June 11, 2024     Encore Tours

Effectively Navigating Customs With Instruments


Taking your ensemble on an international performance tour is an exhilarating experience, but dealing with customs for your musical instruments can feel daunting. We recognize the challenges musicians face when traveling abroad, and we’re here to offer essential tips and guidance to ensure a smooth journey through customs with your valuable instruments. Our extensive experience and dedicated team are here to help you every step of the way.

1. Know Your Instrument’s Documentation Requirements

Different countries have varying requirements for the documentation needed to bring in musical instruments. Generally, you’ll need:

  • Proof of Ownership: Receipts or invoices that prove you own the instrument.
  • CITES Documentation: If your instrument contains materials from endangered species, such as ivory or certain types of wood, you might need a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permit.
  • Carnet: For high-value instruments, a Carnet (an international customs document) can simplify the process by acting as a passport for your gear.

2. Declare Your Instruments

Always declare your musical instruments when passing through customs. Honesty is the best policy, as failing to declare can lead to fines or confiscation. Clearly label your instrument cases and have all necessary documentation readily available.

3. Understand Country-Specific Regulations

It’s the responsibility of passengers to ensure that all items they bring comply with local laws and regulations of their destination country. Please be aware that some countries have specific rules regarding the types of instruments allowed, the materials they are made of, or the value thresholds that may trigger additional scrutiny or taxes. We recommend researching these regulations ahead of time to avoid any issues during your trip.

4. Pack Your Instruments Properly

Proper packing is crucial to prevent damage during transit and to make inspections easier. Use hard cases with plenty of padding, and consider using additional cushioning materials inside the case.  For stinged instruments, make sure that you loosen the strings before packing as the change in air pressure may damage the instrument if the strings are tight. Make sure your instruments are easily accessible in case customs officers need to inspect them.

5. Prepare for Airport Security

Airport security procedures can be stressful, but being prepared can help. Be ready to remove your instruments from their cases for inspection if asked. Allow extra time for security checks, especially for larger instruments like cellos or tubas, which might require special handling.

6. Stay Informed About Airline Policies

Your Program Manager and Program Consultant will help you stay informed about airline policies regarding instruments. Some airlines allow instruments as carry-ons if they fit in the overhead bin, while others require them to be checked. We’ll assist you in contacting the airline in advance to confirm their specific policies and consider purchasing a seat for larger instruments to ensure their safety.

7. Keep Contact Information Handy

In case of any issues, reach out to your Tour Consultant or Tour Manager. They’ll have the contact information for the airline and customs authorities at both your departure and arrival locations. Quick access to these contacts can help resolve problems quickly and efficiently.

8.  Consider Upgrading Your Instrument Insurance

Even with the best made travel plans, instruments can be damaged or lost when travelling on a flight. Secure your instruments with our Ultimate-Plus Protection Plan, which includes $5,000 of instrument insurance, guaranteeing peace of mind during your travels.

9.   Rent Larger Instruments Overseas

We’re dedicated to supporting musicians every step of the way. Our extensive experience with performance tours means we can provide tailored advice and assistance to ensure your tour goes off without a hitch. Should you wish to rent larger instruments overseas rather than travelling with basses, cellos or percussion on the flight, our network of overseas music experts will work to source the right instrumental fits for your group.

Traveling with instruments requires careful planning and attention to detail, but with the right preparation and support, you can navigate customs with confidence. Let us help you take your music to new places, ensuring your instruments arrive safely and your performances shine on the international stage.

For more information and personalized assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our team. Happy touring!

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