Location： Border Crossing
Point： General border crossing info
Crossing borders will be in inevitable part of your trip. Here are some useful things to keep in mind when you take the plunge to the other side.
You might be armed with English and a passport, but you aren’t always going to find someone who speaks your language or a country that accepts citizens of your country. Often buses and trains won’t wait for someone who is in trouble either, so it pays to do a little research beforehand.
Even for those experienced at crossing borders, there is a familiar thrill / fear that always comes from being at the mercy of the border guards.
The following tips and hints should help you whether you are traveling by air, land, or sea.
Below is a crossing from country A to country B.
The Basic Flow
- Arrival at the border for country A
- Passport control, receive departure stamps (in some countries a baggage / customs check)
- Continue to the border of country B (by foot, bus, taxi, train)
- Arrival at the border for country B
- Passport control, entry stamp (may also be possible to get a visa at this point)
- Customs, baggage check (for some countries)
- Finished. Congratulations!
Border Crossing Guidelines
At the border, you’ll see flags and signs from both countries. Of course you’ll want to snap some photos. However, since borders are controlled governments, it is common that photography is strictly forbidden. In some countries a picture snapped at the wrong time could result in punishment. So be discreet or don’t take pictures at all.
Double Checking the Officials
When going through immigration always check your passport to make sure you’ve got a stamp on exit / entry as well as that the dates are correct. There will be times when the officials forget to stamp your passport or give you the wrong date. One of the older tricks in the book is to stamp your passport with an incorrect date. When leaving the country you find out that you’ve actually be “in the country” for 2 months rather than the allowed 30 days. Should have checked that date!
Land, Air, Water
- By land, there are various methods – bus, train, walking, international buses, etc, etc. If taking the international buses / trains be sure to check online to double check on reputations as your passports could be in the hands of those cocoa leaf chewing drivers.
- By air, airports are usually well labeled or have well-established immigration procedures. Usually the easiest place to cross borders, but can be costly if you forgot to get your visa before trying to enter India. On to the first flight back home for you!
- By sea、on boats you may find a variety of methods with which immigration is handled. The ship’s captain may take care of everything, you could do the procedures right on the board, or in a building similar to an airport after disembarking.
Border Crossing Preparation
- First check to see if a visa is necessary.
- Will say it again, first check to see if a visa is necessary.
- Check the expiration date of your passport. You probably won’t receive a visa at the border if your visa is expiring in a couple of months.
- Check that you’ve got extra pages.
- Even if you don’t need a visa, you may be asked to produce additional documents (tickets showing onward travel, etc). Have photocopies of your important documents for times like these.
For getting a visa at the border, these things can be useful. You probably won’t have to produce most of this stuff on a regular basis, but never hurts to be prepared.
- Money (local currency or $US – some countries only accept $US)
- Photos (passport size)
- Onward tickets
- Bank statements
- Credit cards
For money, be sure to check the conversion rate before leaving. Google, as usual, makes it easy for you to quickly check the rate. For example, here’s the current rate for 100 JPY to USD.
If you need to get a visa in advance, check well in advance the required forms / documentation, where you can get, and how long it will take to process your application. Different countries will require you to have different materials, pay different prices, and fill out different forms.
Some countries will have online visa applications (e.g. Cambodia), but a digital visa will not be supported at all border crossings (e.g. Cambodia). Those guys under an umbrella on the Mekong somehow seemed to misplace their satellite uplink.
Even if you’ve gotten together what you think is all the material you need, rules and diplomatic situations can change quickly. One minute an American can get into Syria, the next, not. Be sure to check with a reliable source. The US government’s travel site works well for US citizens.
Contact Details for First Night in the Country
Play it safe and take note of the contact details of the first place you’ll stay at in country B. (phone number / address / etc)
Chances are the border guards won’t be looking closely at this information, just if they need to track you down, so if you forgot to write anything down and you’re at the border, grab the nearest guide book or pamphlet and pick out a hotel at random. We prefer going for the 5 star places in such situations! Seriously, the contact details may be used if someone from home is trying to reach you, so do take careful note and pass it on to the officials.
A Little Extra Advice
Understanding Conversion Rates
As you’ll probably want some cash as soon as you get to country B, take note of the exchange rate. This will give you some peace of mind when you hit that ATM or haggle with the money changers at the border.
Once again, you can find out the exchange rates by typing your current currency and desired currency into google.com: “100 JPY to USD“
Just keep in mind, you’ll never get the raw rate that you see on google. It just gives you a base price to work from.
Arrival During Daylight
If you like to play it safe and with less stress, then plan on arriving during daylight hours at your destination. If necessary, look for a taxi or bus and refrain from being to strict hard on the driver regarding the price. At 2 am a smooth arrival can save you a lot of headache and give you a much better first impression of a country.
Still with us?
Keep in mind that you’ll spend an average of 1 to 2 hours per crossing. Depending on the circumstances this can stretch into many more…
With all that spare time, be sure to take in the surroundings and enjoying all the official activities.
Have additional hints or tips that you’d like to share with the world? Be sure to write them here.