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
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
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 www.hmce.gov.uk. 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
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, www.mediaonboard.com, 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.