Border Crossings

Borders vary greatly from continent to continent. In the Middle East it may take you several hours just to go 30 paces across a border from one country to another. Your passport may get checked half a dozen times as you proceed from officer to officer. On the contrary, crossing some European borders is such a non-event that you won't even know it happened. All borders, no matter how relaxed or strict, deserve your respect. Here's what you should know:

  • you will definitely need your passport to cross any border. Even in Europe, you may be asked to show some identification -- your passport is the only ID acceptable.
  • some borders will require a visa, permission to allow you to enter the destination country. If possible, obtain your visa well in advance so you aren't forced to wait for it to be processed.
  • don't accept packages from strangers (or even recent friends) and then attempt to cross a major border if you don't know for sure what is in the package. As well, even though theft from your backpack is a concern, you should also look out for anyone putting something into your bag too! Criminals may try to slip drugs or other contraband into your pack and let you take the risk of crossing the border. Then they will get it back from you any way possible. Many large borders ask you if you have recently received any packages from anyone.
  • some countries charge a fee upon your departure, with prices ranging as high as $60. Try to find out about these fees in advance and make sure that you have enough money to pay when it comes time to leave.
  • make sure that you have some currency of the country you are entering. If you arrive at night or during a holiday, you may not be able to find a money exchange. It is always more relaxing to already have money to pay for a hostel and some food.
  • be prepared to have your bag checked at the more 'serious' borders. Make sure you don't have drugs or other banned substances when going across any border.
  • do exactly what the border officer tells you. He has the right to detain you all day if he likes (not to mention the 'rubber glove' treatment) so be polite and cooperative.