I am thinking of carrying a laptop in my suitcase. Let's forget for a minute the risk that an unprotected laptop may encounter while in the suitcase and focus on my question, please:

If I have understand correctly, when I reach Europe (and not when I leave USA), I will have to declare my laptop (purchased in USA). However, if it is in the suitcase how will I do that?

I mean, my feeling is that I leave the aircraft, go inside the airport's building, pass the check (verify that I a European, etc.), then I pick up my suitcase and I am gone.

So when does the custom appear? My feeling is that it appears during the check phase..I seem confused.

  • 5
    In most or even all countries you get your luggage before you pass through customs. Even if your luggage is delayed and someone else will pass it through customs for you, you will write a declaration of what is in it and whether you need to declare it.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 18:59
  • So @Willeke then an answer for my question should be where do we pass customs, since I don't remember meeting one before.. :/ Sorry if that sounds too dummy, but I don't think to be mistaken for a smuggler!!
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:00
  • @phoog has explained it well in his answer, it is where you have the green and red canals.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:16
  • Regardless of any misunderstandings between the terms "customs" and "immigration", how on earth does your hypothetical laptop being in your suitcase rather than your hand prevent you from declaring it? Declaring it means going to somebody and saying, "Hey, I have a laptop." Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 23:54
  • Because a person that is not aware of this kind of things, would expect to be asked in the check.
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


You generally pass through immigration control to reach the baggage claim. Immigration control is commonly called "customs," but it is not.

You pass through customs as you leave the baggage claim area for the arrivals hall of the airport. Passing through customs in the EU generally means choosing a red or green lane. It is at this point that you can declare any items you are carrying. To do that, choose the red lane. If there are no customs officers present, there should be a telephone you can use to make your declaration.

Sometimes there is a blue lane for arrivals from the European Union. If you are arriving from the United States, you shouldn't take that lane (of course!).

So, in the scenario in your question, customs comes between "I pick up my suitcase" and "and I am gone."

  • "but it is not.", that explains my confusion, thanks!
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:16
  • 2
    Note: Some places rather than a red lane, there's a window/desk (often yes, red) for declaring goods.
    – CMaster
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 20:07
  • At London Heathrow and all other European airports I remember customs (as opposed to immigration control) is after baggage claim. When you say "but it is not" to where are you referring.
    – djna
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 18:45
  • 1
    @djna to nowhere! To rephrase: immigration control is commonly called customs, but immigration control is not customs.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 19:02

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