When international travel is your game, border crossings are one of the steps you must successfully navigate. Some crossings are easier than others, and well, the ones that aren’t easy just make good stories. I have experienced a handful of these, so read on as to how I managed to get in (and out) of European and American countries and continue my travels.
- Canada: This was my most recent border crossing. This past weekend, I went on a curling trip to Windsor. We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and were randomly selected to be searched, but we were recommended for passage. When we pulled into the special area for other special travelers like us, we were asked to get out of the car and then asked why we were coming to Canada. We told the officer that we were going to curl, but she asked why there was only one broom. We told her there were two others, and those were under the luggage. Next, she asked where our fourth person was (what a coincidence it was that we had a border officer who knew curling!), because there were only three of us. Our fourth was sick, so she did not come. Finally, our answers satisfied us and off we went.
Returning to the U.S. was also fun, because you have to answer a lot of silly questions like, if you have nuts or vegetables or meat with you. The U.S. can be quite particular about those types of things!
- Germany/Austria: Traveling in and out of these countries was never a problem. Saying I was going to school there was always a satisfactory answer.
- Italy: My passport was checked many times on my overnight train from Salzburg to Venice. This wouldn’t have been so scary if it wasn’t for the Mongolians riding in the same compartment as us who required many minutes of the border officials’ time. In the end, everything was fine.
- Romania: Traveling into Romania also was not a problem because it is a member of the EU and Schengen, so the border are open to all people inside the EU. The same goes for my travels to Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Netherlands.
- Hungary: Although Hungary is an EU member, it really isn’t too friendly with its eastern neighbor, Romania. Therefore, there is a border control. We were driving from Romania to Austria, and the Hungarians were a bit curious as to why there was an American with four Romanians. We were told to get out of the car and they were going to search everything. And they did. This was much scarier than Canada, mostly because I had no idea what was being said, nor was I ever addressed. It should also be noted here that my friend’s father told the Hungarian border officials that if they needed any of the wine and cigarettes we were taking to Austria, they could help themselves.
- England: England, although is it a part of a EU country, does not partake in Schengen, which gives all member states open borders. The official there was really perplexed as to why an American was on an EU flight (I flew from Salzburg to London). The questioning progressed to the paperwork I had to fill out, where I had accidentally left one line blank. The official kept asking me where I was staying, and I kept saying the name of the hostel. Never once did he say to me that I had left the city off my address for the hostel, which is what he was asking for. This was only cleared up once I showed him on the city map where the hostel was located.
- Ireland: I was required to get a free visa upon entering the country. All it was, was a stamp in my passport. No problems there.
- Croatia: Croatia is outside of the EU, so this required a bit more of a border control. Going into Croatia was not exceptionally tight, mostly because the officers were more concerned with the Serbs in my compartment than me. Leaving Croatia was not so fun. First, it was the middle of the night. Second, there were more Serbs. Thirdly, my name was read (and spelled) over the speaker announcing my departure. Fourthly, I was asked why I was traveling from Croatia and where I was going and that I was alone and in Croatia.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnia conveniently cuts Croatia into two pieces, albeit one very large piece and one very small piece. This means that if you are traveling to Dubrovnik, in southern Croatia, then you must go through Bosnia. On the way to Dubrovnik, my passport was casually glanced at. On the way back up to northern Croatia, all I had to do was hold up my passport.
- Mexico: I went to Mexico before passports were required, so anything that I remembered from that experience really would not be helpful now. I am sure that security is quite ample.