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Old 11-12-2018, 04:59 PM
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What's with people traveling with food?

I've been binge-watching shows like Nothing to Declare and Border Patrol and one of the main things on the show is people traveling with prohibited food. I've traveled, gone on vacation, flown internationally a few times and I've never felt like I needed to take meat, fruit, plants and spices on my vacation.

I guess I can understand someone visiting a relative and bringing something like spices that aren't available where they are but why on earth would someone try to sneak kiwis into New Zealand??

Tour groups where almost every member has ham, fish, bags of apples, lettuce, you name it. Their suitcases are just jammed full of food. I can see bringing a bag of peanuts or a granola bar for a snack but why are they traveling with so much food?
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Old 11-12-2018, 05:17 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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If I were to travel by car I'd be tempted to take food internationally, after all, taking as much food as you will not get sick of and will stay fresh and you have room for on a intra-national road trip can save you money and is convenient when you're not next to other sources of food.

On flights? No way.
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Old 11-12-2018, 05:55 PM
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It's hard to manage groceries to use everything up. If we're traveling long enough that stuff is going to go bad, and we have room to haul it, and it won't go bad in transit, we'll bring random food with us, either planning to eat it en route (airport food is expensive), or after we arrive.

I don't always know the rules in advance, but if I have to throw it out at the port of entry, it was just going to mold away in my fridge anyway.
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Old 11-12-2018, 06:19 PM
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Not lately, but I remember on a Turkish Airlines flight back in the 90's, flying within Europe, and one of the passengers opened the overhead bin to get food out for her family's lunch and there was a live chicken in a homemade wooden crate! Between that and all the smoking occurring on that flight, I decided to never fly Turkish Air ever again.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:42 PM
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Costa Rica. Doing the 89-days in country, 31 off. Second tour, right after Christmas. Customs Officers open our bags and find weather-appropriate clothing, a bunch of electronics and for each of us multiple pieces of vacuum-packed high-quality dried pork (serrano, lomo embuchado, salchichón artesano...). You have any idea how much buying those in Costa Rica would have cost? And they were from our Christmas corporate basket! We'd made sure it was legal to import them, though.

Leaving the US in 2003 I told my coworker "*big sigh* I've got a problem. I am hoping your husband can lend me a hand with it." "Oh?" "I've got an opened one-liter bottle of olive oil in need of a good home. Do you think he'd be willing to take care of it?" "Oh, I'm sure he will be delighted to!... A one-liter bottle?" "Well, it's only about 3/4 left, but you really didn't think I'd be paying what they charge here for a dwarfish can, did you?" For the price of one of those cans I could buy several bottles back home. And again, it was legal.

And of course now that I'm traveling from Lyon to Barcelona and back every couple of weekends by car, and staying in places with kitchens, I don't get rid of whatever half-used packages of noddles or small cans of whatever I've got from the last grocery trip. Again, it's legal.

Last edited by Nava; 11-12-2018 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:49 PM
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mccready. Best friend on the planet has relatives in el Salvador who always bring tons of yummy cheese and tamales with the intent to sell here in the states to offset travel costs. And I buy plenty of it. It is better and cheaper than i usually can find normally.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:53 PM
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Pittsburgh is famous for Isaly's chipped-chopped ham. Visiting relatives anywhere in the world requires taking at least 5 pounds for ex-pats. Often I cheat and just drop-ship it in some dry ice to myself rather than pack it along but among the people I talk to here (and there aren't that many) I seem to be very much the exception.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:59 PM
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mccready. Best friend on the planet has relatives in el Salvador who always bring tons of yummy cheese and tamales with the intent to sell here in the states to offset travel costs. And I buy plenty of it. It is better and cheaper than i usually can find normally.
That was weird. "Mcready" was the last word I typed into a reply in a different thread. Autocorrect assumed I meant that when I said "My".
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Old 11-13-2018, 01:49 AM
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I've watched those shows also, and it seems that the reasons the travellers have for bringing food boils down to one of three things:

-- I can't get this here in [Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand].
-- "It's cheaper if I buy it back in _____."
-- "What I can get here just isn't the same as back in _____."

None of which are suitable excuses for not declaring food. A long-ago girlfriend was notorious for doing that--she was Spanish, and on her return from Spain (which she went to maybe once a year), you knew she'd bring back a few pounds of chorizo. "Spanish chorizo is much better than anything available in Canada." She got pulled into secondary a few times, where her undeclared chorizo was found, and confiscated, and she was fined. But she wouldn't stop doing it. "Sometimes, I get through."
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:45 AM
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That's stupid on two counts:
1) there are amounts of chorizo you can bring legally. Just stay under the limit and declare it.
2) actually, it is possible to buy Spanish chorizo in Canada. My brother got a huge kick of seeing chorizo made by the family of one of his classmates in the US; I've seen the same brand in Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil; they export to Canada as well.
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Old 11-13-2018, 07:19 AM
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In St Martin I watched as my gf talked with a suspicious looking Rastafarian dude who was showing her something in his knapsack. I assumed she was buying me some weed and thought how thoughtful she was.

I later learned she was buying vanilla beans. I didn't think she could legally bring to back to the US, but I totally forgot about them until we were home, unpacking, and I found them in my suitcase. Yes, I was her vanilla mule.
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:06 AM
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Wife and I travel from US to Japan regularly. There are stores in the US that sell Japanese foods, but selection is limited. So when we go to Japan, she buys a ton of stuff, brands and kinds of food we can't get at home; we ship back boxes of it, and we also stuff our suitcases. Haven't had any problems. AIUI, if you declare what you're carrying, and something happens to be prohibited, it'll just get confiscated*. OTOH, if you DON'T declare something, and it happens to be prohibited, and they find it during a search, they'll nail you to the wall.

A couple of years go I boarded a flight from Japan to the US with a few small oranges in my backpack for healthy in-flight snacking. I still had one when I landed, so I declared it, and customs people confiscated it without incident.

*I imagine this forgiveness only applies to prohibited food items that a traveler declares. I would not expect such forgiveness for a traveler who declares that they are carrying illegal narcotics.
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:49 AM
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I used to live in Hawaii, and always got a kick out of seeing vacationers toting entire crates of pineapples back with them.

The exact same crates of pineapples that Dole is perfectly happy to ship all the way to every single grocery store in the continental US.
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:56 AM
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My parents went to Hawaii a couple of decades ago, and some of the bananas available there are different than the ones normally sold in the mainland US. So they tried to bring some back. When they were told no, my father sat down and ate four or six of them at once, rather than throw them out.
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Old 11-13-2018, 12:15 PM
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I got a scolding when I was a college student (age 20) and brought home from Germany a bottle of my grandfather's home-made wine, in a plain brown bottle. The customs agent thought he was being pranked. Alcohol in an unlabeled bottle is a non-no, who knew. I got away with a $10 fee/fine and I was able to keep the bottle. I bet nowadays they'd impound it.
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Old 11-13-2018, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
My parents went to Hawaii a couple of decades ago, and some of the bananas available there are different than the ones normally sold in the mainland US. So they tried to bring some back. When they were told no, my father sat down and ate four or six of them at once, rather than throw them out.
This typically happens when you try to bring tropical fruit into Hawaii.

What's supposed to happen if you take Hawaiian bananas to a cold-climate state? Will a hitchhiking pest decimate the Ohio banana crop?

I've transported small numbers of house plants between states by air and never had them threatened with confiscation. Well, there was one time an airline employee hassled me out of her fear that soil would "fly out of the pots" and get the plane messy. Ma'am, if the turbulence gets that bad, you'll have a lot more to worry about than a little loose soil.
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Old 11-13-2018, 02:48 PM
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My first trip to Germany, I brought home some preserved German sausages. I didn't realize they were contraband and made the mistake of declaring them at customs, so they confiscated the lot. Seemed a bit foolish to me, they were only a few so its clear that I wasn't going to sell them, and its not like Germany's health codes were vastly inferior to those in the US, but laws are laws.

Last edited by Buck Godot; 11-13-2018 at 02:50 PM.
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Old 11-13-2018, 02:54 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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In case you're wondering, this is nothing new. In one episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy Ricardo attempted to smuggle a large block of cheese as a baby on a flight back to the US. (This was after a series of episodes of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel traveling through Europe.)
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Old 11-13-2018, 02:59 PM
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My first trip to Germany, I brought home some preserved German sausages. I didn't realize they were contraband and made the mistake of declaring them at customs, so they confiscated the lot.
I wouldn't call that a mistake. If you hadn't declared it, and they had then discovered it during a search of your luggage, you could have been hit with a substantial fine.
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:30 PM
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That's stupid on two counts:
1) there are amounts of chorizo you can bring legally. Just stay under the limit and declare it.
Under certain circumstances, yes. From the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, on what a traveller is permitted to bring into Canada (near the bottom of the page, under "Meat"):

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A maximum of 20 kg of cooked, commercially prepared, commercially sterile, and shelf-stable (i.e. safe at room temperature) meat in hermetically sealed, packaging may be imported per person. The packages must have identifying marks, indicating the product and the country of origin.... Fresh, dried, and cured meats are not permitted.
I think it was all those conditions, especially the prohibition on "fresh, dried, and cured" that tripped her up--she would go to a deli or a butcher shop in Spain, make her purchase, and it would simply be wrapped in brown paper. No sealed packaging, labels, etc. And she never declared it.

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2) actually, it is possible to buy Spanish chorizo in Canada. My brother got a huge kick of seeing chorizo made by the family of one of his classmates in the US; I've seen the same brand in Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil; they export to Canada as well.
I'm sure it is available now, but I'm unsure how widely available it was then (this would have been about thirty years ago). And when she did get some locally from a supermarket or deli, she said that it was simply "okay," and preferred what she could get from a butcher or deli in Spain. There were some things I just didn't understand about that girl; this was one of them.
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
I used to live in Hawaii, and always got a kick out of seeing vacationers toting entire crates of pineapples back with them.

The exact same crates of pineapples that Dole is perfectly happy to ship all the way to every single grocery store in the continental US.
Well, there's a bit of an industry for tourists: you purchase some pineapples while you're travelling, and they're there at the airport, waiting for you, when you depart.

We bought a 3-pack of pineapples when we visited Hawaii 30ish years back, and frankly they were delicious - far nicer than the ones I could get at the grocery store.

Smuggling food back from Italy seems to date back to the early 1950s at least .
(eta: ninjaed by Dewey Finn! - I tried to find the bit where she hid the cheese in a tuba but that doesn't seem to be on Youtube)

Last edited by Mama Zappa; 11-13-2018 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 11-13-2018, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
I used to live in Hawaii, and always got a kick out of seeing vacationers toting entire crates of pineapples back with them.

The exact same crates of pineapples that Dole is perfectly happy to ship all the way to every single grocery store in the continental US.
Actually, most of the pineapples we can buy in the continental U.S. nowadays come from Costa Rica. Hawaiian ones are way tastier than those from central America.
Finding a real Hawaiian pineapple here is becoming very rare.

I tried to bring home a jar of awesome jam from the Pacific northwest recently, and it got confiscated. I thought it was solid enough to not count as a liquid, but TSA thought differently and yanked it. Into the trash with my Oregon Growers Strawberry Pinot Noir jam.
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Old 11-13-2018, 07:51 PM
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I have this suspicion that they're enjoying all of the confiscated food in the TSA breakroom at the airport.
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Old 11-13-2018, 08:33 PM
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I don't go on foreign holiday much, but a lot of my colleagues bring their home comforts with them on sun holidays to the Mediterranean etc. Irish sausages, tea bags, crisps (aka chips), sweets, etc. and everyone who goes abroad at the very least brings back biscuits or sweets, sometimes more interesting fare.
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Old 11-14-2018, 02:39 AM
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I'm sure it is available now, but I'm unsure how widely available it was then (this would have been about thirty years ago). And when she did get some locally from a supermarket or deli, she said that it was simply "okay," and preferred what she could get from a butcher or deli in Spain. There were some things I just didn't understand about that girl; this was one of them.
OK, I can't promise this brand was available 30 years ago. My data is 20yo. No vacuum-packaging back then, either; a lot of places are much happier with letting someone bring cured meats when they're vacuum-packed than not, even though the meat has been treated the same way and the information on the label is the same. I guess it looks more... professional or something? I mean, a piece of sausage with a label stuck to a bit of colored string looks much less serious than the same sausage vacuum-packaged and the label stuck to the plastic.



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I have this suspicion that they're enjoying all of the confiscated food in the TSA breakroom at the airport.
One of my coworkers had some patés bought at Stanstead Airport confiscated right there. She told the security agent "at least eat it! It's good food! Argh! I can't believe you're throwing away good food!" That they would sell stuff in the airport and then consider it "unacceptable" offended her sense of organization, but throwing away good food offended the core of her being.
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Last edited by Nava; 11-14-2018 at 02:42 AM.
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Old 11-14-2018, 02:46 AM
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Originally Posted by An Gadaí View Post
I don't go on foreign holiday much, but a lot of my colleagues bring their home comforts with them on sun holidays to the Mediterranean etc. Irish sausages, tea bags, crisps (aka chips), sweets, etc. and everyone who goes abroad at the very least brings back biscuits or sweets, sometimes more interesting fare.
I promise I do know Ireland and the UK are different countries, but for a lot of that stuff and if they're going to the Mediterranean Coast of Spain, they may want to check if there's a Sainsbury's. We have some enclaves which aren't so much enclaves as British colonies, including the pubs, restaurants and supermarkets.
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Old 11-14-2018, 04:13 AM
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An Gadai writes: "a lot of my colleagues bring their home comforts with them on sun holidays to the Mediterranean etc. Irish sausages, tea bags, crisps (aka chips), sweets, etc., and everyone who goes abroad at the very least brings back biscuits or sweets, sometimes more interesting fare."

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I promise I do know Ireland and the UK are different countries, but for a lot of that stuff and if they're going to the Mediterranean Coast of Spain, they may want to check if there's a Sainsbury's. We have some enclaves which aren't so much enclaves as British colonies, including the pubs, restaurants and supermarkets.
Someone whom I once slightly knew, took AG's colleagues' practice to greater lengths. My brother's late father-in-law: who was mostly a sweet guy, but displayed a bit of a curmudgeonly side in holding in dislike and contempt, all foreign things and places. He made just one exception: he loved the sun, and went on "tanning" holidays (solo -- his wife didn't share that liking) to various countries a good way south of Britain -- including Spain. Going out on these trips, he took in his luggage, plenty of wholesome English fare such as bacon and eggs: no way was he eating any foreign muck when out there. By the same token, he wouldn't have dreamt of bringing back any edibles from those ghastly places. (I don't know if he ever got wise to "British colonies in Spain" -- I suspect that factor would have made no difference to him; he'd have been like the old chap in the novel -- "Abroad is abroad, and abroad is bloody -- end-of.")

My brother used to tease his FIL, to the effect that he ought to get a sun-lamp: which would save him great amounts of money, by doing away with his need to go on holiday to places which he loathed and had no interest in.

Last edited by Sangahyando; 11-14-2018 at 04:14 AM. Reason: rearranging layout
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Old 11-14-2018, 04:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I have this suspicion that they're enjoying all of the confiscated food in the TSA breakroom at the airport.
A former TSA employee wrote a piece about his time with the agency.
Quote:
One thing I left out of that Politico piece: HELL YES airport employees often drink those bottles of alcohol you surrender at the checkpoint
https://www.theverge.com/2014/1/31/5...stioned-orders
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Old 11-14-2018, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by madmonk28 View Post
A former TSA employee wrote a piece about his time with the agency.

https://www.theverge.com/2014/1/31/5...stioned-orders
I actually used to work airport security many years ago (1990) and I honestly can't remember what we used to do with confiscated wine - which there was a lot of. I do remember that confiscated items like multi-tools would sit in a box and, after a certain amount of time, we could ask to have it.

This was pre 9-11 so the rules were very different.

I may have a vague memory of one of the older guys taking wine home. You could take commercially bottled wine with you, just not homemade.

Last edited by FloatyGimpy; 11-14-2018 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 11-14-2018, 02:31 PM
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I studied in the USSR, and the ruble was a nonconvertible currency. But there was a huge black market.

One of my professors told me about a time when she was privileged enough to be allowed to go to a professional conference in Western Europe, and was given a per diem in hard currency so she could buy food. So she quite logically packed her suitcase full of non perishable food and ate that, and brought home her hard currency per diem to exchange on the black market.
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Old 11-14-2018, 03:25 PM
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How else are you going to get your Cuban rum and cigars into the country?

Seriously though; lots of people buy stuff like special foods on vacation and bring them home- either as treats for relatives, or as stuff for expats.

I mean, when I did my summer study abroad in England, I brought back a bunch of stuff for a British friend of mine who couldn't get those particular brands/types of chocolate and pickled onions, etc... here in the US. And I brought back some beer/liquor that I'd never seen here before as well.

Other times it's a price thing- when in Italy, it's quite a bit cheaper to buy stuff like Parmesan/Grana Padano/Romano cheese in the grocery store there and bring it home, than to buy it here. Same stuff, but there it's just a staple food where they sell multiple varieties of each in bulk, while here it's a costly import.
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Old 11-14-2018, 08:01 PM
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*I imagine this forgiveness only applies to prohibited food items that a traveler declares. I would not expect such forgiveness for a traveler who declares that they are carrying illegal narcotics.
{x} flew into Singapore still carrying "doctors box" drug. (No script). Thought about it, and decided to declare it. It was confiscated and he was released. Not something he would have done in some other countries, but Singapore had the reputation of being very 'by the book', and he thought that the hassle was better than the chance of being jailed. Small room with no windows was involved in the experience.
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Old 11-14-2018, 08:11 PM
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in the last few years theres been people who have died from dowing huge bottles of booze before getting on planes because customs wouldn't let them on board or through the line home … One 70 year old guy downed something close 120 proof vodka in like a gallon or more bottle and died 45 minutes later ……

there was a more recent one where a woman tried the same thing with rum and died from a heart attack due to toxic alcohol poisoning .. like the old guy
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Old 11-14-2018, 08:13 PM
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How else are you going to get your Cuban rum and cigars into the country?

Seriously though; lots of people buy stuff like special foods on vacation and bring them home- either as treats for relatives, or as stuff for expats.

I mean, when I did my summer study abroad in England, I brought back a bunch of stuff for a British friend of mine who couldn't get those particular brands/types of chocolate and pickled onions, etc... here in the US. And I brought back some beer/liquor that I'd never seen here before as well.

Other times it's a price thing- when in Italy, it's quite a bit cheaper to buy stuff like Parmesan/Grana Padano/Romano cheese in the grocery store there and bring it home, than to buy it here. Same stuff, but there it's just a staple food where they sell multiple varieties of each in bulk, while here it's a costly import.
actually most Cuban stuff was either brought through drug smuggler types or over the border from Canada or mexico
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Old 11-14-2018, 09:31 PM
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I thought this topic would be about people who bring hot sauce or mayo with them to put on things they eat at resturants
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Old 11-15-2018, 07:05 AM
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in the last few years theres been people who have died from dowing huge bottles of booze before getting on planes because customs wouldn't let them on board or through the line home … One 70 year old guy downed something close 120 proof vodka in like a gallon or more bottle and died 45 minutes later ……

there was a more recent one where a woman tried the same thing with rum and died from a heart attack due to toxic alcohol poisoning .. like the old guy
Bah, amateurs!
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Old 11-15-2018, 08:53 AM
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The few times I've dealt with US Customs, I've found them to be surprisingly trusting. The last time I traveled internationally, I brought back candy for the office from Germany and declared it. Customs agent asked what I had, I told him, and he never even looked up, he just stamped my form and said I was good to go. I offered to show it to him. He wasn't interested, at all. Not that I'm complaining...
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Old 11-15-2018, 09:11 AM
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The few times I've dealt with US Customs, I've found them to be surprisingly trusting. The last time I traveled internationally, I brought back candy for the office from Germany and declared it. Customs agent asked what I had, I told him, and he never even looked up, he just stamped my form and said I was good to go. I offered to show it to him. He wasn't interested, at all. Not that I'm complaining...
Just like the IRS and income tax returns, customs agents don't have the resources to inspect every suitcase and package coming into the country. For most folks, they'll trust what's on the declaration form, unless their Spidey-sense starts tingling. For a lucky few, they get "randomly selected for further scrutiny." They rely on the possibility of getting caught (rather than certainty) to deter most (but certainly not all) smugglers.
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Old 11-15-2018, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightshadea View Post
actually most Cuban stuff was either brought through drug smuggler types or over the border from Canada or mexico
I just meant that plenty of people have historically bought stuff of Cuban origin while on overseas trips elsewhere and smuggled it home in their luggage.

And yeah, the Customs people are just probably looking for unusually heavy suitcases, really guilty looking people, etc... whose customs declarations are unusually sparse.

I mean, if you declare all your vacuum-packed Italian hard cheese, and your Italian wine and grappa, then it's unlikely they're going to be too suspicious that you're also dragging a couple of liters of Cuban rum back with you. (not that I would know.. )
  #40  
Old 11-16-2018, 02:03 PM
sps49sd sps49sd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I have this suspicion that they're enjoying all of the confiscated food in the TSA breakroom at the airport.
I know someone went home with my Leatherman.
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