I have arrived! Ok, I arrived yesterday (12.20) but by the time I got my bags, met up with Greta and got into the city, there was enough time to eat some food, unpack way too much gear all over my bed and go to sleep.
|Punta Arenas Airport|
I would like to take some time to finish my thoughts on traveling, more specifically with a lot of gear. Going international with camera gear? If it is your first time, you are going to need some kind of paperwork to show when going through Customs. The most common is something called a carnet (kar-ney) And while it sounds delicious, I promise, it is not tasty meats. A quick google search will let you know if the country you are traveling to participates in the carnet program.
“But what is a carnet, and how do I make one?” Well reader, great question! A carnet is a detailed list of all production related gear including model numbers, item descriptions, serial numbers, price and weight (optional). The purpose of a carnet is to prove that you don’t intend to buy, sell or leave any of your gear in a foreign country. Essentially, it protects you from the tax man in the form of import duties.
Once you have compiled a gear list, you will need to set up an account with a company that can issue a carnet. There are only a couple in the US, so it shouldn’t be hard to decide who to use. I used Boomerang carnet, and the process was quite pleasant. I called for support a number of times and they were always friendly and super helpful. They happen to be based in my old stomping ground of Chicago, so bonus points! (note: Bonus points have no cash value and may not be redeemed)
Ok. SO, make sure your gear list is finalized before getting to this point. If you are on the fence about a piece of gear, list it! You don’t have to bring everything on your list, but you can’t add anything once the process is finalized. Keep in mind the cost of a carnet depends on the total value of your gear, so don’t list $100K of gear if you really only intend to bring $10K on your trip.
After the fun process of entering all your gear into the website (in my case about 90 items) you will need to provide some Tax ID info, shipping and payment details. If you are a bit anxious at this point, don’t be! After you submit your order, you will have to confirm your list through email and someone will give you a call to finalize things.
Since getting a carnet is probably one of the last things you will do before a trip, they automatically ship it out next day air, so even if you leave in 3 days, you can make it happen. But really, waiting until the last 3 days? Reader, I thought you were more responsible than that. I gave myself a week.
Now that you have your carnet, pack your gear up! Make note of any items you aren’t bringing (Pro tip: write down the line item number, it will save you time, I promise)
YOU WILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS BEFORE LEAVING THE COUNTRY. Sorry for yelling. This is critical. Your gear is checked and signed off before you check a single bag. This ensures that what you leave with is there when you get back.
The next really important thing to do is find out what Terminal at your international airport handles customs. It may not be the same terminal you are leaving from. I left out of Terminal C at EWR (Newark) but customs is in Terminal B. Did I know this in advance? Yes, kind of. Did I go to Terminal B anyway? Nope. I still went to C and guess what? I then had to haul everything up and down elevators and ride a tram to go to B (cue more elevators, sans music) and then also make the return trip.
Pro Tip: Go to the airport 3 hours before your flight. It helps when you make foolish mistakes like humans are prone to do.
Pro Tip: Don’t expect anyone at the airport, other than a customs agent to know anything about carnets. The Airline employees at the check in desk often have never heard of a carnet. (They may suspect you are peddling in tasty meats)
At any customs check point, it is within their rights to check every piece of gear on your list. In practice? No one at a busy airport is going to want to go over 90 items. They will generally do a spot check. In my case, leaving the country I had to produce 1 item off my list at random. When entering Chile, the agent briefly looked at the contents of one case and did a spot check on 2 items. NOTE: This is not an invitation to try and cheat the system. Your experience may differ.
Pro Tip: Be nice! Be friendly! These traits go a long way towards making all human interactions easy and pleasant.
Well, we did it. Number 2 in the can. Now go find a foreign country to make a movie in and rest assured that your gear will be traveling legally. Stay tuned for more updates of my travels and tips for traveling!