Travel tips to clear customs and immigration

One of the most stressful parts of any trip overseas is the minute you get off the plane and have to clear customs and immigration. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. One way to alleviate the worry is to be prepared. These tips will help you clear that hurdle a lot easier.

Travel tips to clear customs and immigration

Bring a shirt with a pocket in it or a fanny pack

Make sure all your important documents are easily accessible. I always wear a shirt with a pocket in it, so I can put my passport as well as my boarding passes. Therefore, all your important information is right in front of your face. Shirts with two front pockets are even better. A fanny pack is even better.

fanny pack
The fanny pack or the front pocket of a shirt can be a useful tool when clearing customs and immigration

Bring a pen

If you do not bring a pen, it is no big deal. It is easy to borrow one to complete your immigration paperwork on the plane; however, I prefer borrowing out my pen instead of being the one looking for a pen. If you have a pen it is one less stress to concern yourself with.

clear customs
Be the one lending out a pen when you complete paperwork on the plane to clear customs

Put your phone away until you have cleared

It is kind of embarrassing to be hushed by a librarian like security staff when on your cell phone in the customs and/or immigration line. Usually you can get away with using it in the back of the line, but once you are close to being your turn, the guards become stricter.

U.S. passport
Make sure you are ready with all your documents when it is your turn

Have all of your documents ready

Have your passport opened to the picture page. Also have your boarding passes, completed immigration papers, and any fee needed all ready to hand over. Usually there is no fee to enter countries, but Nicaragua charges $10.00. Boarding passes are most often not necessary, but I have been asked for them before, so do not throw away until customs has been cleared.

Have a local address of where you are staying ready

I have been asked for the address of where I am staying in town. Once I was staying with a friend who was picking me up. I had to frantically search through emails on my phone to find it. Luckily it was there. Recently, I was in line behind someone who did not have this, and he had to call his girlfriend and get it. If you are staying at a hotel or hostel, that information is usually sufficient, but be prepared to have a full address of wherever your first night’s stay is at.

Smile and be calm

When handing over your documents smile and say hello in the language of the country you are visiting. If problems arise, stay calm. These guards have ultimate power over you for the next five minutes, so do not do anything that would offend them. Do not roll your eyes, heavily sigh, or use a heavy tone.


If you relax and follow these tips, your entry into the next big adventure will be straightforward and worry free.

For specific country travel information and requirements, check out the U.S. State Department travel website.

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