Clearing Customs & Navigating Airports

International travel can be quite overwhelming, especially for first timers! And even for me, someone who has traveled to quite a few countries, it can still be very confusing. So hopefully this blog will help you, because it definitely helped me get a better understanding and feel more comfortable navigating airports and customs in particular.
-Cara: Tenon Tours Marketing Manager


I am going to start by breaking down a few things:

Border Control: Border Controls are measures taken by a country to monitor or regulate its borders. So yes, when you fly into a country you are still crossing into their borders. Border controls are put in place to control the movement of people, animals and goods into as well as out of a country.

Immigration: Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker. Immigration authorities normally check for appropriate documentation, verify that a person is entitled to enter the country, apprehend people wanted by domestic or international arrest warrants, and impede the entry of people deemed dangerous to the country.

Customs: Customs is an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting tariffs and for controlling the flow of goods, including animals, transports, personal, and hazardous items, into and out of a country. Each country has its own laws and regulations for the import and export of goods into and out of a country, which its customs authority enforces. The import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden. In most countries, customs are attained through government agreements and international laws. A customs duty is a tariff or tax on the importation or exportation of goods. Commercial goods not yet cleared through customs are held in a customs area, often called a bonded store, until processed. At airports, customs functions as the point of no return for all passengers; once passengers have cleared customs, they cannot go back.

Security: Airport security refers to the techniques and methods used in an attempt to protect passengers, staff and planes which use the airports from accidental/malicious harm, crime and other threats. Airport security attempts to prevent any threats or potentially dangerous situations from arising or entering the country. If airport security does succeed then the chances of any dangerous situation, illegal items or threats entering into an aircraft, country or airport are greatly reduced. As such, airport security serves several purposes: To protect the airport and country from any threatening events, to reassure the traveling public that they are safe and to protect the country and their people.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA): The TSA is a U.S. government entity that screens travelers to ensure safe travel on modes of transportation in the country, especially airplanes. The TSA is based in all U.S. airports, where agents require passengers to pass through a variety of safety checks, including bag screenings and body scanners, on the way to the gate.

TSA Precheck: TSA Precheck allows passengers a quicker journey through security. You’re not required to take off your shoes or remove liquids and laptops from your luggage. TSA Precheck members typically go through a designated security line that is shorter than the regular lines. Most airports and airlines accept TSA Precheck, but it is not always offered for those traveling internationally or out of an international airport terminal. Check the TSA website for a full list of places where TSA Precheck is accepted and to see how to apply.

Global Entry: Global Entry helps travelers skip the queues at U.S. Customs by using automated kiosks, where you present your passport and then quickly head toward baggage claim. The kiosks use photo and fingerprint identification. Schedule an application appointment online through the CBP website. A few other programs similar to Global Entry let passengers bypass U.S. Customs more quickly. These include NEXUS, which is a paid prescreening program, and SENTRI, which allows for expedited clearance in designated lanes.


Now that I have a bit of a better understanding of the different patrols within airports, we can dig deeper into customs more specifically.

Airport arrival recommendations:

  • 1.5-2 hours prior for Domestic flights (Traveling between U.S States or between European Countries)
  • 3 hours prior for International flights

Clearing Customs Best Practices

  • Always have your passport ready
  • Have your phones put away and even shut off
  • Remove any hats, sunglasses/ anything covering your face
  • Do not gift wrap presents as they may have to unwrap them

Most commonly asked customs questions

  • What is the purpose of your trip
  • How long do you intend to stay?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • What is your occupation?
  • Do you have anything to declare? (Fruits, vegetables, etc)


US customs

Bringing Things Home in Your Luggage
You are allowed to take home $800 worth of items per person duty-free in your luggage, once every 30 days (family members can combine their individual $800 exemptions on a joint declaration). The next $1,000 is taxed at a flat 3 percent. After that, you pay the individual item’s duty rate. You can also bring in duty-free a liter of alcohol (slightly more than a standard-size bottle of wine; you must be at least 21), 200 cigarettes, and up to 100 non-Cuban cigars. Household effects intended for personal use, such as tableware and linens, are also duty-free.

Shipping Things Home
From Europe, you can mail one package per day to yourself in the US, worth up to $200 duty-free (mark it “personal purchases”). If you mail an item home valued at $250, you pay duty on the full $250, not $50. When you fill out the customs form, keep it simple and include the item’s value (contents: clothing, books, souvenirs, poster, value $100). For alcohol, perfume containing alcohol, and tobacco valued at more than $5, you will pay a duty. You can also mail home all the “American Goods Returned” you like (e.g., clothes you packed but no longer need) with no customs concerns — but note that these goods really must be American (not Bohemian crystal or a German cuckoo clock), or you’ll be charged a duty. If it’s a gift for someone else, they are liable for customs fees if it’s worth more than $100 (mark it “unsolicited gift”). *Please note, some states do not allow you to ship alcohol into the state, this should be checked prior to attempting to ship to avoid any issues.

Please check here for items that are prohibited.


ireland customs

After reclaiming your baggage, you will be required to clear Ireland customs. Duty and tax-free allowances are indicated within the Customs Hall though we have listed a few below. If you have specific questions about bringing specific goods into Ireland, please call the airports customs security directly.

  • If you are flying into Ireland and plan to declare goods in excess of the allowance and commercial goods, you will use the red line.
  • Always use the red line if you are unsure which line to use, have more than the allowances or have any prohibited or restricted goods.
  • Use the green line if you have nothing to declare in excess of the allowance (which most of our travelers will use).
  • You may use the blue line if you are flying in from another EU country and have nothing to declare. If you are flying in from another EU country and you DO have something to declare, you will use the red line.

goods allowances

If you’re arriving in Ireland from outside the EU, you can bring in certain goods free of duty subject to these limits:

  • 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of smoking tobacco
  • 1 liter of spirits (more than 22%) or 2 liters of intermediate products
  • 4 liters of wine or 16 liters of beer
  • 50g of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette


us pre-clearance: Dublin & Shannon airports

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) air Pre-clearance operations is the strategic stationing of CBP law enforcement personnel overseas to inspect travelers prior to boarding U.S.-bound flights. Through Pre-clearance, CBP Officers conduct the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air travelers typically performed upon arrival in the United States before departure from foreign airports. This way, you can show up to either Shannon airport or Dublin Airport early, go through security as usual and then go through US customs pre-clearance so that when you land back in your home city you can walk off the plane and grab your bags and go!

You can even click on this link here and put in your date of travel and either Dublin or Shannon airport and it will show you the wait times for pre-clearance!


UK customs

When arriving in the UK you may be required to pay customs duty on some goods, for example wine and cigarettes. British customs laws make a distinction between EU and non-EU goods. You can bring an unlimited amount of most goods from the EU without paying tax or duty.You can bring a limited amount of goods such as alcohol, tobacco and perfume from outside the EU.

  • If you are flying into the UK and plan to declare goods in excess of the allowance and commercial goods, you will use the red line.
  • Always use the red line if you are unsure which line to use, have more than the allowances or have any prohibited or restricted goods.
  • Use the green line if you have nothing to declare in excess of the allowance (which most of our travelers will use).
  • You may use the blue line if you are flying in from a EU country and have nothing to declare. If you are flying in from a EU country and you DO have something to declare, you will use the red line.

If you are flying from the UK to another country in the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales) you will not go through passport control on arrival. All UK airports have three arrivals routes:

  • Flights from other UK airports: you bypass immigration and customs
  • Flights from Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man: you bypass immigration but do go through customs
  • Flights from anywhere else: you go through both immigration and customs

goods allowances

If you’re arriving in the UK from outside the EU, you can bring in certain goods free of duty subject to these limits:

  • 1 liter of spirits
  • 200 cigarettes
  • Max of £390 worth of perfume/souvenirs
  • You have €10,000 or more (or equivalent) in cash
  • You think that you may have banned or restricted goods


Italy customs

Luggage is examined on entering and leaving Italy. Free entry is allowed for personal effects: clothing (new and used), books, camping and household equipment, fishing tackle, 1 pair of skis, 2 tennis racquets, computer, CD player with 10 CD’s, tape recorder or Dictaphone, baby carriage, 2 still cameras with 10 rolls of film for each camera, 1 movie camera, binoculars, personal jewelry, portable radio set (subject to a small license fee), 400 cigarettes and a quantity of cigars or pipe tobacco not exceeding 500 grams (1.1 lb).

goods allowances

Free import to passengers arriving from non-EU Member States:

  • 200 cigarettes; or 100 cigarillos (max. 3 grams each); or 50 cigars; or 250 grams of tobacco; or proportional assortment
  • 1 liter of spirits over 22% volume, or non-denatured ethyl alcohol with more than 80% volume; or 2 liters of spirits or aperitifs made of wine or similar beverages less than 22% volume, or sparkling wines or liquor wines; or a proportional mix of these products
  • 4 liters of wine; and 16 liters of beer
  • Medicinal products sufficient for personal needs
  • Other goods (for air travelers) up to a total value of €430 per traveler or €150 per passenger aged under 15 years.


Iceland customs

Travelers may bring clothing and other travel gear which they bring into Iceland for their personal use, as long as it is deemed suitable and normal for the purpose of the journey and the length of the stay. Travelers may import duty-free up to 3 kg of food, including candy, not exceeding the value of ISK 25,000. Meat products may be imported if they have been boiled or canned. Smoking, salting or drying without boiling is unsatisfactory. It”s for example, not permitted to import bacon, sausages (salami and any kind of smoked uncooked sausages), saddles or pork, poultry, uncooked milk and uncooked eggs. It is important for packaging to show ingredients.

goods allowances

Free import to passengers:

  • 1 liter spirits and 0.75 liter wine and 3 liters beer or 3 liters wine and 6 liters beer or 1 liter spirits and 6 liters beer or 1.5 liters wine and 12 liters beer or 18 liters beer
  • 200 cigarettes or 250 g of other tobacco products



Hopefully this helped you get a better understanding of customs and what you are allowed to bring with you on your vacation! If you have further questions, please reach out to your Personal Travel Coordinator who will do their best to assist you.

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