Ahhh, border crossings! Sooner or later, we’re going to come across them in our international travels.
Living in Australia, a lot of my first port of entries have been via an airport because my border crossing is deep water! Most of those have been relatively pleasant (maybe not LAX…) and then you’re out of the terminal and off on your travels.
My first taste of a land border crossing was between South Africa and Swaziland. That one was no problem at all, but there are some border crossings which are probably harder than others!
You know, having to bribe someone to be able to pass, or something like that. I haven’t had to resort to parting with my hard earned cash for an ‘unofficial tax’, but it does happen!
And then I’ve seen some strange things when crossing into a country which makes you think the reason that they are there is because it’s a product of their environment.
As an example, I’ve seen free condoms available at all of the Botswana land border posts that I’ve been through. That’s probably because HIV/AIDS has a high prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, so they are available for you to take free of charge! But that would be the ultimate travel tight wad, so just leave them for the people who need them.
But anyway, I’ve come up with a list of some of the things that you will probably come across when you’re trying to leave one country to enter another via land border!
Here we go!
Border Crossings – The Things You’ll Probably Experience At One Point or Another!
If you fit a certain profile, expect to be pulled aside and have your bag searched just in case if you’re a drug dealer or some other shady character. I’m tall, have olive skin, and every time I’ve arrived back into Australia from South America, I’ve been ‘randomly’ pulled aside and had my entire backpack searched, swabbed and asked what I was doing there. Sometimes, using the excuse that you like to travel isn’t enough! Anyway, I haven’t yet managed to score a free cavity search!
I’ve been harassed by a hustler in Tangier, which is the entry point into Morocco after crossing the Mediterranean by ferry from Spain. They’ll find any reason to charge you for a ‘service’ that you didn’t need, want, or ask for. Anyway, there is always a chaotic transfer between the ferry from Spain and boarding a new bus in Morocco for onward destinations like Fez and Marrakech.
In this case, I knew which bus I needed to board, but I had one persistent hustler follow me around for 15 minutes giving me ‘advice’. I politely said I didn’t need it and knew where to go. I kept ignoring him even though he kept on dishing out his ‘helpful’ comments. Anyway, after I had loaded my own backpack on the bus, he demanded money for his ‘services’.
I was annoyed at this and said no because I didn’t ask for his help and didn’t use his advice anyway! He then pointed his finger to the sky and shouted ‘Well I hope that my god makes your bus crash and you’re the only one who dies!’ I didn’t know whether to be in shock or laugh! Anyway, the tip is even though hustlers might be aggressive in terms of separating you from your money, standing your ground is always the best option because you know you’re right!
Passport Adequacy Queries
I’ve almost been refused entry to a country because I had almost filled up my passport with visas and stamps (which was a pretty nice feeling to have). I had just enough space for a couple more entry and exit stamps, but obviously the immigration officer felt like he needed to use his power a bit just to remind me that I must have been travelling too much.
“I’ll let you in just this time”. Woo hoo! Well, my passport was full after that so I couldn’t go back again!
One thing that immigration and customs officers hate is you declaring something on your arrival card only for you to be busted for lying about bringing in too many cigarettes, too much alcohol, and possibly too much salami (don’t bring meat into Australia!). This of course raises suspicion of whatever else you’re hiding and of course, they’ll want to search every square millimeter of your baggage and even you. Just be honest!
Land border crossings are pretty much a necessity for many entrepreneurs that want to trade something in their neighbouring countries. This includes live stock. Things like chickens, donkeys, cows, and almost any other animal that can produce food or be eaten. Sometimes, you might be travelling in the chicken truck and you might need your poo covered passport stamped to go through whilst the chickens remain in their truck/car/bicycle. Hmm, the smell of animal manure when you cross the border!
I’m sure the US Border Patrol has seen some strange sights over the years. All sorts of things being smuggled over, such as drugs, firearms, money and even people. And I’m sure Canadian border officials have come across numerous examples were people from the US have accidentally forgotten that their gun has been left in the car because it’s always there ‘just in case they need it’.
I’ve seen people at other entry points be pulled over and be interrogated about the contraband in their suitcases for ‘too many electronics’ or something else they’re trying to make a living from!
Funny Passport Photos and/or Names
I wrote something a while back that all sorts of silly passport photos should be allowed just to make border crossings more interesting so that a smile could be brought to a border official’s face! But imagine if you had an unusual name like Batman bin Suparman.
Yeah, there’s nothing like have immigration laugh their guts out because they think you have a fake passport because no one could possibly be called that.
Don’t underestimate how parents can come up with names for their children that might cause them grief in the future!
How about you – what are some of the border crossing experiences that you have come across? Especially the weird ones?
Let us all know so we can watch out for them!