World Travel

Busted! Nine border control horror stories

David Wilson
Busted! Nine border control horror stories (AAP)
Everyone feels twitchy at customs checkpoints. Even if you have nothing to declare, acting natural is hard because the scrutiny makes you feel like a criminal. And if the official you meet has had a bad day or you screw up, expect to be treated like one. Here are a few tales of harassed travellers recounting their worst nightmares.

Way out of line

"I realised that I'd made a mistake and was told by the person at immigration that this was unacceptable," posted John Dougan on, recounting how he crossed a key boundary at Atlanta airport. "I apologised, then I was met with a stream of invective and threats. Once he found out I was a university professor he cranked up the abuse and suggested that perhaps a remedial reading course was in order. My dressing down concluded with him throwing my passport at me and telling me: 'Get out of here'."

Communism in action

"My two companions went through in seconds," noted Cuba visitor John Ottawa at "When I went through, I got the usual questions. Then the officer asked me, and I quote: 'How many Cuban women did you ****?' Then he held up my passport which had a Postit note affixed to it with a hand-written message: 'Give me a gift'."

Bad vibes

"I was travelling to San Diego and got stopped," wrote hockey goalie Katie T at, recalling how her hockey bag aroused suspicion. "There is nothing more embarrassing than having a person grab your toiletries bag and asking: 'Do you have a vibrator in here?' He pulled out the base of my electric toothbrush and asked if it was some sexual device. I started cracking up."

Moscow mafia

"If you want to visit Hell on earth, Sheremetyevo Moscow is the place," posted John Bird at "Incredibly rude staff with a serious attitude problem. They look at you strangely as if you're some kind of crime suspect. If you don't speak Russian, you lose. One officer claimed that my visa (written in Russian) started the next day. Another pushed me behind the red line where I was forced to sit on a broken seat. After about three hours of sitting on that broken brown plastic chair I was dying of thirst. At 4 o'clock in the morning an officer said: 'Good visa 250 dollar.' I paid and was allowed into the ugliest airport I've ever seen. Dark, old and dirty. My luggage was lost."

Mexican mirage

"He spent the next two hours practically tearing the Ford apart," Janet posted at, recalling how on their return to the US across the desert from Mexico she and her University of California, Berkeley, lecturer father were turned over by a zealous official. "He even took a flashlight to the cracks where the windows roll down. He was about to give up when one of his helpers reached into that bag of dirty laundry and hit pay dirt — an old tennis ball. They all gathered around as the chief took a machete and chopped the ball into two. I wish I had a camera to catch their disappointment as they realised that there were no drugs inside."

Fast track fury

"Rude, arrogant, uncaring and downright aggressive," remarked Jon Moss on, claiming a US vandal at the gate slammed his new MacBook Pro on a metal counter. "A complaint to the Neanderthal's boss resulted in a torrent of abuse and zero customer service."

Double Dutch

"I was shattered after an airport delay and an 11-hour flight," posted Joe_From_Ireland on after a run in with Amsterdam customs over undeclared goods. "He asked me to sign a form that was completely printed in Dutch. I was aware enough to be most uncomfortable signing anything official-looking that I could not read. I said this to the guy but he ignored me. I was ordered to sign the form. The drum was taken away. I was concerned about missing my flight now, as the guy kept disappearing for 15-20 minutes at a time ... At about 12.40 he told me: 'If you pay now, it will be over.' I was exhausted and concerned about missing my flight, so I had to go to a currency exchange, change travellers' cheques, and pay a total of €204.99. It was now 12.45 and, even though I ran through the airport, I missed my 13.10 flight."


"I answered all of his questions but the entry clearance officer was angry and rude straight off the mark," posted Aussie Mel on in a report about visiting Britain. "He accused me of lying, showed he wasn't happy with my answers so harassed me with the same questions again and again, threatened to deport me, and wouldn't allow me to explain anything as he only wanted a 'yes' or 'no' answer. I had a male friend waiting outside to pick me up at the airport so after the standard questions he began to ask me whether my friend outside was my boyfriend, his name, what he does, how often we spoke and, wait for it, asked me whether I loved him!"

Assume the position

"It took some 20 more minutes to be 'specially searched', without any regard for the fact that my flight was, by then, about to depart," wrote Maria Roose on, concerning her return to Atlanta. "I was asked to stand with my legs spread 'as widely as I possibly could', so that my crotch could be checked with the metal detector — all of this within easy view of all who were passing through security."

Have you had your own border security nightmare? Tell us about it.

User comments
Two 6o year old Victorian men with money and business names, went to Thailand and purchased 2 women under 30, .....its that easy. They bring them here for 3 months to 'serve' them. They call them working visas...for working girls, i guess. Its sick and disgusting...but the government lets them do it.
this is less dramatic to some of the stories that I read. I had booked my luggage thru to Tel Aviv, from Hong Kong. the plane took me to Rome (transit stop). the big pack was taken from the aircraft, and then I was asked questions about the pack, and then the pretext of getting things out and showing them to officials, was that they wanted to know if I had packed them myself, and nothing had been tampered with. Safety sake, you say. Being pedantic, but this will not change with Israeli officials.
Not quite a horror story, rather a tale about racism. I arrived at Sydney airport declaring food bought from Fortnum and Mason, London. I was told by the customs officer she was pleased I didn't buy it 'from that other place'. Which place was that I asked. 'You know, that one owned by that Arab, she said!' I think she meant Harrods. Welcome to Australia! There have been other comments such as this from customs officers at Sydney airport. I am AMAZED they can say such things!!! It is disgusting!
It's the standard practice for British immigration to be absolute *** right off the bat. Unfortunately I have had to travel there often, and it's always a nightmare. Out in the middle of the immigration hall we've had the contents of our wallets counted and been asked to provide a detailed day by day itinerary - down to exactly what day we planned to visit particular sights. I've been asked about my career aspirations, and about holidays I planned to take in the future. The staff get more and more *** with you if they can't find a reason to deny you entry, and then usually throw your passport back at you. The last time the guy was so angry that he stamped my passport right at the back - upside down and so blurry you can't even read it. The British hate Australians and behave like this all the time. I know teenaged Australians going to visit family during holidays who have been dragged off to interview rooms on their own - for no good reason.
I have to agree with the guy about the Moscow Airport. When you arrive at the Moscow Airport the only seats to sit on in the waiting area are steps and the few seats they do have the locals sit on and don't share. You either sit on the steps or wander around the shops they have. However the Airport in Bischkick Kyrgyzstan is the worst. When departing the country the counter persons are very rude, You are treated like the worst kind of Criminal.Upon arrival the baggage claim area is filthy if you are not careful you can be hijacked by freelance cabs and charged outrages fares.You have to show your plane ticket with number of bags you checked in.
Me and my brother-in-law had gone to Sydney International Airport. He has to go to India so just gone wih him upto Airport. In morning we bought the TWO Day-Tripper from Bus driver (which can be used on Ferries, buses and trains services anywhere in Sydney). From my suburb to International Airport i first have to get a bus and change next to train. The train reached the Sydney International Airport station, we again have to punch the tickets for Escallator but the system shows "not valid". When i approched the personnel he said day-tripper are not accepted in Airport and in have to purchase a pass, which is worth $ 16 for each. I already purchsed the day-tripper on $ 17 for each and now 32 dollar again. I feel very insulted and isolated becuase they know we are getting late to cacth our flight. I haven't any cash so iused my debit card. Is this the government treating its visitor and what type of impression they wish to put onto people?
Violently ill after picking up a bug travelling in South America. Arrive at Quito airport in Ecuador and get through regular security screening alright. Arrive at the gate to board the plane and get dragged off without without explanation by security. They start speaking to me in rapid Spanish, I'm confused. They take me (again without explanation) under the airport terminal for a strip search and checked baggage search. They never bothered to find someone to explain what was going on to me in English. The guy doing the baggage search took a knife to my bags looking for drugs (didn't find any). All this time I wanted to puke my guts up as I was still violently ill. I asked to find a toilet to be sick, they had someone follow me in and watch the entire thing (even though I had a letter from the Dr I'd seen to explain that I was sick and was carrying a certain medication). They'd shut the door to the flight by the time I got back to the gate, had to fight with them to let me on.