About entering a new country

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Tue 3 Mar 2015 10:18
Hi Salsa. You have a great blog, keep it up as long as possible.

I wonder if you could write about the different countries you have had dealings with customs, the costs and bonds.
For example on a you tube video, a couple had to have return tickets out of French polynesia. Did this problem occur 
to Salsa? I think as a reader it would be an interesting topic.



We shall start with some advice on how to enter a new country and then answer Pauls question on how expensive it is...

Customs assistant in Hapaai

Checking in
As we are looking at approaching a new country there are some advices you might find useful. I have been a film producer for 25 years travelling with crew and equipment all over the world and i have seen far more from customs offices than most. 
We never ever tell them what they shall do, we always ask if it is possible to do what we wish to do. By doing so we always show who is in charge and that keeps everybody happy, especially the guy or woman (oh yes they can be easily offended too) behind the desk.
Prepare yourself with an organized file system that keeps everything in order but do not buy anything fancy that shows anybody that you are wealthier than they are.
Make at least 10 copies of every paper, even the first page of your passports (in color), and have passport pictures of everybody in the file.
The reason you need this is a most possible situation like this:
You finally make it to the office which is at the airport, or shall we call it a landing strip. You just arrived as the weekly plane got there. The only guy working is making slow progress checking luggage and passports. You sit there deprived of sleep and water, waiting patiently for your turn. When he is done with the airline passengers an Italian sailor thinks it is his turn and pisses the officer off so he walks away to take his granted coffee brake.
After 34 minuter and three cockroaches later he comes out and looks at you both with despise, he cleans his nails and makes sure you get the message. Then he points at you to come forward. The reason he does that is that you have been smart enough to dress in long pants and a skirt, you are not wearing a cap and sunglasses, something your friend should consider next time he approaches an authority. They do not give a damn if you find the climate hot or the sun bright, they measure you by the look and compare with their own standards.
You sit in front of him with a smile and wait for the papers he asks for (never ever pull out all your papers at once, that confuses him and he starts to be worried that he might miss something, most people having this sort of job are like trains, they follow a track and if you confuse them you are in for some mess).
As he asks for papers he will hand you a good amount of forms to be filled in, just do it and live with it, it is part of your new life,
 to fill in your crews passport number 4 times and to let them know how long range your radar has (model, number and make, believe me).
As you get to the end of the session the Italian guy is making loud noises to show his impatience and you can tell by the look of the officer that that guy is in for troubles, but now you are in for a surprise, the officer wants a copy of your ships papers and passport pictures of everybody on board to be attached to his forms. If you do not have it you will be asked to return immediately with them. Do they have a photocopier at the landing strip? No.
Is there a taxi waiting outside? No.
You walk up to the main road and thankfully people are more friendly than at home, you get a ride back to town on the back of a pickup. Then you have to find an ATM to get some local currency and then take the family off the boat to be photographed at the general store that has understood to make money with the help of the officer at the airport. The copy machine only takes coins and so on.
When you return 2 hours later the italian is shouting to the officer and getting nowhere. You have to sit and wait watching a drama unfold. Four cockroaches later and 87 rounds of solitary on your smart phone the Italian  walks away to make copies of everything you can make copies of.
I guess you got the point, and believe me, if you have one size of passport photos they will ask for another, we have them all and that surprises them.
I hate walking around a hot city chasing things I could have prepared and that is the reason I bring my files even if they send you off to a remote place to pay you port fee (yes the ministry of transportation most probably have their accountant by an industrial area where they keep all their road machines). You might get there just as they are having their 2 hour lunch or as it happened to me in Tonga, everybody was busy doing their thing, bobbing lace for instance or testing which signal you want on your phone (oh yeas, he tried them all).
When you finally get the mercy to pay they want to see your ships papers, and thank god you brought them! When you finally get to pay your 3 dollars and 43 cents you have a receipt and that is your ticket to be checked out by the customs (they will not do it before).
Once there the officer is cleaning his car with he customs vacuum cleaner and you have to wait and you can always amuse yourself by reading whats posted on the wall by the central government administration: Vision: Our authorities shall always perform in the best of the country and our appreciated visitors.
Well thank you very much, can I use the vacuum cleaner after you guys?
Don’t get me wrong I’m not a prejudist (well I guess I am), most officers you meet will be courteous and just do their job, what I’m saying is that the better you are prepared the less hassle you are in to encounter.
When you check out you will be surprised to find out that you have to fill in the radar make and range again, you might have thought they had saved your papers when you checked in but that is probably another file... Of course you can go the same way as the Italian guy and discuss the routines with all officers along your route around the world and count on doubling your travel time or just do it with a smile and get it done with. But you can save some ink by bringing some old fashioned carbon paper, count on giving some of it away.

French customs on board our vessel, Erika asked if she could take a picture...

That is one side of the check in, there is the other and that is authorities coming onboard your vessel. The cleaner and organised you seem to be the smaller is the risk they will hassle you, and I know, how much fun is it to start cleaning the boat soon after you made a 14 day passage? 
When they visit us we always offer water, coffee or tea. That’s it. 

You will probably be advised to bring a stamp with ships name, MMSI number etc, well I have used it once. Your kids will most probably make sure the officers feel that you are probably not a drug dealer and that will help.

When you are done with checking in to the country you most probably have to check into the port or marina office. Well they will ask for some paper work as well, and you better have copies of your insurance, ships paper and crew list.
One last piece of advice, alway ask for the next step, do not take anything for granted. For instance when you are done with immigration, customs, quarantine and port authorities ask each one of them what the procedure is when you check out. If you have a suspicion that you might want to stay longer than the granted length of stay, ask how you go about to do that.
One more last piece of advice, if you choose between two ports of entry, take the smaller place, usually one guy is doing everything and he is honoured to have a job to do that day, he will make life easier than the offices in the big city.
Before you decide to enter a port on a weekend check out if they will charge you extra for that, sometimes it really hurts.

And here is the answer to Pauls questions:

Since we are from EU different rules apply for European countries and their colonies.
We do not really know how French Polynesia treats non EU boats other than I've heard they have to pay a bond.
For us all checkins in EU colonies is free.
You could say that the cost of checking in started to become expensive in Columbia, they demand that you use an agent and suddenly you have spent 500USD on entering a country...
Panama, I do not remember since there were many fees with the canal, but I think it all came to 1500 USD with transfer.
Galapagos is the next ripoff- 1500 USD with agent, and that is the cheapest option, if you want to visit several islands on your own keel, take that five times.
Cook islands is a rip off, because their entrance  and harbor fees are even worse than Galapagos.
Niue- nothing
Tonga a small fee
New Zealand- free to check in but when you want to stay longer than 3 months =500 NZD
Fiji- all in all 400 Fiji Dollars ( take half of it and you have USD) BUT they offer free medical care in that price- 4 months they let you stay- then 100 FD per person for another 2 months...
Well that is what we know for now.