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Shooting Abroad
by Cal barton

General Shooting abroad can be a serious hassle if you don't prepare properly. But if you follow a few guidelines, traveling with a kit is far more likely to go smoothly. Prepare and be prepared. The tips below address the most frequent problems we see.

Carnets The countries listed below require carnets if you're traveling with location production equipment. A carnet is essentially proof that a bond is held in your home country on the equipment and it will not be released until the equipment is returned to your home country. It is meant to stop people from taking goods from a country where they are relatively cheap and selling them in a country where they cost far more because of duties, taxes or other reasons. The easiest way to get a carnet is to phone a company that processes them and they will post the bond for a fee. If you don't know a company that offers this service, ask for a recommendation from someone who does and who can vouch for speed, reliability and efficiency. The charge varies depending on how quickly you need the carnet and on which country you're visiting. Typically the charge will include:

Administration fee charged by the company processing the carnet Local Chamber of Commerce fee Charge for posting the bond

The bond required varies from country to country and is a percentage of the stated value of the equipment. The charge for posting the bond depends on the declared value of the equipment. Different people take different approaches to the declared value. Some use the new value of the equipment. Some list the used value. Some use an artificially low value to save on the charge for the bond. I recommend you seek advice on what value to declare. The values declared on a carnet have no bearing on the insured value of the equipment.

Once you have a carnet, make sure you have it signed and stamped every time you enter and leave a country. If you fail to do this, you will have to present all the equipment on the carnet to a Customs inspector once you're back in the UK - there is a fee for this - and you risk a fine. If you've hired the equipment, you'll need to hire the identical equipment to show Customs and this could incur hire charges and arranging for the exact kit with the serial numbers listed on the carnet to show the Customs inspector can be a major hassle. This can so easily be avoided by ensuring the right forms are signed and stamped on every entry into and departure from a given country.

Also extremely important is returning the carnet documents to the issuer immediately. If you send them by post, send them registered and phone to make sure they have been received. I know of a couple of cases of carnets apparently being returned to the issuer and apparently not received. The result was a hefty fine and a lot of trouble trying to reassemble the equipment on the carnet for a Customs inspection so the bond would be released.

The bottom line is the bond is only released once the equipment has returned to your home country and the carnet has been returned to whoever processed it with all the paperwork correctly done. This is essential.

Countries Requiring Carnets Below is a list of countries that require carnets for camera kits. The list excludes EU countries because if you're traveling from the UK and staying within the EU a carnet is not necessary.

Algeria, Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Canary Islands, China, Croatia, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, India, Israel, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Lebanon, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United States.

Countries That Do Not Require Carnets If you're traveling to a country or countries that do not require a carnet you should take a pro-forma equipment list. This is a list of all the equipment you are traveling with and should include the manufacturer and model number, the serial number, the country of manufacture and the value. Once again the value can be replacement value, used value or an artificially low value - at your discretion. This list should be on company letterhead. Take several copies of it with you, ideally with a company stamp on it.

In addition to the pro-forma, there is one other piece of paperwork you'll need - an HM Customs and Excise C & E 1246 form. The heading on this form is "Returned Goods Relief: declarations to be made when using duplicate lists." These can be downloaded from the HM Customs and Excise, now part of HM Revenue and Customs, web site On the home page, click onto Forms, leaflets and booklets. Once there, go to "Forms published in respect of matters formerly dealt with by HM Customs & Excise." Follow the list down to C & E 1246 and print it out.

Complete the form and take it and several copies of the equipment list with you when you check in at the airport you're leaving from in the UK. When you check in, let the airline attendant know you have a "Returned Good Relief" list and need to have Customs stamp it. Customs will generally only want to see the highest priced items such as the camera, which you should hand carry, and you will need to take these items through the boarding pass checkpoint and to the Customs counter on the other side to get this stamped. If Customs wants to see everything you may have to hire an airport porter to take the equipment around. The stamped form and list prove you left the UK with the listed equipment so that when you return to the UK you can show it to Customs and you won't have any problem getting the equipment back into the UK.

Excess Baggage Excess baggage charges can make a production manager shake violently and look like the terrified victim of a maniac in a horror film. They can be outrageous. For example, BA charges ?0.89 per kilo for all baggage above 20 kilos if you're flying economy class to Sydney. That's each way. So if you're travelling with 150 kilos of kit and personal luggage and there are two of you with 20 kilos of baggage allowance each, that's 110 kilos of excess baggage at ?397.90 each way. Sometimes you can negotiate but often the person you'll be talking to will apparently take great delight in the pain these charges can cause.

So how do you beat these charges? First, travel light. If it won't compromise your shoot, consider taking an LCD monitor instead of a Sony 9-inch monitor. If you can, keep your lighting kit portable. If possible, carry on the camera with the wide angle lens attached and wrap the standard lens in something protective so that it can be carried on with the camera and wide angle as well. Then send the case for the wide angle empty - this also reduces the chance of losing your wide angle lens to theft or mishandling. If possible, try to carry one or two camera batteries onto the plane as well. And make sure there is one tape in the camera and at least one spare in the carry bag. This means if your luggage gets lost, you'll at least have a camera with lenses and some batteries.

Another option is to use a specialist company that guarantees to save you serious amounts on excess baggage charges. One such company that's been brought to our attention recently is Media Onboard. We haven't used them yet so I can't vouch for them. However, they claim to be able to save as much as 70 percent on excess baggage charges. The company has arranged "huge discounts" with several Star Alliance airlines for anyone travelling with the "tools of their trade." These airlines include Lufthansa, Austrian and United Airlines. Anthony Miller of Media Onboard's business development team says "current users have found the savings to be so significant that it has altered the way that they plan and budget for overseas productions." My suggestion is to visit their website,, and call them to check out their service. If they do what they say they can, their service will be extremely worthwhile. If anyone does try Media Onboard, please let me know how it went.

Transport to and from Airports If your crew is flying, make sure you budget for the cost of getting them to and from all the airports they'll be using. These costs can be high in some places, especially if the crew is travelling to several airports on the same trip. Some hotels will provide complementary transport to and from the nearest airport - just make sure you confirm this service and book it in advance. If you're lucky enough to fly business class, some airlines include a limo to and from your hotel. Again, book in advance. If you need to use a taxi, make sure you check what the fare should be from the airport to your destination and make sure the crew knows this before they fly. Ideally, provide the crew with some local currency so changing money doesn't become a last minute hassle.

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