Traveling overseas is an exciting experience, no matter how many times you’ve done it. Travelers universally love collecting new passport stamps. Passport stamps are trophies of your travels. Collecting passport stamps isn’t always so easy. Sometimes you have to deal with a grumpy immigration official or even worse- the border shakedown.
Know Your Visa Requirements
This should go without saying, but check your visa requirements for each and every country- before you go. This should be obvious, but nearly every traveler has a story about messing up the visa requirements for a new country. These mistakes cost time and money, and are almost always avoidable. So, please, do a quick search before you go.
Sometimes you enter a country that has a less than perfect reputation for strong-arming travelers at their borders. Be prepared. Know your rights, but also know what to expect. Some countries have a ‘grease-the-wheel’ policy, and while it may be illegal, it’s usually only a few dollars and worth paying rather than trying to expose their corruption.
How to Avoid Border Shakedowns
Paying a few dollars for a bribe isn’t right, but sometimes it’s the way borders seem to operate. But sometimes, the bribe goes too far, and this is when you end up in a border shakedown.
Tips to Avoid Border Shakedowns
Know your visa requirements. The more you know the better. If you have a copy of the visa and fees as required by the country, you can use it to point out that you aren’t an ignorant tourist.
Know what you are traveling with and where it is at all times. You don’t want to be surprised when they locate anything in your bags. They will go through it all, so know what you have! This includes ATM and credit card receipts that may show how much money you actually have, making you a better target for them. Also, anything illegal will quickly cause you additional headaches.
Keep nothing valuable in obvious locations. Hide money in dirty socks, in your old books, etc. Expensive items should be left at home or kept on you and locked.
Have a story. Make it very clear you won’t be paying into their shakedown. You know the rules and laws and also, you should have a story. Are you volunteering or are you a teacher? The more humanity you can show, the less you are a victim. Know your story and what you want to share.
In the end, the best way to avoid a border shakedown is to be informed. Know your visa requirements, and any fees or fines that could be included. And if you find yourself detained, stay cool. No one is looking to create more problems for themselves. If you maintain your story and stick to your guns, they just may let you through.