Hello UG community!

I'm going to travel to the U.S. in a few weeks, and I would like to buy a guitar there (a Fender American Standard Stratocaster, to be exact). I was told however, that there's a number of problems with taking an instrument to and from the States on an airplane.

Right now I am facing three problems: 1.) How do I make sure they won't break the guitar when they take it as cargo (from what I've heard, you can't take it on board as carry-on)?

2.) Is carrying an instrument going to cause delay, or even trouble with airport security?

3.) Am I going to have to pay tax for the guitar that I bought and want to take back with me? I was told that - if necessary - I could bypass this by taking a guitar (a cheap, expendable one) with me on the way there, and bringing the expensive one on the way back. On paper this would be "I came with a guitar, I left with one."

I also know you could buy a ticket for your instrument, or get some kind of special insurance where they make sure they won't give it back in pieces. Either way, I want to solve this by spending as little as possible.

Any suggestions?
I travel all the time.

step 1: buy a gig bag.

step 2: put your dick in the box

step 3: put your guitar in the gigbag

step 4: sail away sail away come sail away.

it's a personal posession. unless you're carrying it in a sealed original box just say its yours forever. I never check my guitars.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
Ok thanks, now can someone else be a bit more specific and not mention the "dick-in-the-box" BS this time?

(BTW yes I was going to get a case for my guitar to make sure it won't break. I want to play it safe though and make sure the guys at the airport don't mess with it.)
Europe, but is that relevant? I want to buy it in the U.S. because it's cheaper there (supposedly).
Wouldn't it be possible to get away from tax if there's no indication of the guitar being new? No receipts, no stickers on the guitar etc? I can't see why they would make you pay taxes for it if it's a "gift from a friend", "an old guitar you just picked up from your aunt" or a "prize in a contest".

But what do I know, they tend to be extreme at airports.
I've heard it both ways
You'll probably end up paying tariffs for the guitar.
Damn it! Disable can't use disable to disable Disable's disable because disable's disable has already been disabled by Disable's disable!
you`ll probably end up paying the weight penalty for extra luggage, i don`t think it will be much cheaper `cos the exchange rates between the euro, GBP, and US dollar are so close at the moment.
you will have to pay tax depending on the country you are going to, which we don't know.

as for tricks like trying to fool the customs that you have had it for a long time, these people are not stupid, they get tricks like that every day. it's far better to just pay up, if you get caught out you will almost certainly get a fine and the guitar confiscated.
I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes.
- Jimi Hendrix
I am from Hungary if that helps, not sure where to look up the tax though.

From what I've heard you don't have to disclose where you got the guitar, show any receipts or anything like that. You may need to give a list of what you took with you and what you are taking back, which is why I was told I can take one and leave it there and bring back the one I bought.
customs officer have the right to stop and search anyone and their luggage, so unless you are going to eat the receipt.....
That's a Special Strat, not the American Standard (as in, the iconic, "original" one). Thanks for the tip though!
also if you look at buying within the EU you can just drive through he border with it in the boot of your/your parents/friends car.....
Ok that's enough obvious info... If I wanted to buy it in Europe I wouldn't make a thread about it, would I?

I wanted to try in the US because despite what you can see online there's a good chance I can find one cheaper there. If anyone can say otherwise, let me know.
with that mentality and attitude good luck on getting it cheaper peeps have tried to help you and convince you that your misinformed but do what you want.
Ok... my "mentality" is this: I am about to travel to the US. I have never traveled that far before, especially not with the intention of (maybe) coming back with an instrument.
I was told by my guitar teacher that said instrument will probably cost me a whole lot more if I was to buy it at home. He also told me that if I try to bring it back, I could run into a few problems.
A guy at a guitar shop told me it might not be worth it, simply ordering a guitar from the US wouldn't cost any more than buying it there, and then having to pay tax.
I came here to try and find out what other people experienced when traveling abroad with their instruments, and thus be able to decide what to do. I appreciate any response at all, especially if it was indeed helpful.
Some responses weren't, and I decided to point that out. If my attitude seemed inappropriate, I apologize for that.
Now if you would like to go into detail about how I was "misinformed", I'd be very grateful. Keep in mind: everything I've said so far is based on what I've heard from people that I've asked.
If you bring a guitar back legally (i.e. you willfully declare you bought it in the US and are bringing it back) then you'll have to pay various import duties; these vary from country to country, but in most EU countries it ranges from 20%-38% of the item's original value. More often than not it means it's actually more expensive to buy a guitar in America and travel back with it than it would be to just buy one from a shop within the EU.
There are shadier methods of course. You can fly out with a guitar in a case (say, a cheap Strat copy), ditch it once you're in the US and put the new guitar in the case - then just hope they don't do a full luggage check on your way back and ask for receipts and so on. You could just go out with nothing, buy the guitar there, bring it back and again simply hope that they don't bother to check through your stuff; slightly riskier but also slightly cheaper of course. Just bear in mind that if customs does catch you bringing back something that you should rightly be paying import duties on and they are able to prove that you bought the item in the US and knowingly tried to escape the taxes, you'll get charged even more and in some countries you can and will be taken to court.

It basically comes down to how much you're willing to risk. If you're lucky you could just simply buy the guitar and come back and get away with it; of course if you're unlucky you'll be caught and customs will of course charge you for it. Personally I wouldn't risk either. If I were you I would look up how much the guitar will be in America, convert the price over and add in however much your country's import duty is. If it works out that it will always be cheaper to buy the guitar in America (even with import duty) then just buy it, declare it and pay the import duty. If it turns out it will cost more including the import duty (which it almost always will do) then just buy it from an EU seller.
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Thanks MrFibble, will do!

"if you're unlucky you'll be caught and customs will of course charge you for it"

"Charge" as in I simply have to pay the import duties or it means I am getting in trouble and have to pay a serious price for it?
I checked the price. MSRP for the American Standard Strat is $1299-$1399, which is almost as much as the offers I get at home. I might be able to find one for less in the US, but by adding tax it might end up being more expensive (and more complicated). I think I'll decide once I get there and see some prices, then work out all the extra costs.

Anyone happen to know how much the Strat goes for in stores these days? (not online)
Depends on the finish, but they range from I believe around $1100 (solid finish) to $1300 (burst finish with an ash body) in most American chain stores. Some stores will match their prices to their online prices though so then it's more like $1000-$1200.
Yes, I know everything. No, I can't play worth a damn.
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Damn... prices at home go up to about $1600 (except for a certain store I know that might be able to give me a small discount). Even with about 30% tax, an offer for about $1000-$1300 sounds way better.
Quote by Anon0969
Damn... prices at home go up to about $1600 (except for a certain store I know that might be able to give me a small discount). Even with about 30% tax, an offer for about $1000-$1300 sounds way better.

When you get to the US, if you wouldn't mind a used guitar, search craigslist for wherever you are going and search a few local shops for a good used american strat. You can get some really amazing guitars that look brand new for a great price.

If you want to buy new most places will be around the same price. Every guitar store around my house sends me coupons all the time but they never work on fender products so usually , at least where I'm at, I'll have to pay about the same regardless of where I go, except that the bigger chain stores can sometimes save you 50 bucks or so.

Never traveled with an instrument so I can't help you there, sorry.