Skip Navigation

Backpacking in South America and Getting Through Customs

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Backpacking in South America and Getting Through Customs

1. Posted by WeisseRose (First Time Poster 1 posts) 5y

Hello,

I am currently residing in the US Virgin Islands and I plan a prolonged backpacking trip through the Caribbean and South America.

Since I will be travelling on a shoestring budget, read 'not much money,' I'm wondering how I should respond when questioned by Caribbean and South American Customs officials as to the purpose of my trip. I am currently on unemployment and the ultimate purpose of my trip is to find employment outside of the US, hopefully in South America. This is perfectly legal according to unemployment regulations as long as I document my work search efforts, even if these are in a foreign country.

As I am on unemployment, I have a source of income that hopefully will last me until I find South American employment. The problem I'm anticipating is that customs officials may ask for proof of either an ample amount of cash or a source of income or both. I will probably only be carrying $1000.00 in cash and will supplement that on my journey with my unemployment compensation on a biweekly basis. How likely is it that I will face this scenario and how do I respond if this happens? I experienced this problem in Woodstock Canada, back in October and I do not wish to repeat it :( Also, will I have to have a return airline ticket to satisfy customs that I will eventually leave the country, or is this just an airline rule.

Here is some other information that may prove helpful:

I'm originally from Texas and still have my Texas driver's license, which does not expire until 2014, which lists my old address. Of course I have a valid passport. I have no document that shows my current address, and frankly I will not have a home address, after I begin my trip since I will be vacating my apartment. Is it possibly that I will be refused entry for this reason and if so does that mean I will have to lie about the purpose of my visit to pass through customs? If so, what do I say?

Here's my proposed itinerary:

I first plan to island hop through the Caribbean and finally arrive at either Santa Margarita Island in Venezuela, or Trinidad and then take a plane or ferry to mainland Venezuela, or to Georgetown Guyana. From there I plan to travel south to Suriname and French Guyana, then to Brazil and other parts unknown. What maps will I need and what forms of transportation will I have to take?

Danke, Sophie

P.S., Does anyone have any ideas about what will be the most economical way to reach Georgetown and avoid the return ticket rule. Also, if I run short of cash, or get robbed, what can I do to make some money while I'm there. Can I play the role of American 'mojado,' at least temporarily?
BTW, I fix computers and other things, perhaps I can peddle this trade?

2. Posted by mac1234 (Full Member 110 posts) 5y

Travelling on the tax payers dime......hopefully customs send you home!

3. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 894 posts) 5y

Yes. I can help you if you give me your full name and social insurance number. Don't worry, I won't tell the Unemployment office.

4. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 5y

Can I play the role of American 'mojado,' at least temporarily?
BTW, I fix computers and other things, perhaps I can peddle this trade?

Almost certainly not-why do you think hundreds of thousands of South Americans are headed North?