We’ve all walked under those big green and red banners at airports asking if we have anything to declare. Perhaps you’re undying love for rock ballads? No, that’s not what they mean but if you’re confused about airport declarations understanding what the question means can help.
Most countries will hand you a declaration form or under those declaration banners, list out specific items you should declare. Essentially customs are looking for things they can tax and prohibited items for the most part. Remember that every country has different rules so remember to brush up on what’s prohibited to avoid any legal trouble.
Governments Love Taxes
Technically, you can list every single item you bought in a foreign country that you’re bringing back home with you. Practically, for stuff under a few hundred dollars, “gifts” is a reasonable description. There’s a set total number (e.g. $1000) for taxable purchases abroad which is why customs often asks how much something cost.
Many places will differentiate between unopened boxed items as well so if you are pulled aside to have your bags checked in customs, electronics in plastic will likely get you stuck with a duty (i.e. tax) to be paid. A new set of headphones around your neck however, probably not.
Some might be obvious like guns but other prohibited items often include produce, meats, and other organic materials. Invasive species and other non-native seeds can disrupt local ecosystems so most everything that’s not sealed, packaged, or canned will likely need to be declared. A wrapped box of chocolates, highly doubtful.
Currency (for example in the United States) over $10,000 must be declared. Not doing so can lead to customs agents confiscating nearly all of it. The idea behind these laws is to disrupt smuggling and money laundering operations. With modern banking though for most people, it’s probably better just to bring a little cash for the airport ride then use the ATM afterward. Large sums of cash are easy to lose as well so unless absolutely necessary, keep it in the bank.
Any kind of non-human animal traveling with you (including service pets) need to be declared in many places. Keep this in mind as you walk through customs to have your pet medical information, as well as other documents, handy as you go through customs. Pet microchips will usually need to be scanned as well, plan accordingly and take your time.
I Declare Generalities
As I mentioned above, customs in every country vary (like regulations on drones) but their motivations are pretty much the same. Taxes on stuff you bought abroad, contraband, and live animals are what customs are controlling. The $5 magnet you bought for your mom isn’t on the table, unless that magnet is made of rare diamonds.