The last thing a jolly traveler wants is to be refused entry to his destination. There are a variety of reasons why you would be turned away by an immigation officer or border police. Even a simple miscalculated move of tweeting about “destroying America” before arriving in the US could get you into trouble.
However, you are not alone. Even the most experienced tourists feel a bit apprehensive as they approach grumpy immigration officials, some even carry machine guns.
There are ways to make this experience more comfortable. For one, consider this phase of travel as a rite of passage. Here are ways to make your border crossing–whether by land, air, or sea–go smoothly and minimize hassles.
Smile – Do not be intimidated by the grumpy faces of these border officers. Put on a happy face and be courteous when talking to them.
Dress nicer than usual – Travelers, especially backpackers, can be faulted for putting on clothes that would mistake them for hobos. Many immigration officials would ask backpackers proof of an onward ticket or adequate funds, which are very unnecessary. Presenting yourself with a more pleasant appearance could eliminate those extra hurdles.
Prepare everything you need – Some countries provide visas upon arrival. If these documents require a passport photo of you, have them ready as you line up rather than digging through your bag when asked. Make sure to have the exact amount of cash ready to pay for your visa. Many countries let travelers pay in more than one currency, so choose the currency with the most favorable exchange. Also, present your passport with your visa or latest entry/ exit stamp already displayed to avoid delays.
Follow instructions carefully – Fill out the paperwork as error-free as possible, making sure not to miss anything at the back of the form. Use the correct color of ink and write in all-capital letters.
You do not have to reveal everything – Sometimes, border agents would ask you routine questions about the nature of your visit to their country. If you come for a vacation, simply say so without elaborating too much. Also, never claim to be unemployed, as this would raise a red flag. Remain as innocuous, confident, and low profile as possible. Lastly, do not mention any place that have current political conflicts like Tibet.
Know the rules about what to bring – Each country applies strict laws in what tourists bring. The United States, for instance, prohibits travelers from carrying money over $10,000. Meanwhile, bringing an undeclared pack of cigarettes in Singapore could get you heavily fined, even treated as a criminal.
Do not be nervous – There is no reason to be jittery, unless you carry any kind of illegal drugs or a weapon. That could get you in serious trouble. If you carry prescriptive medication, make sure to bring the official prescription.
Leave the border as quickly as possible – Scammers, pickpockets, hustlers, and thieves abound many border crossings. They prey on tourists, especially on first-time visitors. Once the officer gives you a go, tuck all your documents and simply walk away as quickly as possible.
Source: Start Backpacking