from Guam. I had visited a friend for a weekend and apparently did not fit into their stereotypical tourist profile so they turned everything inside out, opened every pocket, inspected each roll of film, and took a lot of samples from my items looking for narcotics residue. All the while the operation was overseen by a supersized official slurping on an equally supersized coke. The absolute opposite was encountered on a domestic flight in Turkmenistan; the metal detector was cranked up to max and you only had to look in its direction to make it sound off like crazy. But the two officers with their Soviet style hats just kept waiving everyone through with a tired look. Then we had to carry our luggage out on the tarmac ourselves and hand it over to a guy sitting in the cargo compartment of the plane.
US officials are notoriously tough, which is why I understand when we Americans are searched like crazy overseas. As long as I don't feel threatened or I'm going to miss my flight, I generally understand it's what they have to do. What i find interesting and a bit discouraging being an American is that while so many other countries seem to be making their borders more friendly (e.g. I have rarely even had a passport checked when traveling between EU countries), we are isolating ourselves. The US is making it tougher for others to travel here and making it tougher even for Americans by requiring a passport to travel to countries such as Canada and the Caribbean nations which we previously didn't need a passport for. I understand that it we feel threatened after 9/11, but i think that it can go too far - i.e. the total body scans that they are now putting in US airports which can show everything under your clothing.
I am an American and one of my worst border crossings was coming back home. I had been in Mexico and Central America for about five months and I was flying in from Guatemala City to Atlanta. The customs guy started off with the usual, "Where are you coming from?" and "How long were you there?" The answers to those two questions coupled with an, "I don't currently have a job." answer to his, "What job do you have that allows you to go away for so long?" sent him in to a spitting mad tirade. He started screaming questions like, "HOW DO YOU GET YOUR MONEY?", and "ARE YOU A DRUG DEALER?" His shouting brought the whole 'nothing to declare' line to a screeching halt as I went over my employment history from my first job as a bag boy to the nine months I had just spent in Antarctica working for the same government he was currently working for. He finally let me go, but it was a big enough hassle that I decided to not use the 'nothing to declare' line anymore in America. Now I always make sure I have something little to declare when I come home. The line is a bit slower, but the people are considerably nicer - They said welcome home the last time I came home and I had been in the Middle East.