Negotiate with Bermuda customs? Not if money is involved….travel bureaucracy and all that fun stuff!4 01 2012
Almost every country has it. It?
In Vietnam, for example, I was told by a guide that if he wanted to leave the country on a holiday he had to have a substantial amount of money in the bank (and proof of it), a good job to return to and apply to his government for a pass.
In India, I was told of a boyfriend trying to go to Canada to visit his girlfriend. Though he applied for a visa, he was denied.
What is this? I am talking about travel bureaucracy. It’s everywhere and it’s not only about leaving a country, but also entering.
For example when I tried to travel between Laos and Cambodia only to be required to pay an “entry fee” to every man standing along the border in a uniform! Ok, so it was only US $1 per man, but still annoying.
And Bermuda? Well my home country is no different. Seemingly ridiculous procedures surround entering and leaving the country too.
I had always heard some stories, but on my recent trip to Toronto I actually got to be on the receiving end. I’m such a lucky girl!
I will give the Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport customs guy one excuse: it was Christmas Day and I am sure he did not want to work, but lots of people have to work on Christmas. Still, I will give him that small leeway for his response:
“Hi, I need to register my camera,” I said.
“Do you have proof you bought it in Bermuda?” said the small man in a crisp blue uniform as he poked his head out of the barely-wedged-open door.
“Uh, well it was a birthday present, so no I don’t have a receipt.”
“Well, I’m not saying you are lying, but we will not give you a registration. Too many people sneak items into Bermuda.”
OK, I should explain the policy. Bermudian residents are required to purchase items in Bermuda or be prepared to pay duty of 35% on items acquired abroad.
To avoid the duty, we can register electronic devices (usually the only items we are taking that are the most expensive and hardest to prove you had before you left) before leaving the Island. This registration is delivered in the highly modern form of a yellow slip of paper!
Yes, there is no way you will ever lose that (sarcasm is free).
The yellow paper, however, is not a minor detail. Instead it is a Bermudian resident’s “get-out-of-35% duty” card!!!! Can you imagine?
Why, you ask do we have to pay such a high price? Well, the argument is that if government increase the price of purchasing items abroad, Island residents will be more likely to “Buy Bermuda” (I have my opinion about this economic policy, but that is a different blog entirely).
I have two problems with this checking system:
1. when an item is purchased in Bermuda, no one issues a yellow piece of paper. One might think that is important especially for, I don’t know, a camera which is almost definitely going to leave the island and one that might also be a present that the receiver should never know the price of…..I’m just saying.
2. if I do buy abroad (gasp!) and pay duty on the item, there is no way to show that the payment I make (all 35% of it) directly relates to a camera, etc…. So when I turn-up to customs at a later date there is no way to prove that, if I have not bought my item in Bermuda, that I paid duty on it. (I would show you a picture, but these are such high commodities, an extra form is just not possible to get!)
Instead, the form groups together all goods in a particular category i.e. clothing and footwear, and we pay the duty on the total amount. There is nowhere to actually list the items you are declaring and therefore, no way to reference the duty you paid on them. i.e. the customs’ officer was asking me for something I literally could not produce.
Let’s be honest here too, if a traveler manages to outsmart the bureaucratic process that is installed to just put more money in government’s coffers and sneaks their goods into Bermuda…..can we really penalize them at a later date? I don’t think so.
Tourists, you are not exempt! You can also be subject to these problems, especially if you are visiting residents. Travellers are allowed a $30.00 excemption on goods they plan to bring into Bermuda.
Bermudians? Well the first $100 for each household is free and then duty kicks in and so do the yellow slips!
So what happened with my recent trip, you ask….well I had to leave the Island with my camera bought in Bermuda (there was no way to send it home before the flight) and prayed that when I returned to the Island I could outsmart the process.
Did I? Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to see what happened…….oh and for some fun travels to Quebec City!
Categories : Bermuda, Bermuda Abroad, Uncategorized