Which country in the world has the most friendly customs and immigration officers?
Australia by far has the most friendly immigration, but if you bring something in you’re not suppose to, be ready. New Zealand is great!
Wow the worst? That depends on which way the wind is blowing, have they been fed yet, and is it time to go home? I have to say that in my adopted country of Thailand they are pretty sullen faced and seem like they all have gas! The Ukrainian Immigration can be pretty bad and that is first hand knowledge. Good old USA, my country of origin can be pretty miserable. I came back after 2 years away and I thought I was a criminal for being away. On the other hand, I was at of all places JFK and I had the nicest Immigration Agent chat me up, small talk, a smile, and a welcome home. I was amazed and no he wasn’t making a pass at me!
Hmm, this is a hard one! I’d say a lot of the time it is pot luck!
The guy at Bali spent more time trying to chat up all the female travellers (and unlike Time of My Life’s experience I’m sure he was making passes at more than one of them!) Which made him pretty friendly I suppose but annoyed the hell out of everyone else in a very long and slow moving queue!
I was also saluted and waved through security at Zurich once, but they were checking everyone else out! Slightly surreal but I wasn’t going to complain. I still don’t know if he thought I was somebody!
Singapore’s immigration is extremely friendly, very efficient too!
I have to agree with Time Of My Life, the USA seems to be pretty intense, they seem to adopt a position that everyone is a terrorist until proven innocent, and even then they begrudge that!
But I have to say the most miserable I have ever experienced are in the UK, Manchester specifically. Here’s a wierd thing too, they seem to check people more thouroughly as they LEAVE the country, but don’t seem to care as much about people entering! Surely that’s back to front?
I found Australia and New Zealand had the most suspicious customs officers I’ve ever known. They were very suspicious of my originally Polish surname on my British passport (but this happens in lots of places to be fair).
Laos-Vietnam border crossing seemed to take a while too and we were sat in a big room, with an armed Vietnamese army officer patrolling up and down the room. Slightly scary when you’ve been on a bus for 24 hours.
The easiest border crossing are by far South American ones. Stamp out, walk up the road, stamp in. Easy.
Based on personal experience, I’d have to agree that the US has one of the most intimidating immigration experiences, both in terms of the staff themselves and the whole process. Fingerprinting – FFS! Since 9/11 I’ve been once, and felt so threatened that I won’t visit again, and make sure no flights I’m on involve a US stop-over.
Singaporean immigration do tend to be very efficient and are usually fairly friendly, but I’ve had a few negatives experiences as well, particularly once when my passport had no blank pages left to stamp, and were very upset about having to put the stamp on a used page (even though there was lots of blank space on that page to very clearly mark my entrance and exit), whilst the Malaysians were perfectly happy to do the same, despite normally being the “unhelpful” side of the border.
The best I’ve come across overall is the German immigration at Hamburg, Efficient, polite and very non-threatening.
Thanks all – interesting stuff. Michael you’re probably right about the pot luck thing. I’ve had stone cold welcomes at NYC but friendly greetings in LA. But then the only time I was detained was LA.
Agree that Germans seem welcoming every time.
Can’t say I’ve experienced problems in the UK, but then I usually get my passport checked by a machine rather than a human…
The border authorities on allegro train between Helsinki and St petersburg has to be the most easy going and the best. They check your passport on board, you sit right at your seat while the train is moving. Both russian and Finnish customs casually look at your baggage… Smooth as ever!
Switzerland (Zurich airport) is the best in my experience, and somehow India (the Ahmedabad Int’l airport helps) is a close 2nd.
Pakistan – the border crossing at Wagah. We were the only foreigners crossing the border that day and we were greeted by the Pakistani official at the gate like we were old friends – huge smile, handshakes all round, recommendations on where to go and what to do – brilliant.
My worst experience was when LEAVING Auckland, NZ. The customs officer had a field day confiscating my lipstick, mascaras (?) and various other things because they weren’t in the little plastic bag which I actually had but had forgotten to my make up in. She just discarded them into the rubbish and did not even give me the chance to put them in the bag! Mascara? Really? What she thought I might do with that, I have no idea – I think she was a little drunk on power perhaps. I’m afraid my language was not very ladylike…….
Well, I`m doubling my vote for Switzerland. Passed through Zurich last Thursday and the lady in Immigration only asked, perhaps out of boredom, why I was coming to Switzerland. I don`t even think she saw the stamps from my bi-annual visits the last couple of years.
Customs didn`t even look at me passing through.
Definitely pot luck. The best I’ve experienced are Fiji (always), Vanuatu, Madagascar, and Kenya (surprisingly, so probably a one-off). Had really good experiences at Mumbai and Bangkok, but probably because I was injured at the time so everyone fell over backwards to be helpful. Not so good at one time but much better now is Solomon Islands. I’ve met good and bad in Australia, and always poor to downright major hassle in the U.S.
Best – Malaysia, Johor border, the passport officer started talking about football.
Worst – China, crossing the Khunjerab pass into Xinjiang province at midnight. High security border. First, the customs post, everyone on our bus (which was 7 hours late after a landslide on the Pakistan side) had to empty the contents of their luggage for a rigorous inspection, including having to explain photos, data stored on camera, computer, USB stick, CD.. Second, the immigration post further down in Tashkurgan, long interrogation about why we had so many passport stamps, one of us was strip searched, by the end of it everyone – staff, other passengers, bus driver – had buggered off and we were the only ones left, stranded a mile out of town at 2am with no clue where to go. We wanted to spend a few days around there (what a beautiful part of the world) but after that we just wanted to leave the country as soon as possible – we were in Kyrgyzstan 12 hours later. Other Chinese borders are not so bad.