Both times I entered the UK, I was asked lots of questions while others breezed through. The second time, my anxious bus driver and many passengers had to wait a long time. Do I just look like a bum? Or does their computer tell them something when they scan my passport? Or do they mistrust Americans?

Spain, Iceland, Netherlands, Canada, Peru, Mexico, Turkey—all just put in their stamp and waved me on. UK is the only place that gave me the third degree.

The second time, it was only me and a Columbian guy out of a whole bus load. The Columbian guy bought his bus ticket AT the ferry entrance, but so did his friend who was not only waved through, but wasn't asked to fill out a "landing card" like the two of us were.

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    Possible duplicate of How can I avoid being instructed to open the baggage at customs? Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 0:27
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    @DJClayworth As far as I can tell, the first sentence suggests that unfairness is exactly what WGroleau means to imply.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 1:38
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    I fixed the title. Perhaps the Border Guards are trying to keep who/whom problems, like rabies, out of the country. Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 2:01
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    The universe of random events certainly includes being asked lots of questions both times you entered the UK. Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 3:20
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    @ZachLipton: I read that question. Clearly not a duplicate. The U.K. Border force did not look at anyone's bags; didn't even ask us to bring them in off the bus. The French customs, however, X-rayed all of them but didn't open any, except for one that was left on the bus when we all went in to their building. I thought that was odd—customs screening things LEAVING the country. US TSA however, has opened my checked bags every time I've left, and broken something every time.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 7:48

2 Answers 2


It can be random, it can be being American, it can be your look, it can be your attitude. Often, the way you answer the first question defines how picky they get, but not always.

There is no hard rule; although they get trained for certain signs, each officer has his own way to pick out people he thinks need further questioning.

  • :-) The first question was "Visiting the UK?" And my answer was an innocent, honest, non-sarcastic "Yes". It was only later that it occurred to me that it was a dumb question to ask of someone on a bus that's been waiting two hours to get on the ferry.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 7:39
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    @WGroleau Other possible answers include "no, moving there", "no, on my way to Ireland" and "wait isn't this the bus for Belgium"
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 10:27

Be honest, do you look like a bum?

I got singled out once, but not really. I was just the only non-EU citizen on an incoming flight. Everyone else was just waved through and I think they were just annoyed that had to do the full procedure for just one pax.

  • Don't know, do I? Beard is a little scraggly, but that's unavoidable unless I completely remove it. Fifteen minutes after.a trim, it looks like it hasn't been touched.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 17:06
  • "Only non=EU citizen" is possible the first time. Second time, it was me and one of the two Columbians.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 17:08
  • Interesting, I was traveling with a Colombian associate a few years ago and he got the special treatment then too. Me, nothing.
    – DTRT
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 20:03

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