A few people would consider themselves lucky if they can travel from one country to another without any hassle, especially if they have the means and resources to do it. They can afford to fly across the continent. As for the backpackers, they travel by budget, so they usually cross the borders by land.
Land border crossings are not exactly the most fun parts of traveling. Sullen-faced border officials, long queues, machine guns, red tape, and possibly crime, make approaching the country borders even more disheartening. Even when you know that you do not have anything to hide, you still feel as if you are close to fainting whenever you approach a land border crossing. Even experienced travelers still feel that way.
But you do not have to worry. Most land border crossings go without a hitch, and you are now free to travel in the next country with another seal stamped onto your passport. Here are some essential tips you should know so that you will be able to cross the borders smoothly and without much hassle:
1. Do a lot of research first before you travel.
Researching beforehand is extremely important, especially if you’re undertaking a considerable pursuit such as traveling. Do diligent research on visa information regarding every country that you plan to visit, such as the criteria for getting any visa required.
Getting viable information about country visas is not enough. Applying for multiple visas means lots of expenses and time required, so you should have plenty of resources and time to do so in advance. Although the extent of your preparation depends on the country you will apply a visa to, it is suggested that you should prepare around four or five weeks before your travel begins.
Knowing all these vital information before hitting the road will save you from the future hassle and unnecessary added expenses. It will also reduce the chances of getting denied when you try to enter another country.
2. Have the proper documentation.
Getting your passport, visa paperwork, and other pertinent documents (such as certification of vaccination) organized, accessible, and ready will help you gain smooth entry into the next country.
3. Bring your pen!
A pen is just a pen, right? But even the most basic items suddenly become important when you need them the most! Do not forget to bring your pen when you travel, because you need it when you have to fill out any visa paperwork forms. If you do not bring your pen, you will end up getting lost and wasting precious time at the border.
You have to think forward, too, so it’s better to bring both a blue and a black pen. While blue pens are the most acceptable in filling out a visa form application, there are some situations where you need to use a black pen.
4. Follow the instructions carefully in the form.
We understand that you’d feel a little shaky when you approach the border officials. But as long as you follow the instructions properly and carefully, all will be well at your end. Fill out the paperwork neatly and legibly as possible and make sure that you didn’t leave a blank space on every single field on the back of the form. Write the form with the correct ink color as required.
5. Play smart – by playing dumb.
There are times where border officials ask you with routine questions regarding the purpose and nature of your visit to a particular country. Do not say that you are unemployed (although many travelers are, in fact, unemployed). Instead, tell them that you are visiting as a student or that you are going on holiday. Act innocuously, be confident, and try not to show signs that you are nervous. If you appear apprehensive, it might give the border agents the reason to become suspicious towards you.
If you have previously visited politically unstable places or places that are currently under conflict, avoid mentioning them.
6. Know the entry regulations.
Entry regulations are different in every country, so it is also essential to know and study them. For instance: if you bring an undeclared pack of cigarettes as you attempt to enter Singapore, you could be heavily fined. Worse, you could also be seen as a criminal by doing so.
7. Be polite, and don’t forget to smile!
We know that border agents are usually notorious for being grumpy (and sometimes a bit too uncompromising). Despite that, you still have to be courteous, smiling, and friendly – it goes a long way! If you otherwise act like a jerk, it means that you are hiding something.
8. Refrain from taking pictures.
In this digital age, almost everyone seems to own phones with built-in cameras, which makes taking photos a lot more convenient. But this might probably be the reason why a lot of agents have put increased restrictions against picture-taking at the border, especially in less politically stable nations. Officials won’t take kindly to tourists who are gleefully snapping away while they are standing at the country border. That certainly won’t help their chances of getting to their next destination country. Novice travelers usually fall victim to this kind of situation.
9. Don’t forget your entry and exit stamp!
While this sounds obvious, it is still surprising that a lot of people fail to check passport stamp once it’s been handed back to them as they leave the border checkpoint.
First of all, and most importantly, make sure that you have obtained the required entry or exit stamp after the border agent has handed your passport back. Second, do not forget to check and double-check the stamp: the entry stamp date and the number of days you’re allowed to stay.
How important is checking your entry and exit stamp on their passport? Well, a whole lot! Checking on your entry and exit stamp is helpful as it gives you an idea of how exactly long you should stay in your destination country. This will avoid overstaying your visa and possibly paying a hefty fine.