I'm one of those who buys new things before a trip and I even get my dry-cleaning folded which the cleaners put in a plastic bag. Now thinking about it I wonder if it's only a matter of time before I'll be hassled. I was inspired to ask this question by the show "Border Security" where security were even going online to check prices of stuff in people's luggage...so how do prove that in fact everything you own is used and not new? The other thing is some things I buy for a trip I never do use.

  • It depends on the laws of the country where you live. I read some answers here and they are different from the country I live in. In which country is your question about?
    – gmauch
    Feb 11, 2015 at 9:57
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    For the shirts it's easy: bring the receipt of the laundry.
    – o0'.
    Feb 11, 2015 at 10:42
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    "Border Security" checking prices? That seems to be ludicrously insecure. I think the rule in Germany is that border security check for anything dangerous and they don't care one bit about whatever you might be smuggling. (Of course there are other people who do care, but they are separate. And if you manage to annoy them, they might give a call to the customs guys). They wouldn't want to miss someone carrying a gun while arresting someone for smuggling shirts in or out of the country.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 11, 2015 at 15:39
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    I am speaking here about everyone's favorite police state: The United States. Please remember that "security" personnel on TV are going to be extra fascist for the camera. I spent many years working in the "security" industry in all forms (including customs). Mostly there are two types of people: The clock-puncher and the jack-booted fascist. You can usually tell the latter by their moustache. I kid, but seriously, with the camera around, I'm sure they were doing things they don't normally do. What we used to look for mostly is jewelry, money instruments (paperwork), and electronics.
    – L0j1k
    Feb 11, 2015 at 17:12
  • @Lohoris I never can never even find my receipts to pickup the shirts! Lol.
    – verve
    Feb 12, 2015 at 2:40

3 Answers 3


For a start, if it's in a box, it's going to look new. So chuck out any packaging.

If it's a camera/cellphone/computer, if you've got stuff on it, that's easy to show it's been used - you can turn it on and show them you actively use it.

For clothing etc, there's not much really, but hopefully all price tags were long removed too. Photos of you in the clothing may help, if the clothing is yours.

In the end - 'how does one not get hassled' - well, we can't control the customs officers, but we can be open, and honest. Declare anything that IS new, which helps alleviate their worries.

In essence, if something else is 'off' - eg your story about your trip, or something you didn't declare but maybe should have, it's going to make them question more about you.

Be prepared, have your documents ready, and don't have anything missing (eg train tickets, accommodation address and so on). Have everything packed well and easily accessible.

Saying that, I've often bought cameras / kindles / laptops before travelling, and never once been asked about how new it is, and that's after 60-something countries. I get other questions far more frequently though.

  • Have you ever been hassled for travelling uber-light though you will be away for months?
    – verve
    Feb 11, 2015 at 5:45
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    @verve not really, I'm still not very good at travelling light. However two former housemates of mine travelled for 6 months in Aus/NZ/South America with just daypacks, and had zero problems. If you just explain you plan on travelling really light and will buy extra items on the road if you need them, no problem. Oh, and a friend of mine rode a scooter from London to Mongolia over 3.5 months, with just 4 t-shirts. He had to travel uber-light or his scooter would barely move. But he was desperate for new clothes once he reached Mongolia :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 11, 2015 at 5:47
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    Whoa, London to Mongolia? That's truly adventurous! I trust your advice cause you have been around according to your blog I visited a long while ago. :-)
    – verve
    Feb 11, 2015 at 6:15
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    Haha, thanks. It was a good trip - he did the scooter, I took public transport (shared taxis, hitchhiking, etc) and we'd meet up in random cities in Estonia, Kyrgyzstan and Siberia along the way :) His photos and link to blog are available here
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 11, 2015 at 6:20
  • I think travelling from back and forth from known "drug" countries (South America etc.) lightly would probably attract more attention.
    – verve
    Feb 12, 2015 at 2:31

Depending on your nationality, some countries allow you to declare new items of value before you depart the country, so that when you return there is a record that you had it before you left home. Both the US and Canada have a system for doing this and I imagine many other developed nations do as well.

If you have bought anything of higher value such as camera gear, electronics and such, this would be an advisable thing to look into and use.

For things like new clothes or other everyday items, there is not much you can do except explain to customs that you had them beforehand. The chances of a custom officer harassing you over a nicely pressed shirt is pretty slim (unless of course you have a whole suitcase full).

Most countries allow you a certain amount of duty free and unless you are bringing in lots of stuff you are actually purchasing overseas, even if they did try to ding you for your new shirts, they should be covered under your duty free allowance.

  • Where would one go to take advantage of the "pre-declare" in Toronto?
    – verve
    Feb 12, 2015 at 2:33
  • Oh, I'm Canadian if that helps!
    – verve
    Feb 12, 2015 at 2:42
  • You would need to go to a CBSA office. Some guests of ours did it at the airport before departure, but I understand you can do it at most CBSA locations. Check the CBSA website for a full list of offices in your area.
    – user13044
    Feb 12, 2015 at 4:00

In some countries (like Brazil) you cannot declare an item as you leave. People started using it to obtain a legal receipt to items they managed to smuggle inside the country. Now the only accepted form to prove an item was your prior to your trip is having the original receipt with the date you bought it. As a side note, in Brazil (I don't know how does that work in other countries) personal items such as clothing, 1 cell-phone, 1 non-professional camera, etc. are not subject to importation duties and do not count for the US$500 limit to free importation of foreign items.

Back to your question, the original receipt you get when you buy the item is probably your best choice to proof something was your before you started your trip. All others can be questioned by a bad-mood immigration officer, I think.

  • It would be a good idea to pay for the goods with credit card, so there is a permanent electronic record of the transaction and you don't depend on a paper slip. Feb 11, 2015 at 12:47

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