Traveling with a lot of camera gear may raise attention when going through customs. Learn more about Brazilian regulations and how to not spoil your vacation because of your luggage.
We recently received an inquiry from a client about traveling with camera gear to Brazil. He will be joining us in a photography tour to the Pantanal this year and, upon looking at information on what can be brought in to the country, he got a little scared. From what he found on the web, travelers are restricted to bring only one camera, and the max of $500 USD in goods. Anything beyond it, and you should be prepared to pay taxes over your belongings and face some bureaucracy with special in-airport documentation. Which brought him memories of an unpleasant experience he had when traveling to another country in Latin America: “Peru had a similar system requiring a tourist to make a cash deposit of hundreds of dollars at customs for the value of the photo equipment beyond the one camera limit per traveler. The agents then made it very, very, difficult to get the cash back before flying home.”
Well, luckily that is not the case in Brazil, and we never had a client that had to deal with this camera gear restriction when entering the country. Although there is a restriction of one camera and 500 USD in goods, there is a different treatment for the traveler’s luggage and the goods he may bring in to the country. The Brazilian Customs (Receita Federal) state the following information (a bit confusedly in my opinion) at their official website:
“The luggage concept includes: New or used goods brought for personal use or consumption, since they are compatible with the duration and purpose of the trip. Any other goods, including gifts, provided they do not exceed the allowed quantity and not characterize commercial and / or industrial purposes.”
“traveller´s goods include their accompanied and unaccompanied baggage as the goods excluded from the concept of baggage. The difference between them is the tax treatment applicable in each concept. ”
Basically (in my understanding), if the gear you bring (such as cameras, lenses, laptop computer, binoculars, etc) are only for your personal use, have being used before, and are compatible with the purpose of the trip (such as a birding or photography tour in Brazil), it should be treated as your personal baggage, and therefore not due to taxing. The “other goods” are items that someone may bring with the intention to sell or as a gift. If the sum of all the “other goods” is more than 500 USD, than you would pay taxes over it – and they are not cheap in Brazil. If you just bought a new lens to use on your trip, make sure you get rid of all the packaging, or it may seem that you intend to sell it in Brazil.
The one luggage restriction that we sometimes have to deal with in Brazil is the weigh restriction of 5 kilograms for hand luggage on domestic flights, which may be imposed by an air company agent. But, it can always be overcome when the passenger shows it is photo gear and laptop, as they don’t want to have it checked and may have to deal with a broken computer. But this weigh regulation is about to change in Brazil: until recently, we were allowed to have (as checked luggage) one suitcase of up to 23kg in all airlines in Brazil. Now the limit for hand luggage is 10 kilograms, but the airlines are allowed to decide on whether include a free bag on the price paid for the ticket or to offer different fares with or without checked baggage. Most of the Brazilian airlines have not decided how to deal with this situation yet, so we should be ready to deal with extra charges in case your ticket was bought after March 17, 2017.
For more information on this matter, please refer to the Brazilian Custom’s website on the link bellow:
Another possible “threat” for photographers traveling abroad is the laptop ban: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has banned devices larger than a smartphone from airline carry-ons in flights to the USA from several airports in the Middle East and Africa. Who knows if they will expand it to all international flights to the U.S. Well, that might be a subject for a future blog – but I do hope it will not!