Importing Your Firearms to a Hunting Destination
Increased security around the world today has made traveling with a firearm a bit challenging. However, taking your favorite hunting rifle, shotgun or handgun on a hunting trip is manageable with advanced planning and great attention to detail. First, you must be aware that every country has different restrictions, requirements and procedures for accepting the temporary importation of firearms for sporting purposes. Some charge for an import permit; others do not. Some allow you to handle an application yourself; others require your hunting operator to do so.
This section provides you with the rules and requirements of hunting destinations around the world. Where possible, we have provided links to application forms and government or hunting association websites. We recommend you check the requirements for a destination early on in your research. If you are dead set on taking a particular trophy with a specific firearm, the destination you choose may preclude that. Also, some destinations require up to two (2) months to process the permits you will need.
The most important thing to remember when traveling with a firearm is that this is an exercise in perfect accuracy of details and following procedures. One error can result in impounded or confiscated firearms, fines and even legal complications. All mean a ruined trip. Problems with firearm imports typically arise around several specific scenarios. Following are some tips to help you avoid those problems.
Tips When Traveling with Guns
Double Check Your Information
Whether your permits are issued on the spot or before you arrive at your destination, all the details on your application must be perfectly accurate and match those on your issued permit. When providing information for a firearm import permit application, be certain all the data you provide is correct and clear. One inverted number, an S that looks like an 8, an incorrect arrival or departure date, incorrect passport number or birth date will cause havoc upon your arrival or your departure.
If your operator can straighten out a mistake with authorities, it will cost much time and additional money. If the authorities refuse to re-issue incorrect paperwork upon arrival, your firearm will be confiscated and held in Customs until you depart the country. If your departure date is incorrect or the serial number is not a perfect match when you try to leave the country, you will be delayed and possibly fined. So, when you receive your permit, double check it to make sure all the information is correct. The exact number of rounds of ammunition is also important.
Make sure all your information is clearly written and legible. When sending copies of documents, be sure the photocopies or scans are of a high resolution, are clear and perfectly legible. The copy of your passport should be the page with your photo, personal details and signature.
No Last-Minute Changes
Be certain about which firearms you are taking with you. Once your application is submitted, you cannot change your mind. Last-minute changes in firearms is one of the top causes of problems with firearm importations. Permits are issued only for the specific firearms and serial numbers you list on your application. Bringing a different firearm creates complications that may result in confiscation. If your permit lists ammunition, be sure to bring the exact kind and amount of ammunition that is listed. Bringing less can cause as many problems as bringing more.
Check Your Airline’s Policies
Every airline has different policies about the number of firearms and amount of ammunition they will carry as checked baggage. Compare restrictions with what your hunting destination will allow. Remember that airlines will restrict you to no more than 11 pounds or 5 kilos of ammunition. Some airlines allow you to pack ammunition in the same case as your firearm, but your destination may not allow that.
Also, make sure all your chosen airlines have what is called an interline baggage agreement, which allows them to transfer your bags (including your gun cases) from one airline to another. That would also allow your bags to be checked all the way through to your final destination. If your airlines do not have this agreement, you will be forced to claim your bags and gun case wherever you are making a connection and re-check them onto your next flight. If this happens in another country, you will need an import permit (or transit permit) for that country. Not having a permit could trigger legal complications and ruin your trip before you even get to your hunting destination.
Some US airlines will not transfer firearms to another airline even if they do have interline baggage agreements and transfer your other luggage. Check on this before booking your flights and make sure you have enough time between flights to claim your bags and recheck them for your next flight. If this takes place in another country, you will need a permit.
If you are re-routed or put on another airline due to cancelled flights or other flight travel problems, make sure there won’t be a problem with your guns.
Some countries, such as the Netherlands and South Africa, require you to get transit permits for firearms even if you are only transiting through and never claim your bags. Each will limit the number of firearms they allow a traveler to bring into their country even if only in transit. Be sure you or your travel agent checks on any such restrictions before booking your travel.
Tips on Baggage
Make sure all of your bags are properly marked with nametags for identification and to contact you in the event the bags do not arrive at your final destination. Pack your unloaded firearm in a sturdy, lockable case and your ammo in a separate lockable container in your checked baggage.
Physically check your baggage tags to ensure that they have been correctly printed and attached. Ask if an “in-transit tag” is necessary when transiting through the country where you are connecting for your final flight.