International travel is great, but crossing the actual physical border can be a nightmare. There's almost always some kind of ridiculous story to tell after the fact. Well we've crossed a lot of borders, and here are some of the better stories...
When our son was growing up, he played Little League Baseball. Because our home's location in Ottawa, Canada was only 100 kms (60 miles) from the New York State border our son's team played a lot of weekend tournaments in the U.S. and we would cross the border on a Friday night or Saturday morning and come back Sunday afternoon. We did a LOT of border crossings during those years, probably over fifty times into the U.S. alone.
And then in 2007, we bought a motorhome in New York State. Part of the process to have the paperwork transferred to Canada involved the U.S. doing a background check on the vehicle and the exporter. Well as part of the background check I came up as flagged due to a minor indiscretion with the law when I was 18 years old. I remember the border guard looking at me as I was taking the motorhome out of the U.S. and saying "well, your new RV is welcome back in the U.S. anytime, but you're not".
So, all of those crossings into the U.S. meant nothing to them. All of a sudden I was a criminal due to something that happened well over 25 years prior to this. Long story short, I am still "flagged" in the American system and I have paid over $1,500 since then in paperwork fees to the U.S. government to get the proper permit to enter their country. The current permit is valid for 5 years and then it will be another $585 (if they don't raise the price again!) to get another 5 year permit. Everyone (including the border guards) agree that it's a joke. But, it's my lot in life and we have no choice so have to live with it.
In our experience it is the Unites States border guards that are over the top.
We saw one incident at a crossing into the U.S. where the American border guard had an older Chinese lady in tears because she hadn't reported that she had an orange or something in her car and he was threatening to confiscate her car and not let her in the country. Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard the whole thing myself.
Another time, I'm waiting for secondary inspection (I have to do that all of the time now when entering the U.S., even though they have issued me the proper permit!) and so you get to watch everybody else going through secondary. They had one guy older than me who got flagged because he had been arrested in a bar room brawl back in the 1960's. He and his wife had been heading to Syracuse NY on a weekend shopping trip. They wouldn't let him in and turned him around! The poor guy was almost in tears.
I mean c'mon guys, you can do your jobs and do your jobs efficiently without being so intimidating and bull headed. This is not all of them of course, but it's a good generality. We have had the odd guy who was genial and smiling. On the other hand, we have also encountered the odd Canadian border guard who didn't like our story of why we were out of the country and for how long. Almost like they simply didn't believe us. But for the most part, we have been welcomed back to Canada.
And we can't figure why the guards in your own country question you so much. I mean, if I have a Canadian passport, do they not HAVE to let you in to my own country?
There was one strange Canadian incident where the guy already had our passports, but he insisted on seeing my drivers license. I didn't question him (obviously!) but thought it was odd.
Never had a problem with other international travel. Mexico has always welcomed us with open arms. Guatemalan authorities were great, despite the circus that goes on at land crossings with the "helpers". You can read about that here... http://www.travelwithkevinandruth.com/2013/02/in-to-guatemala.html
And Britain and Europe have always been great too. We've been to the U.K. five or six times over the years and British border authorities have always asked the typical questions "where are you from" and "how long are you staying" and then told us to enjoy our stay, usually with a smile. Same when we went to Czech Republic last year, and Portugal in 2007. Iceland, same thing.
I'm sure there will be other stories we'll be able to tell, and it will be interesting crossing land borders in southern Africa this coming fall and winter. We've heard that it shouldn't be an issue, but you never know!