Border crossings

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. A border crossing can be quick and easy or just a living hell depending on which country you are going through, your nationality and the particular mood of the border guard. I have had some pretty challenging border crossings in Asia and Eastern Europe, while others were easy.

Before you cross a border and enter into a new country, I always like to pack some extra things to potentially make the trip more enjoyable. There have been times when the borders are closed or you are detained for some reason so bring the following:

Bottled water: around one to two litres of water.
Food: anything non-perishable that can give you energy if you have to miss a meal or two.
Money: the country’s currency or American money. This is in case you arrive in the country and the banks are closed and you can not find an ATM machine.

You always have to cross two borders since you exit one country and enter another country. There is always a couple hundred meters of “no man’s land” between the border controls.

The first border crossing is for you to get your exit stamp on your passport. It is basically the same if you are crossing via a train or the bus. Once you come close to the border you will be given an exit card to fill out. Here is where you fill out a bunch of personal information about yourself and write down anything that you have to declare.

Sometimes the border guards will come on board your transport and collect your passport and exit card. They take it back to the station where they process the batch and give them back to you once they are done. If they don’t come onto the bus, everyone will be asked to come into the station and queue up individually to process your passports. At the end of the process you will receive an exit stamp next to your entry stamp for that country on your passport.

If you have overstayed your allotted time in the country, make sure you have enough money to pay the fine and provide a really good reason. Contact your embassy or consulate to see what exactly will happen to you.

The second border crossing is for your new entry stamp in your passport. This is sometimes a little harder than your exit stamp. You have to fill out an entry card and show them your passport. Sometimes all they will do is go through your bags or ask for secondary identification. To cross some other country’s borders, they actually go as far as to take your photograph and fingerprints! Just remember, when you are crossing into another country you are going to have to play by their rules. In most cases you will be asked a series of questions. These officials are trained to filter out potential ‘undesirables’ from entering into the country. This is probably the most difficult part of the entire process. Depending on the mood of the border guard, you may have an easy time or a difficult time. When answering their questions, be as honest and to the point as possible.

Here is a list of questions that I was asked during one border crossing: