Be careful what you bring back

So, you love to travel and bring back a little something from your adventures.  Whether it is rum or a shot glass like me, or your preference is to collect country flags, globes or postcards, make sure that you know what can and cannot be brought back into your country of origin.  Most people know that they cannot bring animal products, fruits and vegetables (ask me the story about the orange that almost triggered an international incident), certain plants (or plant products), seeds, raw foods, or meats, but what about different merchandise?

There are people who visit europe and purchase luxury items and goods because they often can get really good deals on high-end merchandise.  These individuals can also save their receipts and file a claim to get a portion of the value added tax (VAT) on the goods and merchandise they purchased refunded to them.  Pretty good deal if you are planning to do quite a bit of shopping.  But, some people visit countries where “knock-offs” (i.e. counterfeit replicas) of luxury handbags, shoes, accessories, popular electronics, and artwork are sold at a fraction of the cost of the legitimate item.  In an effort to “appear” trendy, while saving a few bucks, some people choose to purchase the knock-off thinking that no one else will be the wiser.  So, what’s the harm, it’s your money?

The problem with purchasing a knock-off luxury item is that the import of that item is illegal (in the united states at least).  Why is it illegal?  It is illegal because it the copyright or trademark of the designer or manufacturer has been infringed upon.  If, when entering the states, customs and border protection (CBP) searches your bag and finds counterfeit materials they can (and most likely will) be confiscated and destroyed.  If you are found to be trafficking counterfeit materials, you could be subject to fines and legal actions.

In addition to infringing upon the rights of the designer or manufacturer of luxury goods, certain knock-offs could be hazardous to your health.  These goods are made with cheaper materials what can be toxic or even flammable.  In the case of electronics, the items could often overheat due to faulty construction and cause bodily injury.  Although it will not jeopardize your health, these knock-off products could result in bruised egos when friends and family notice the bad stitching, incorrect spelling (Channel instead of Chanel), and inferior design.

Counterfeiting merchandise is a multi-million dollar business; however, you definitely need to be aware of the consequences of buying knock-offs abroad and bringing them back into the country.  If you would like more information regarding this matter, feel free to visit the resources provided below.  Till next time, safe traveling and happy shopping!

Customs and Border Protection duty and import information

VAT information


Do your homework before hopping around

One of the things that I love to do is visit neighboring islands/countries when I go to various caribbean destinations, if possible and if time permits.  Typically it is much cheaper for me to take a flight or ferry from a neighboring island than to return home and buy a separate round trip ticket to visit said location.  Typically, I am able to accomplish this with no issues or additional entry requirements other than to have the passport in hand.  Rarely have I ever been asked to confirm my return ticket.  Well, now I realize that I need to take a little more time when planning my island and country hopping.  Why?  Keep reading.

Even though Costa Rica is not on my list of countries to visit, I decided to do some reach about the entry requirements after seeing that a possible vaccination may be required.  Again, visiting various destinations in and around the caribbean, I have NEVER been required to show proof of a vaccination, so this would be totally foreign to me.  If you are a resident of or are traversing through any of the following countries prior to visiting Costa Rica, you need to make sure that you have received the yellow fever vaccination: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leon, Sudan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Guyana.  That’s a pretty exhaustive list!

The good thing is that I do not have plans to visit Costa Rica; however, I do have plans to visit Guyana and Venezuela, so now I need to make sure that research the entry requirements for those two countries to make sure that the same restrictions are not imposed.  I typically travel internationally every three months, so if there are vaccination requirements for any of my other remaining trips, I definitely need to sort this out PDQ (pretty darn quick), especially since I HATE needles and it takes an army for me to get any type of shot.

What’s the moral of the story, definitely do your homework before you go.  The last thing you wan to do is to purchase a plane, bus, or ferry ticket from one destination to another only to be denied entry before your vaccinations are not up-to-date or you have no proof of proper immunization.  Backpackers and wanderlusts beware!