Any international trip, whether driving into Canada or flying into Madrid, will require you to pass through Customs. The process at times can seem overwhelming and likely even intimidating. Luckily, there are some basic tips that can help you cross through customs more smoothly.
1. Have your documentation ready – This means having your passport, visa, and any other imperative documents close by. You do not want to frustrate Customs officers by searching for your documents last minute. You also do not want to be responsible for holding up the line whatsoever. It will cause more issues among officers and fellow travelers.
2. Answer all questions in a straightforward manner– When Customs asks you any type of question, answer it. Do not beat around the bush with your response or become defensive. Rather, answer the question to the best of your ability, maintain eye contact, and be prepared for further questioning.
3. Be honest – This is likely the biggest mistake individuals make when crossing through an international border. Do not lie about anything as it will just get you in to more trouble. Tell the officers where you will be going, why, and how long you will be there. Also, be ready to show them a return ticket back (if you are flying) or bank statements indicating that you have enough money to purchase a ticket or stay in the country for the period of time you specified.
4. Declare all items – When crossing the border, you are required to declare all items you are bringing with you. You will also likely be asked if you have food, alcohol, tobacco, or any weapons on you and if you are carrying a large amount of money. If you decide to lie about what you are bringing across, it will cost you time and the possibility of being denied at the border.
5. Prepare to be searched – Possibly the most frightening thing that can happen at the border is having you or your belongings searched. However, as long as you are honest and declared all items you are carrying with you, you should have nothing to worry about. Searching your car, luggage, or other items is standard protocol at a border. It generally only takes a few extra minutes for them to look through your belongings and ask you a few more questions.
At the end of the day, going through Customs does not have to be stressful or complicated. It is just a matter of being prepared and honest when you come into contact with the Customs officers. If in the event the officers give you a hard time, do not let it ruin your trip. Consider the situation a learning experience and realize that you will know what to expect on future trips.