So You Want To Participate In a Comic Con Abroad: Part III
By Sonise Lumbaca
Welcome to our final series of Comic Con Travel Aboard articles. In our previous issues we covered the things you might want to consider when traveling abroad to a Comic Con; everything from picking the right Comic Con and booking a flight and lodging, to in country transportation and the Comic Con specific items you may want to consider bringing. This issue we will go over some important requirements to consider like observing local customs, considerations for selling merchandise abroad at Comic Cons and some areas of interest you will definitely want to keep at the forefront so that you aren’t caught in a bind.
As mentioned in the first two articles in this series, these considerations aren’t the end all be all answers, nor are they written in stone, but they can be quite insightful and provide some great planning options. The information we impart in this issue on comic con travel and participation abroad, like previously, is targeted towards Artist Alley participants; but there is plenty to pull from here for cosplayers, vendors and other types of participants who wish to pursue their adventures at Comic Cons abroad.
Time To Spend: All About The Currency
While many countries will take payment in the form of foreign currency, the U.S. dollar being sometimes the most recognized, in some instance this is not always the case. If you decide that you do not want to run up a credit card bill (Oh by the way the major credit card companies tend to be universally recognized abroad), then currency conversion may be your best option. This option may also allow you to manage your budget better (rather than the “unlimited” façade of the credit card). Also, at the Comic Con itself, chances are, the local will not be carrying your country’s currency to make purchases, so unless you enjoy math and have a calculator handy, you should probably consider carrying local currency on you. You have three common options of converting your currency for the destination of your travel; have it converted while you are still home, wait until you are abroad to make the exchange, or do it through an ATM while abroad. There are others options, but we are highlighting the three most frequently used by average travelers. One of these options is usually better than the other two only because you often will find that you get more money for the exchange. This happens on both ends of your travel. The best way to figure this out is by either checking with your local bank or the one abroad, checking at the currency exchange counters and or kiosk at the airport at your departure and or destination location, and then there is also always conducting a search on the internet.
If you decide to use your credit card instead, a word of caution with using it: If you decide to use it solely for your purchases abroad rather than using cash, consider making sure that you give advanced notice of your travel to your credit card company, and in some cases your bank. Nothing say “I’m stuck” like your credit card company denying a purchase because they think someone in Europe has stolen your identity and is trying to run up your bill with “free” stuff. It’s great that they are looking out for your identity and finances, but bad because you may end up having to “wash dishes” to pay for that meal you just ate, or worse, end up detained by local authorities. This leads us into our next consideration about understanding requirements for selling abroad.
The Cost of Doing Business
If you are intending to just show your work, network with other artists, and conduct general participation in a Comic Con abroad, in most cases all you need to do is just show up (and of course pay for access to the conventions). However, some countries require a bit more. See below for a list of some requirement examples. The list below is only a snap shot of examples that exist. We recommend that once you decide what country you intend to visit, you consider contacting an official for specific requirement.
· If you intend to sell artwork and other related products to the general public as an exhibitor, some countries require a work permit. In most cases, this can be obtained at the Port of Entry at your destination upon arrival.
· If you have an elaborate display (larger than a pop-up), some countries will require a work permit for you to set up the display, regardless of if you are selling something or not.
· Some items cannot be sold in certain countries. For example, many countries prohibit the foreign sales of anything that can be construed as pornographic in nature, weapons, and food.
· Some countries do not allow you to place orders at the convention and then ship the items later.
· In some countries exhibitors cannot take orders for, or sell goods made in that country (for example, exhibitors participating at conventions in Canada cannot sell Canadian made goods.
· Because of the tight knit community among Comic Con attendees and participants, this next items tends to be a nonissue, however, sometimes it is: Some countries require you to get insurance, or recommend you get your own insurance to recover items of theft or destruction because the promoter and the venue will not cover you.
· Find out if there are any tariffs on your product or trade barriers. Tariffs are usually paid to the customs authority of the country imposing the tariff. For example, in the United Kingdom, the HM Revenue & Customs collects payment.
· Some countries have a Tax ID requirement for tax collection. For example, in the United States, Massachusetts to be exact, Comic Cons are required to collects Sales Tax ID from its exhibitors at the convention and submit it to the Department of Revenue (DOR). This means that the exhibitors need to register with the Massachusetts DOR and collect sales tax on the products they sale. Not being a US citizen, this process can take at least ten weeks to obtain a tax ID.
As you can see, depending on which country you intend to travel abroad to and participate in their Comic Con, sometimes the process to sell aboard will most likely require some action on your part that involves filling out applications along with paying some sort of fee; while others may not require much at all. Your best bet is to consider getting this information straight from the Comic Con promoters or the country’s official website site where you can normally locate their business, commerce or revenue department. What’s important is making sure you identify the country’s requirements for sales, the requirements for reporting the sales you made abroad to your own country, and ensuring that you give yourself enough time in advance to meet the requirements if it requires more than paying a small fee at customs upon entry into a country. Don’t let this portion of your trip abroad discourage you, the reward for enduring the requirements could potentially be fruitful in the form of a new fan base, international recognition of your product and brand, and or your artwork and other products selling out in a new market.
Oh NO! I Have No Power!
You packed all of your required electronics like your phone, laptop, artist pad, and every other gadget requiring electricity to power it. So, you should be good to go correct? Wrong! Only if you purchased an international power adapter. Not every country and or region uses the same electricity standard. The voltage, frequency and plug itself is totally different from one country or region to the next. Now while some facilities abroad host universal outlets and accept plugs from multiple countries, not all of them do, so you have to ask yourself do you really want to take the chance of not being able to light up your Comic Con display (if this is part of your set up), or not have a charged phone which nowadays does everything for us to include operating as a navigation device (which tends to work perfectly abroad), and take credit card payments? Also, you don’t want to fry your devices because you plugged it into the wrong outlet. You may require a voltage converter to avoid this. The good news is that these power adapters (sold individually or as a group under the title of “Universal Adapters,” covering every region of the inhabitable globe), are not that expensive to purchase. Although some hotels carry them, these power adapters sometimes can be purchased abroad in city centers at electronic stores, and in some cases supermarket chains. But, we recommend that you consider buying them prior to your travel. We made a list below of some things to consider with regard to power adapters:
· Verify what type of plug you are going to need. A travel guide or a quick internet search can help in answering this.
· Verify the voltage and frequency of the outlets at your destination as you may need a voltage converter accessory.
· Consider purchasing the adapter prior to your trip. You may want to also consider buying a voltage converter as well just to have one since you never know when you will need it. That amazing coffee shop next to your hostel that doesn’t have the same voltage as your laptop may be a great place to hangout for a few hours to catch up on some administrative work after the day’s event concludes.
· When in contact with the Comic Con promoters, if you decide to send them a list of inquiries to ensure that your participation goes well, consider making sure to communicate your electrical needs.
· When in doubt, consider bringing backup power adapters and converters in the event you lose your adapter or forget to unplug your adapter from that amazing coffee shop we mentioned above.
Observing Local Laws and Customs
When traveling abroad, one thing to consider is understanding and observing local customs and laws. This is important because you don’t want to find yourself paying a heavy fine or worse, in jail, because you were doing what might be permissible in your country, but not in others. For example, did you know that there is a chewing gum ban in Singapore? It’s true. The ban was enacted in 1992 to prevent people from vandalizing properties with it and because the cost of cleaning it up and repairing damaged cleaning equipment increased maintenance costs. This law was eventually amended in 2004. Chewing gum for therapeutic, dental and nicotine received an exception and can now be purchased from a doctor or registered pharmacist (oh by the way, they take down the names of the buyers). This is just one of many examples of why it is important to research prior to traveling abroad. There are many ways to do this. The two we have found that works best and that you may want to consider doing is getting a travel book and or guide, and doing a thorough internet search online. With regard to the travel books, they can be borrowed from libraries or be purchase at major brick and mortars book stores and or ordered online. They cover everything from regional and local maps to restaurants, lodging, nightlife and attractions; and more importantly, a majority cover local customs. So do yourself a favor and research this prior to travel.
Save Time For Sightseeing
Sometimes making time for sightseeing seeing is easier said than done, especially if you are operating on a budget. But, this is something that you should really consider especially since you don’t know if and when you will get the chance to ever return to the country you traveled to again. When there are time and budget constraints involved, we have a few ideas for you to consider:
· Consider taking an overnight flight. Travel during this time may provide you time to sleep on the flight so that you are wide awake and ready to hit the ground running on a day excursion. For example, this tends to work well when traveling from the east coast of the United States to western European countries like Iceland and London where it will probably be morning upon your arrival. “Red Eye” flights like these also tend to be cheaper.
· Another flight related consideration is when determining what day to travel. As mentioned in Issue 6, you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollar, depending on the day you travel. Coupled with this is that you may end up having to arrive two day or three days before the Comic Con. This may be your only chance to go sightseeing as your return trip may end up being the day after the convention concludes.
· If you locate your lodging near the city center, you may find some great places to explore in walking distance like museums, botanical gardens, and other local and or tourist attractions.
· When booking your flight, sometimes along with bundling your hotel and car rental, you can get a good deal on some sightseeing excursions.
Make a List
The best things you can do in preparing to travel abroad is to make a list of all the considerations we have recommended from all three articles within this series. This is probably the easiest part of your planning since we have completed much of the work for you. All you have to do is go back read Issues 6-8 of this online magazine; which have many helpful details. By making a list, you will avoid in most cases forgetting steps and items you will need for your travel.
We have mentioned a lot of things to consider as you embark on your first con travel abroad and these considerations can become quite costly. Try not to let this overwhelm and or discourage you. Consider a piecemeal approach to preparing your trip and purchasing the items. If you decide that this month you plan to go abroad to a Comic Con in the future and the finances are a bit tight at the moment, be realistic and give yourself enough time to plan. You may need to start budgeting six months to a year out. Consider working on saving for the important stuff like getting a plane ticket, your lodging and your passport first if you don’t have one already (see SABMG!: The Magazine, Issue 6 for more details). Then work from there. Chances are, you won’t regret whatever amount of work you put into planning this trip.
We hope that you enjoyed and found this series of articles on Comic Con travel abroad to be very helpful and hope to see you abroad soon. Please let us know what you think at our Instagram account at @space_aliens_bad_mothers_guns or on Facebook. If you have anything to add about Con travel abroad to help out those who would like to give this adventure a try, please drop a comment as well. We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for stopping by!