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Author Topic: International Personal Travel with Gear  (Read 3675 times)

JoeKitchen

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International Personal Travel with Gear
« on: December 27, 2016, 07:50:22 PM »

Hello Group,

I will be traveling to Havana next month on a personal project and, unlike vacation, plan on bring my professional system.

This will consist of an IQ260, Arca Swiss tech camera, Phase One XF body, six lenses and a tripod.  I may also bring a Sunbounce, canon Speedlight (or two) and some modifiers for it.

If this were a professional paid project, I would certainly plan on dealing with customs.  However, since I am shooing for myself, is this something I should be concerned with?

If so, how should I handle this?  If I need to have my equipment inspected at the airport the day before, does it need to be at the same airport I am flying out of?  (Philly, where I live, does not have direct flights to Havana, so I need to go to Newark.)

Thank you in advance,

Joe Kitchen

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Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
“Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  William Faulkner

hogloff

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2016, 09:04:33 AM »

I just got back from Havana where I took a couple of cameras and 5 lenses. No issues at all, did not even open up camera bag to inspect. I think you are fine.
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Ian99

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2016, 12:25:18 PM »

Joe, I think you would be taking a huge risk.

About 15 years ago I went on a package holiday tour to Cuba. We flew direct from Toronto to Cayo Largo, a small island off the south coast. Their airport was very primitive.

A young couple on the flight actually saw their bags coming off the plane and going into the customs shed. Customs denied the very existence of the bags. Two days later the empty bags showed up at the airport! They lost all their expensive scuba gear (suits regulators, masks, but no tanks) and their clothes. There was no redress.

Things may have changed since the people are very politically aware but they are also very poor.

If I were you I would put as much of that expensive gear as you can in a carry-on bag and any secondary stuff that you can afford to lose in checked-in bags.

Also from personal experience, carry ample toilet paper with you at all times. I have vivid memories of the toilets at Varadero airport with guys with extreme diarrhea being sold toilet paper at US$1 per sheet by old ladies stationed inside the guy’s toilets whose sole job was selling toilet paper.

Enjoy your trip!
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Colorado David

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2016, 02:11:14 PM »

I would never travel internationally without registering gear serial numbers with U.S. Customs. When I was doing a lot of international travel, I created a master list of equipment and took it all out to customs and registered it. Then I could put together my kit from the list and go without having to do it every time.  I would update the list when I got a new piece of gear. It saves a lot of trouble.

cgarnerhome

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2016, 06:49:43 PM »

I have traveled several times overseas for photography and never had an issue - Tanzania, Burma, France, Italy, Iceland and Cuba.  I have taken the Phase One a few times and the Leica S2 to Cuba about 5 years ago.  I had no issues in Cuba.  In fact, I co led a group to Cuba of about 12 photographers and no one had a problem.  In fairness, I wasn't carrying as much gear as you are taking.  I always carry my camera with me and checked all other "non-essential" items - tripod, small flashes and even secondary lenses if necessary.  That being said maybe I have been lucky!

degrub

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2016, 07:56:10 PM »

If the gear is insured, make sure they will cover it in Cuba.
Registering with US Customs ahead of time does two things - prevents import duties (unlikely) on return and provides proof of ownership at some level.
Anything i value i carry in my carry on bag.
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Colorado David

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2016, 11:30:40 PM »

I was clearing U.S. Customs in Edmonton, Alberta one time and I wound up with a Customs Agent I had seen a few times. I searched through my bags, looking for my Customs registration form and could not lay my hands on it. I had put it in a pocket I don't usually use and found it much later. The agent asked me the regular questions and then ask to see my registration. When I couldn't find it, he told me that if he didn't know me I would have owed duty on all my gear.

BrownBear

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2016, 06:31:21 AM »

I would never travel internationally without registering gear serial numbers with U.S. Customs.

Amen. Simple process and well worth it to avoid the potential of hassles on your return. And it's certainly within custom service's purview to zing you for duties if you can't prove your gear was purchased in the US prior to your travels.  I've never been questioned coming from smaller countries, but it's been almost a sure thing when I've returned from Japan or China. 
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cgarnerhome

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2016, 09:53:17 AM »

OK, I'm convinced I should register my equipment!  I head to Japan and New Zealand in a couple of months so it's better to be safe.  Thanks for relating your experience.

BrownBear

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2016, 03:34:50 PM »

OK, I'm convinced I should register my equipment!  I head to Japan and New Zealand in a couple of months so it's better to be safe.  Thanks for relating your experience.

Excellent.  Call ahead to the customs service, determine a location and make an appointment.  It goes quickly when you're expected.  We were flying Denver/Heathrow a few years back, and if I hadn't called first I never would have found the right office, much less folks who knew what they were doing. We just arrived at the Denver airport a couple of hours early, went to the office number (directions helped) indicated and got it done.  The nice agent who stamped the forms was relatively new and said he'd never done it before.  Sure enough, as we came back to Denver a couple of weeks later we were asked for proof that we'd purchased the gear in the US.  Lenses and bodies got the most interest because they had serial #'s.  They pretty much ignored everything else.
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JoeKitchen

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2016, 06:59:34 PM »

Thanks everyone!  I will probably register my stuff too. 
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Joe Kitchen
www.josephmkitchen.com

"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
“Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  William Faulkner

jeremyrh

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2017, 08:37:45 AM »

About 15 years ago I went on a package holiday tour to Cuba. We flew direct from Toronto to Cayo Largo, a small island off the south coast. Their airport was very primitive.

[...]

Also from personal experience, carry ample toilet paper with you at all times. I have vivid memories of the toilets at Varadero airport with guys with extreme diarrhea being sold toilet paper at US$1 per sheet by old ladies stationed inside the guy’s toilets whose sole job was selling toilet paper.
I can't speak for Cayo Largo, but the airport at Havana is not too bad - some queues but no worse than arriving at JFK, and the toilets (if that is an issue) are OK. In the city itself you can generally use the "facilities" in a hotel. Personally I carry toilet paper everywhere (well, not everywhere), in Cuba or otherwise.
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JJon

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2017, 02:16:04 AM »

This is interesting - FWIW I register my gear as I travel frequently to Japan (the origin of a lot of my gear) but I've never been asked to provide proof. That said at least where I am I go down to the local CBP office months ahead of time and go through the paperwork. Easy. I've never done an ATA Carne though.

Have fun in Cuba!
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RDMAX

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2017, 03:24:31 PM »

Kind of unrelated, but are you traveling as an American?
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JamesJetel

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2017, 02:03:26 AM »

https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/CBP%20Form%204455_0.pdf
Fill out that form, take it to customs with the equipment in question, take the form with you when you travel.
It'll help you when re-entering the US, as for Cuban customs... Not even sure if they're a carnet country.
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Fritzer

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Re: International Personal Travel with Gear
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2017, 04:48:15 AM »

It's an older thread, but just for the record ; I usually try and register my gear with customs, as explained above .
The procedures vary from country to country , but it's worth checking if you can avoid using a carnet, which can be cumbersome .

In case I don't have the time, I always carry copies of the invoices for my gear , and custom reciepts if available .
I only ever had issues when returning from a trip, and custom agents suspected I had bought equipment abroad and tried to avoid the custom fees and taxes .
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