The Day Estonian Customs Found Two Bags Of White Powder In My Luggage

Posted by:     Tags:      Posted date:  May 24, 2011  |  43 Comments
Insert Drawing :)

I was flying with Ryanair from London to Tallinn, an airline which I have a love/hate relationship with. Ryanair works on a business model which delivers low prices and sociopathic customer service. If you make any mistake, you are faced with menacing looks, wicked laughter and ridiculous fees. Seriously, if you turn up without your boarding pass printed, it’s a €40 fee. I could buy a printer for that price and still have money leftover.

This time however, the flight was actually quite enjoyable. It didn’t feel at all like the usual Ryanair experience, i.e. being bombarded with advertising for the duration of the flight. It’s nice traveling with only a carry-on as well, as I avoid the dreaded baggage carousel.

Just as I entered through the green “Nothing To Declare” zone, I noticed that a Customs official had been following me for a while. Just then, a side-door opened and the man behind me asked me to go into the interrogation room. It’s about time too, I haven’t been racially profiled for a few months. Truth be told, I’ve grown fond of the extra attention I get. It makes me feel like I’m kind of a big deal.

The Customs official spoke perfect English and asked me the usual yada-yada questions. Unsatisfied with my answers he decided to scan my bag. First it was scanned flat on its back, then scanned on the side, then the other side. “Why don’t I just open the bag?” I offered, wondering perhaps if there was a training issue with deciphering the scans.

Besides I was excited to open my bag, so I could show off how I had managed to pack so much stuff in such a little bag (It’s one of the plights of solo travel, you can’t be too fussy as to whom to become friends with.). I opened my bag and it looked like the Custom official’s eyes had just popped out. Right on top were two Ziploc bags containing white powder.

There was a bit of commotion and another official ran over with gloves. They both gingerly handled the packages. “Don’t worry, they aren’t drugs” I smirked. They ignored me as if they no longer understood English. I thought only women did that to me.

You see, due to space restrictions I had put some laundry detergent in one Ziploc bag and baby powder in another (I like to apply baby powder to my body after showers. You can shut the fuck up.). The two officials decided to rummage through the rest of my belongs (I’m a little surprised that there was no mention at all of my superior packing skills.). After 5 minutes of this, I started getting bored so I decided to help them out with their investigation. I proceeded to name everything they touched. “That’s a pack of cards. That’s underwear. That’s a toothbrush”.

I wonder if it’s possible to get deported for being annoying.

Finally, they got bored as well and said I was free to go. As I was leaving one of the officials said “bye bye!” in the friendliest way possible, as if I had just been over for tea and biscuits. Welcome to Estonia.

Have you ever had “issues” with Customs?

About Me


In 2004, I sold everything I owned and left New Zealand to go see the world. In that time, I've run with bulls in Pampolona, watched the Man burn at Black Rock City, volunteered at a special-needs summer camp in New York, hosted & couchsurfed with 100+ people, taught English in Prague, trained with Muay Thai fighters in Phuket, worked on 5 different cruise ships, hugged strangers on streets in 7 countries and this one time, I even hitchhiked naked (but that was back home, so that doesn't really count). I moved to Vancouver, BC in 2012, to embark on new adventures. It's nice here, I think I may stay awhile! Let's connect: @roymarvelous, facebook & RSS.



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  • Robyn

    When flying on Ryanair in fact, they called my friend over the PA prior to boarding because they wanted to search his suitcase as they had seen something "suspicious" on the cameras. They opened the bag and found his lighter. He was told he wasn't able to have the lighter in his checked luggage and instead gave it to him and let him bring it as a carry-on. We were totally baffled by this, considering the lighter was full of lighter fluid, and worked fine. I would have thought it'd be safe in checked baggage, instead of in his pocket while on the plane. Because, you know, he could then light people on fire and whatnot.

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      That's crazy! They got it the wrong way around…

  • Katherina

    haha hilarious!
    I once had my tennis racket checked and re-checked because the cameras kept on showing something "explosive" when I went from Tenerife to Madrid (it was at the time of the several bombs in the trains!). I really kept on thinking "do I really look like a terrorist?" (usually I get told I look under 18, even when I'm almost 27).

    My recent post There’s Something I Am Dying to Tell You

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Must have been some heavy duty tennis racket!

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca Ayngelina

    Too funny. A friend of mine was in India and her mother sent her a care package with Jell-O in it that had ripped and the post office noticed powder. Assuming it was anthrax the police brought her to the police station to open it in front of TV cameras and reporters…weird logic.
    My recent post Craving routine on the road

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      So they were hoping everyone there would get anthrax poisoning live on TV?

  • http://advtraveladdict.blogspot.com Annj

    'I wonder if it’s possible to get deported for being annoying.'
    Oh Roy, how exciting your life is!
    For a second I thought you had been framed .. it felt like I was reading a short story!

    I've never been racially profiled and I wonder if its cuz I'm a woman. Not that's pretty sexist huh?
    My recent post Being an Independent Traveller – its really no big deal!

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Maybe I just look dodgy :)

  • julesfredrick

    hahaha! yes, i had a slight problem in Norway. you can read about it at http://julesfredrick.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/yik
    My recent post Camping Rules!!

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Hillarious!

  • http://countryskipper.com Sabrina

    Too funny :) I should pack stuff like that just for the fun of explaining what it is.

    The only problem I ever had with customs was in Egypt when they went through my suitcase and scuba gear backpack multiple times trying to find I-don't-know-what. When they still weren't done after 10 minutes I had it, told them I had to leave, packed my stuff, and left – honestly, I think they were just looking through my stuff because I am female and they wanted to have a look at my underwear. Yuck!
    My recent post Texas Countryside- A Photo Essay

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Haha you told them you had to leave – ballsy! So um, what kind of underwear do you have?

  • http://www.ordinarytraveler.com Christy

    You crack me up. I would have been bummed if the customs officials didn't comment on my awesome packing skills too. I haven't had much problem with customs. The only time we were ever stopped is entering Australia and we had about 10 Tylenol PMs in a plastic bag. They took them away because people use them to make meth or something like that. Nothing as funny or exciting as your experience. :)
    My recent post A Fertility Restaurant in Sicily

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Wow, you can make meth from Tylenol? May need to go pick some up today…

  • Wellington

    IN the summer of 2009 I took a month off and went to Brazil to visit my son. Well, staying a month or so away I have to take all the perishables with me. So there I was hoping on the greyhound downtown Toronto on the way to NYC. At the border in Niagara the bus had to pull over and the first ones that were taken away were some brown passengers (actually writer than me). Then it was my turn to pass through all that bull**it. I had on me two tomatoes and a pack of carrots (those small carrot sticks). First thing the officer said during the security check was "wft is that? why are you carrying that stuff?". I just said I was hungry and that was the only thing I had to eat. I got away with that, but then I think he was in a bad day, maybe his wife slept using jeans pants..who knows. SO he kept asking why I was flying off NYC instead Toronto with major airports around. My standard answer was "it's cheaper Sir". After making me wait for a while he said, ok..go ahead.
    Back to the brown ones that were taken away, only god knows what happened to them since the bus left and they didn't embark back on.

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      You brought vegies? Haha, that's a fine in some countries.

  • Abigail

    Very funny, might I suggest trying the 3 in 1 from Purex. I travel with them, no mess if the bag comes open and they contain all the stuff you need (for small loads at least).

    Abigail
    My recent post Coming This Week- May 29 – June 4

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Now you tell me!

  • Shivya

    Hahaha, you're awesome for bothering them. Serves them well for racial welcomes

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      I wasn't too bothered really. Could have been worse! (ie. cavity search)

  • Shivya

    You've gotten me hooked to your blog! Rolling you. I'll be back to read about your travel tales!
    My recent post Germany’s best-kept travel secret Switzerland

  • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

    Well if I had a kid that's what I'd do…

  • http://www.thetravellerworldguide.com Hogga

    That's insane!!! You're too funny. Customs can be so scary, until they realize you haven't done anything, then like you said they act like you just sat down and had tea with them. That happened to me in Vietnam when they said they didn't have my Visa and tried to send me back to Tibet. I freaked out. They found it. Then it was all smiles and laughs – I was not smiling, nor laughing… more like wiping the wimpy tears from my face and saying "see I told you!". haha
    My recent post Choose a Holiday That Doesn’t Break the Bank

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      Wow, that'd be weird getting deported to Tibet…

  • http://www.ouroyster.com Jade Johnston

    hahaha I love it!! I once had my bag taken off the plane because they found a lighter in it…. and then they confiscated some AA batteries. These are all things I'm pretty sure you can check in as well… but then again…. it was a flight going to the US.
    My recent post Midweek Snapshot – Zimbabwe, May 2010

    • http://www.cruisesurfingz.com cruisesurfing

      AA batteries? What could you do with those??

  • http://www.globetrottingtexan.com Carla

    I had a similar experience happen to me in Israel. The only difference was that the customs officers were either my age or younger, and kept on saying "sorry" and "I hate my job/life" during the whole inspection. Knowing they were in pain and hated their lives made me slightly less angry about them touching my underwear.

  • Robert L. Aldrich

    'I wonder if it’s possible to get deported for being annoying.'
    Oh Roy, how exciting your life is!
    For a second I thought you had been framed .. it felt like I was reading a short story

  • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

    I love this story. Not because I am making fun of your customs experience or have had any white powder incidents myself. Estonia was the first country I ever visited so I was glad the experience ended well and they were so friendly when you left :)

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      I’m glad it ended well too! :D

  • http://mrsoaroundtheworld.com Ana

    After traveling for a while these situations are almost inevitable.

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      True!

  • Alexandra Wade

    A couple of years ago i went travelling with dad. On the flight home he packed a knife in his handlugage unknowingly. of course he got stopped at Customs. I’ve never seen him so embarrased in all my life. If only he hadnt have chopped up them apples before heading to the airport.. :’) !!

  • http://www.travelsizerobot.com/ Chris

    I was once kicked out of the UK because they didn’t like me (they actually didn’t believe that I made a living by blogging and thought I was there to steal their monies or something) and just recently I took a train from Paris to Geneva and the Swiss customs guard opening with this sexy pickup line:

    “You just smoke the marijuana?”
    me: “huh? no”
    “Just a little bit?” (making the “toking a joint” gesture)
    “haha, no”
    after seeing a baggie with some pills in it…
    “These are the party pills, for dancing, having fun?”
    “No, they’re iodine supplements”
    weird face… “For dancing, for party?”
    “no, for thyroid” (I’m testing something, don’t judge me)
    “hmm…have good time in Geneva”

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      Yeah, dealing with custom officers takes special skill. Definitely worth a future blog post.

  • http://www.visanerd.com Shane Todd

    I get a similar attitude from immigration officials in the UK. I’m an Aussie who lives in the UK has right to remain and I get stuff like, “what is your reason for entry into the UK” which i reply…. I live here and intend to for a while longer then that’s when the fun begins, some are keen to get my fingerprints others proceed with their line of questioning such as “How long was I away for” (my reply a bit) “Why do I have residency” (because British men don’t satisfy the Mrs) and my all time favorite “What were you doing whilst away from the UK” The latter I usually reply getting blind drunk which isn’t too far from the truth!

    After a while if he’s being a right jobsworth, I’ll just reply in my strongest Aussie accent “Mate, I’m Aussie, I’m doing you a favor for living in your wet rock” and proceed to remind him that our Queen (which we share) lets me travel (which is kinda true it says on my passport) by this stage they’d rather avoid a drawn out political argument and just stamp the passport.

    • http://www.visanerd.com Shane Todd

      Moral to my story is I guess you can’t get deported for being annoying…

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      Wow, that sucks! I’ve always been fairly luck with UK customs. Luck of the draw, eh.

  • http://withoutborderschefs.com/ Chad

    For some reason it’s always when I come back to Canada that I have issues!

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      Strange. I’ve had to go through secondary check twice, when returning to Canada but they were super nice both times.