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Thread: Anybody here dealt with British Customs?

  1. #1
    Senior Member gimmethesimplelife's Avatar
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    Anybody here dealt with British Customs?

    This Sunday I leave Phoenix on British Airways with my mother for the trip I've mentioned before. I have a quick question - I am transiting through England at Heathrow on the way to Vienna. I will not be leaving the airport and I understand that as a US Citizen, I don't need a visa to transit through a British airport.

    My question is this - does anyone have any experience with British Customs? I have heard they can be quite nasty and I'm a bit concerned - though I will say that I have dealt with some real power tripping (expletives) working for US Customs and have always kept my cool as I feel really sorry for them. Maybe it will be the same thing in Britain, who knows? At any rate I will not be carrying anything with me that I shouldn't and will not be breaking any laws. Uggggh! Even crossing borders as often as I do going to Mexico I still cringe at that thought of crossing a first world border these days.....Rob

  2. #2
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    I have no memory of anylarge issue, problem, or harassment from any British customs official. I do remember some kind of admonishment about taking a set of vintage fish knives through security on U.K. soil back in the days when Irish terrorists were still operating, but it was minor.

    The one overseas customs experience to make an impression on me was one with giant blonde Dutch airport security guard in Amsterdam. I could see how Jews in Germany felt. Our guy's grilling technique was potentially intimidating, but I concentrated on what an interesting experience it was rather than allowing myself to get heated up about it.

    For your own peace of mind it's probably good that you aren't going through Amsterdam.

    The Dept of Ag beagles may great you when you come back into the U.S. I was innocently smuggling an apple core in my bag, and those little beasts ratted me out. haha.

  3. #3
    Simpleton Alan's Avatar
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    You shouldn't have any contact with British Customs as long as you don't leave the International Arrival/Departure area, although I've never changed planes there so I'm not really sure. I have been through Customs at Heathrow before without any undue cause for concern.
    "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler." ~ Albert Einstein

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    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Never had any issues, they were polite and efficient. You are unlikely to be beaten and shot.

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    Senior Member IshbelRobertson's Avatar
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    Well, not unless they don't like the cut of your jib...

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    I went through Heathrow just last month but it was my destination, I wasn't connecting. I had to fill out a "landing card," then wait in line to be called up to an agent's desk, where I gave the card and my passport to the agent. A visa was never mentioned. I assume this was "Customs" but I was just following the herd and I don't remember any specific signs (and my body knew it was only 4:00 a.m. although the clock said 9:00 a.m.).

    The agent asked me three questions ("Are you traveling alone?", "How long will you be here?" and "What's the purpose of your visit?"), then stamped my passport and sent me on my way. I answered politely and honestly and it was a non-event.

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    I have traveled around the world to Europe and third world countries. Never been hassled at all with the exception of having to stand in long lines and once being admonished to stand with my husband if traveling together. As one poster said, I am far more interested in the experience than any worry about it. It amazes me that they have to deal with people and languages from all the countries and still be polite and communicate.

    One time returning to the US, I was sitting with our luggage near Customs while hubby off doing something and the Customs Official walked over and checked my forms where I sat. He was just being nice. I must have looked pretty bedraggled and sort of sick.

    I always remember the time we were in the waiting room at Heathrow and watched an older British woman arguing with a guard why she should be allowed to keep her brass knuckles for safety reasons. It was hilarious but pre 9/11. If you keep your eyes open, there are a lot of interesting things going on in an airport. In France, we watched a huge plane load of Africans decend on the baggage claim area and just seeing the dresses and the luggage was fun. I have never been bored in an airport.

  8. #8
    Senior Member gimmethesimplelife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan View Post
    You shouldn't have any contact with British Customs as long as you don't leave the International Arrival/Departure area, although I've never changed planes there so I'm not really sure. I have been through Customs at Heathrow before without any undue cause for concern.
    Turns out I am pretty sure you are right. Heathrow seems to have a set up for internationals transiting through whereby you can transit on an airport bus between terminals as I will need to and you still don't have to go through British Customs. Apparently it is not the same ordeal that we put some foreigners through in the US with needing to go through US Customs if one is only transiting - bravo to Britain for this! I will still need to go through security and also have my hand luggage searched - which makes sense and I don't have problems with - I'd have to do the same on any domestic flight anyway. I just have a phobia of dealing with Customs people - though I do seem to have the drill down on this one. Rob

  9. #9
    Senior Member gimmethesimplelife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetana3 View Post
    I have traveled around the world to Europe and third world countries. Never been hassled at all with the exception of having to stand in long lines and once being admonished to stand with my husband if traveling together. As one poster said, I am far more interested in the experience than any worry about it. It amazes me that they have to deal with people and languages from all the countries and still be polite and communicate.

    One time returning to the US, I was sitting with our luggage near Customs while hubby off doing something and the Customs Official walked over and checked my forms where I sat. He was just being nice. I must have looked pretty bedraggled and sort of sick.

    I always remember the time we were in the waiting room at Heathrow and watched an older British woman arguing with a guard why she should be allowed to keep her brass knuckles for safety reasons. It was hilarious but pre 9/11. If you keep your eyes open, there are a lot of interesting things going on in an airport. In France, we watched a huge plane load of Africans decend on the baggage claim area and just seeing the dresses and the luggage was fun. I have never been bored in an airport.
    I love your attitude towards airports! A big international airport like Heathrow is bound to have people from all over the world coming and going. Good point. Rob

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