THE BLOG
11/03/2014 10:30 am ET Updated Jan 03, 2015

Travel Tips: Customs and Immigration

Attention international travelers! I know... going abroad can be nerve-racking. Do you need a passport? A visa? What about immigration?? Customs?!

Relax. Crossing borders does require a bit more research, but it's nothing to get worked up about. Here is what you need to know:

Visas

Find out well in advance if you need one! I know plenty of people who have been sent back because they didn't have one. Don't let this happen to you!

Passports

A valid passport is required to travel between countries (duh!). But here are some things you probably didn't know...

1. Many countries require your passport to be valid for enough time.

A few years back, I was to travel to Nicaragua. Turns out, in order to do so, my passport had to be valid for 6 months... Mine was set to expire in 5 months and 28 days! I wasn't allowed to board the plane! I had to change my ticket, travel to Costa Rica, cross the border and hope they would let me in.

Moral of the story: ALWAYS check passport requirements ahead of time.

2. Make sure you have enough pages on your passport to stamp.

3. Your passport must be in good condition. Some countries are sticklers for clean, unripped pages.

Customs & Immigration

Step 1: Forms

Different countries have different requirements for border crossings. If you need to fill out a form, you will usually get these before you land. When filling these out, always keep a pen, your documents and the exact address for where you are staying handy (no, the hotel name is not enough!)

Step 2: Immigration

When you get off the plane, you will go through an immigration line. Here, you will present your passport and form to an immigration officer.

There's no need to be nervous! All they are going to do is make sure you are who you say you are and ask you a few simple questions. "Are you traveling alone? How long are you staying? Are you traveling for business or pleasure? Where will you be staying?"

Once you have answered your questions, they just stamp your passport and you are free to go.

Step 3: Customs

The final step is going through customs. Basically, these are people that make sure you aren't sneaking in things that you shouldn't. You need to declare large amounts of cash, produce, items that will be for sale... the form is self explanatory.

The U.S. is particularly strict with this step. Other countries have no forms and just randomly pick people to check or have dogs sniffing around baggage claim.