Travelling internationally with ham radio equipment

Discussion in 'On the Road' started by G6KVK, Jan 26, 2014.

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  1. G6KVK

    G6KVK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi all
    After a long period based exclusively in the UK, I am about to embark on quite a number of international trips, on business mainly. Destinations include US, Canada, European countries, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and various Middle East countries.

    Many will be short trips but some will be for longer periods, so I'd like to take my FT-817 and ancillary equipment and do a bit of operating.

    Leaving aside licensing issues, I'm concerned about taking amateur radio equipment through customs and on aircraft. In these security conscious times I can foresee extended delays at various points as I re-explain that these are not explosive devices and that my primary purpose of entering <insert your favourite country> is not to subvert the government. I particularly foresee problems with my home-made battery packs; which even I think look a bit suspicious :)

    Does anybody have tips, preferably born from personal experience rather than uninformed opinion, about how to pre-empt all the challenges?


    Gareth - M5KVK
  2. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I can't speak to the other countries, but I'll talk just a bit about the situation in the USA. The United States Transportation Security Administration is the agency in charge of security screening of airport passengers here. Their website is at, and you can get information there. They explicitly list ham radio gear as one of the things that is allowed on board aircraft. However, that isn't an absolute guarantee that all radios will be allowed in all cases.

    I've never had a problem with a commercially built radio, nor have I heard about such a problem in the US. Once, I had a bag containing a handheld and a bunch of cables cause an inspector to want to take a look at my luggage by hand, swab the radio for explosives residue, and then send it through the x-ray again. He asked me a few questions, like "May I open your bag?", and "Is there anything sharp in here that I need to worry about as I go through the bag?" It did not ask me what my radio was, but he did take it out, look at it, and swab it. When I deal with TSA people, my strategy is to answer all their questions politely and cooperatively, but not to volunteer information when not asked, so I did not tell him what the radio was. The whole affair delayed me about two minutes, so it wasn't a big deal.

    The TSA does have regulations about lithium batteries, and if I recall correctly, they have limits on how much is allowed outside of commercially manufactured devices. So the homemade battery packs might be an issue, especially if they use lithium cells.
  3. AG6JU

    AG6JU Guest

    I do not know about other countries, but for visiting Japan. there are several way of operating Ham radio in Japan. however, you must have either license from one of those countries who has reciprocal agreement or have Japanese Amateur Radio operator license.

    unfortunately, there is no reciprocal agreement between Japan and UK, so you must have license from one of those countries first. citizenship of operator does not have to be same as country issued Ham radio license.
    if you have license from one of those reciprocal countries, the easiest way to operate is operate as guest operator of Personally licensed station or club stations. but, operate as guest operator, you must be accompanied by station licensee. and operating privilege is less than either guest station 's license and operator, equivalent Japanese license class set by reciprocal agreement.

    you can become club member of club station, but it require paperwork to register as club member. or get your own call sign. but, this require having station equipment which are type accepted by Japanese standard. your foreign model FT-817 does not qualify as type accepted model, because it is different than Japanese model, and it doe snot have type acceptance mark.

    sound complicated ?, yes, it is complicated even for Japanese.

    and in Japan, it is against the law to have operational radio transmitter, which you do not posses License for. but, if the radio is not operational, it is OK ( in BOX, no battery, not assembled, not connect to antenna, no cable attached )
  4. KB3VWG

    KB3VWG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'd suggest you check and verify with China and "varions Middle East countries' " radio leagues before entering. Be sure you have in your possession your license; and make sure your radio is approved by whatever communications body giving such approval. Also, have copies of any comunication with their radio league.

    Also, as AG6JU noted, I've heard before that it's illegal in Japan to be in possession of a transmitter which you are not licensed for. Their licensing scheme is different, as you must have both an operator and/or station license. Japanese station licenses often specify the particular radio to be used (unless the UK has a recriproical agreement).

    You may not simply exprience "extended delays," you may be questioned as to why you have such complex recreational equipment if you are entering the country on business, if have you pre-planned to have a QSO with another station, is that station familiar with your business mission, inquiries about if you will use business-sponsored housing or vehicles to base your station, your affiliation with members of the nation's radio league, what you did with the equipment in the previous country, etc. You may even be questioned as to your business mission; if that is an issue for your company, you might want to reconsider.

    Consider the word "customs" at the very basic level. It may not be the other nation's custom to mix business with pleasure; and you may be questioned about that, it may also be illegal to enter a nation on business and carry out such complex recreational activities. Lastly, the worst case sernario is that your equipment may be sezied at the port-of-entry, you might be questioned about these things in the local language and/or items you're carring are illegal to import, so verify before travel.


  5. AG6JU

    AG6JU Guest

    easiest way for visitor to operate Ham Radio in Japan is

    #1 get a license from one of the countries who has reciprocal agreement such as USA. Higher the class is better. your citizenship does not have to be same as licensed country, in this case USA, you can be even Japanese citizen and use foreign license. this is one of the difference from FCC rule.

    #2 make a friend, who will let you operate his station, he must be present with you while you operate his radio. ( you can operate your equivalent privilege and/or host station license , which ever is less. )

    this way you don't have to bring radio, to be precise, you are not allow to have own radio, since you don't have station license in Japan.

    other than that, there are a lot of activities in even at VHF / UHF band in Japan, so you will enjoy it very much.

  6. W7DKK

    W7DKK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'll be traveling soon to the UK for a canal boat vacation in the Bradford-on-Avon area. I'm a General in the USA so taking a HT appears to be legal. My questions are: What is the identifier (G#) in that area? I've been looking for it without any luck. Also, are there any daily or weekly nets in that area?

    Regarding your question: I've only taken my HT to Turkey and Canada. In neither case was the radio even looked at. I did have all the required paperwork just in case. US Customs suggested that I might want to carry proof of point of purchase such as a receipt with serial number so I don't get taxed returning to US. Applies to all expensive items.
  7. YD2KIT

    YD2KIT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice information...
  8. K5HRA

    K5HRA Ham Member QRZ Page

    AG6JU, so if I read your link correctly, as long as I have a valid US License, I don't need to apply for a JA reciprocal license, unless I want/need a "station license"? i.e. I just want to take my HT and nothing else? Next time I'm over there I will have to give this a try.
  9. G4CMY

    G4CMY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The prefix would be G (the numbers don't signify any area). If you ventured into Wales it would be GW, Scotland would be GM, Northern Ireland would be GI, Isle of Man would be GD

    I'm afraid I can't help with local nets but I'm sure you would be able to access a few repeaters around there.


  10. N7SMI

    N7SMI Ham Member QRZ Page

    All of the posts thus far are missing an extremely critical thing - the illegality of IMPORTING communications equipment. Yes, it may be legal for you to have a radio and operate it in another country (assuming you're properly licensed), but it is generally illegal to import uncertified radio equipment. The fines and potential jail time for importing illegal items can be significant.

    I will be traveling to SE Asia in the near future and researched this rather extensively. It is a very big NO NO in China and many other countries with punishments of up to months in jail to import almost any amateur radio equipment. China, for example, has a very small list of approved equipment (99% chance your rig isn't on the list). In some countries the customs forms specifically ask about communications equipment. I suppose you could not declare it and hope they don't inspect your luggage (or hope the inspectors don't know the laws or what they're looking at), but for me, the idea of losing my equipment at best, or spending time in an Asia jail or prison at worse, was enough for me to abandon my plans of taking my equipment there.
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