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A related post, made me wonder how you can hide a ring from a "special one" traveling with you to a place where you will propose and yet get it legally through security or customs? You don't want the surprise to be killed by a bureaucrat.

  • 3
    I saw that post and asked in a comment about it. I will ask here as well. If I buy a ring in the US, put it in my bag and do not declare the ring I am smuggling jewelry? How is that different from buying the ring, wearing it round my neck on a chain (or on my own finger for that matter) and not declaring it? Am I supposed to declare my own jewelry that I already paid for (including taxes upon purchase)? – MikeV Oct 1 '14 at 16:52
  • @BurhanKhalid Wouldn't such wishes be even more appropriate if the OP is hoping her (or his) companion is secretly toting the ring? – Andrew Lazarus Oct 1 '14 at 17:44
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    @MikeV: That should be its own question. – Flimzy Oct 1 '14 at 18:35
  • @Flimzy You think? I don't know... it seems kind of vague and unspecific as a general question. I thought it would make more sense within the context of these two existing questions. – MikeV Oct 1 '14 at 19:13
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    @MikeV I asked this question, you can find it at travel.stackexchange.com/questions/37103/… – Nzall Oct 2 '14 at 9:02
30

USAToday actually wrote an article on this a while back. The key points were:

  1. Keep it in its box, safe and secure. (It may actually make it clearer on an xray)

  2. Avoid wrapping the box. Security may ask you to unwrap wrapped packages.

  3. Attach a small note - eg "Engagement ring inside, please be discreet".

  4. Put it in a clean sock or similar, as an extra visual layer of protection, but will still be easily identifiable on an xray

  5. Put it in your carry-on (you don't want your checked luggage going missing with it)

  6. Fill the rest of the bag with books, magazines etc - but NOT toiletries or other items that may prompt a security search

  7. Keep an eye on security, and if they stop your bag, try and distract her with a task while they check it (get her to find something, or buy something)

In terms of dollar value being a problem, it may be worth keeping a receipt to show value in case of any doubt (some countries limit the value of gifts or items you bring in).

  • 34
    this answer seems to be all about security. Security does not care about rings - in your pocket, bag, whatever - and would not open a tiny little ring box to see what was in it if the xray clearly showed it was a ring. Customs is likely to care about rings, especially expensive ones in ring boxes, as actually happened in the linked question. – Kate Gregory Oct 1 '14 at 14:27
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    @KateGregory yeah the article was about security, but I added the bit at the end about dollar limits etc. Seems to be what the OP was after, though, as it got accepted. – Mark Mayo Oct 1 '14 at 14:36
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    @MarkMayo well, hopefully they didn't miss the point and are about to be ill-prepared for customs. – djechlin Oct 3 '14 at 1:39
21

I would say worry only about hiding it from the recipient - keep it somewhere that person won't look - and if you happen to get a customs search, and they're clearly going to look in your bag and find it, one of two things will happen.

If your beloved is with you, ask the customs officers to give you a moment, and then propose right then and there. After you get your yes, ask the customs officers if you can show them (and your beloved) something from the bag - they will probably allow it - and get the ring. Then take your lumps with the customs guys (having the receipt with you will help), though perhaps if your now-fiancé(e) is obviously going to wear the ring back out of the country you won't have any lumps to take - and enjoy the great story the two of you will now have about where you were going to propose (top of the Eiffel tower, picnicking in the English countryside, Mount Everest base camp) and where you actually did instead (secondary inspection at whatever airport.) Can't be beat!

If your beloved is not with you because you're being dealt with separately even though you're travelling together, tell the customs officers as soon as you can that you have an engagement ring with you that you have not presented yet. Tell them whether the ring will be leaving the country or not, and as before take your lumps when it comes to duty etc. Once again the receipt will be handy. If you have to pay duty but can get it back if the ring leaves the country, you will have to tell your beloved some time after proposing but before getting to the airport "we need to stop by customs to show them the ring is leaving and to get the duty back." Shouldn't be an issue.

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    Personally, I would not really like to propose at customs at an airport, but maybe it is just me :) – Bernhard Oct 1 '14 at 18:30
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    it would certainly be a surprise! – Kate Gregory Oct 1 '14 at 18:37
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    Suprise are not always good. I mean, you can propose at a wedding or funeral too, but neither would be appreciated ;) – Bernhard Oct 1 '14 at 18:57
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    I don't like this answer for two reasons: 1. I discourage public proposals unless the person being proposed to has already said they like public proposals. It puts pressure on them to say yes if strangers are watching. 2. Going through customs and security are particularly stressful points on the trip. A proposal could be ruined just because everyone's stressed out. – user15315 Oct 3 '14 at 21:59
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    I'm not a big fan of long-planned proposals with the ring already in a pocket myself, preferring a ring-getting trip together after a propless question, but opinions vary. I can't imagine that the person who is going to be asked at the Eiffel tower or whatever might say no, so the pressure thing seems bogus to me. I also don't think a proposal can be ruined. One asks, one answers, yay. A sense of delight helps of course. – Kate Gregory Oct 3 '14 at 22:08
15

Security is not an issue, a ring in a pocket of a backpack or briefcase would not raise an eyebrow from the security examiners.

If you are going somewhere that absolutely requires you to declare everything in your possession to customs or somewhere that you think might do a customs search, you can always write a note to pass to the inspector while your fiancee-to-be is distracted, telling the inspector where the ring is, its value and the fact you are trying to keep it secret until the right moment. Most inspectors are human beings and likely would understand.

But most importantly, do your homework and determine if you even need to declare personal jewelry at your destination or keep that factor in mind when selecting which country to pop the question in.

  • 2
    You only have to declare it if its worth more than $10,000 (or equivalent). Otherwise there are no restrictions that I am aware of on personal jewelry to be declared; and such things don't normally trigger a bag search. – Burhan Khalid Oct 1 '14 at 11:19
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    @BurhanKhalid: OP didn't say where they were travelling to, so I don't see how you can know what restrictions there might be. – Max Oct 1 '14 at 12:16
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    @BurhanKhalid that's just not true. I've seen episodes of Border Security where watches and jewelry were getting all kinds of attention and not because they were worth over 10,000. Some countries are going to want duty paid on items less than $10,000. – Kate Gregory Oct 1 '14 at 12:49
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    @BurhanKhalid That's a typical amount for cash (although even that is going to depend on the country) but not for goods. Typical allowances for that are on the order of USD 500 to 1000 (with some niceties for alcohol, tobacco and differences depending on how you travel, etc.) – Relaxed Oct 1 '14 at 13:23
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    Incidentally, in western countries, cash imports aren't usually limited or taxable as such, it's just that you have to declare it and account for its origin (your earning the cash in some way is usually a taxable event). Goods import, on the other hand, are typically taxable as such. – Relaxed Oct 1 '14 at 13:35
10

I avoided this particular issue by having it made at the destination. That may not be an option for you, but it worked out for me. In any case, good luck!

...and she said yes! ...after initially thinking I was dragging her through an elaborate joke; me not realizing it was actually April Fool's Day. The lesson here is to consider more than just the ring when it comes to planning.

8

I actually did this over a fairly large journey (UK to NZ) and had absolutely no problems. It was in my carry on alongside my laptop - this was a mistake as everytime I took my laptop out I'd have a panic about the ring falling out. If it's inside your carry on it's unlikely to cause any issues.

2

What surprised me about the other post is that while countries may levy duty on returning residents’ jewelry purchases, they generally allow visitors to bring in (as long as they take out) reasonable amounts of personal property. Not just jewelry, but also computers, videocameras, etc. In some cases a bond is required, or at the least serial number registration at entry and exit to show that the articles are not for re-sale.

I get the feeling the passport and residence statuses of the other poster were complex. In general I don't think the likelihood of either airport security (a ring is a pretty obvious shape on an X-ray or customs is at all high. Most of the people I have seen pulled out of the "Green Line" through customs had appliance boxes or enough luggage to live out of for a decade.

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    This varies wildly by country and political climate. I've been forced to do full layouts of all my serialized items in some African countries (and even Malaysia once) during stressed periods, and been left free to stroll right through the line in the typically nightmarish immigration departments of Middle Eastern countries. With computers and work gear it is a severe annoyance; with an engagement ring and target of my affections in tow... meh, it'd probably be the only one of my hilariously bad travel experiences anyone else close to me would know about. – zxq9 Oct 2 '14 at 1:36
2

Use Federal Express to deliver it to your destination.

  • That may get it past customs, but not legally. If detected, it makes it look like you are trying to evade customs. Unless you fill out all the proper forms before shipping. – WGroleau Sep 30 '16 at 2:26
  • @WGroleau I think that's implied - you don't have to show the paperwork to your fiancee, after all. Some information on what kind of forms you would have to fill out (and how to prove that you're bringing it back out, or if you would have to eat the cost of paying an import duty) might be worth adding though. – Random832 Sep 30 '16 at 15:16

protected by Community Oct 5 '14 at 6:35

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