Monday, November 12, 2012

The Carnet

Photographs of my gear with a carnet

As I've never had a carnet before I'm not sure if this was a requirement to get into Moscow or if it was something for production. I was told that having a carnet would make things easier when going through customs.

What is a carnet?

A carnet is a passport for merchandise or in my case a passport for my gear. It comes in the form of a bunch of paper work. To the novice carnet holder (me) the pile of paper is quite daunting not only because of the abundant number of pages that seem mysteriously there for no apparent reason but also that the pile of paper comes with a 38 page manual to explain it all.

While staring blankly at the pile of paper the phone rang. As luck would have it, it was a call from the chamber of commerce with a person asking if I'd like to go over the pages. This was an immense help.

The carnet breaks down into four sections.

1) the front page - describing the gear being brought and who's bringing it.
2) the export section - the pages that needs to be stamped by the country you're leaving.
3) the import section - the pages that needs to be stamped by the country you're entering.
4) the transit section - the pages that needs to be stamped if your gear is going through a country but not stopping there.

Each section is comprised with two parts, a main page, and a bunch of other support pages. The support pages for importing and exporting are called counterfoils. The support pages for transit are called vouchers.

The main page is stamped by the country of export (in this case the Canadian border services). The border service then fills in (or you can fill in) the support page.  They will take one page as a copy for their records. The main page stays with you and is a record of your travels.

Put simply whenever you show your passport, you must show the carnet as well.

As you pass through a country you will be required to fill in the transit section and have it processed (the border service of that country will take a page from the transit section).  When you get to your destination country the import section is filled in and a page from the import section is handed to them.  You should always have the main carnet with you at all times.

When your trip is completed and you return to your country of origin the carnet is looked at in the reverse order.  The border services will verify that your gear is the same gear you entered the country with previously.

How to get a carnet

first make an itemized list of all your gear that you intend to use on your trip(s).

item list number,  item, serial number, replacement cost, manufacturer country, weight
#1, Nikon D700, 20564xx, $2500 CAN, Japan, 1156 grams

I was also asked to take photos of my gear and have photo prints with me in case I needed to describe gear that went missing.  This really helps if you're in a country when the language is different from the one you speak.  Also in my travels I have found that people that handle luggage might see the word "flash gels" and think it's a liquid as opposed to the plastic colored filters that you put over a flash to change the color of the light.  If you can show a photo of what the item is they won't have to open your carefully packed luggage to figure out what it.  While on my way to Boston I had a guy ask what a tape measure was. Yes, the thing that's like a ruler.

Once your list is complete you can then sent it off to these guys in Canada or contact these guys if you're in the USA.  See their sites to see how much they will charge for a carnet and how to get paperwork to them.

Additional Tips

A carnet is good for one year and is only good for the good listed on the carnet.  If you have a lot of gear and different trips to make with different configurations.  It might be easier to make one carnet of all your gear and cross out gear you don't bring on a specific trip.


You own a camera body, 105mm lens, 70-200mm lens

For job A in Moscow let's say you only need the camera and the 105mm lens.
For job B in London let's say you only need the camera and the 70-200mm lens.

If both jobs are in the same year.  It would be easier to get one carnet listing all three items.  When you go to Moscow on the carnet forms you can specify that you're only bringing the camera and the 105mm lens.  Later on when you go to London you can specify the camera and the 70-200mm lens.

Unfortunately if you buy new gear between jobs and want to bring in a flash, let's say, to London.  You'll need a new carnet for that (that includes the flash).

Well, hopefully this helps you out.  Good luck and have fun on your travels.

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