Customs infraction costly. Where ITN subscribers traveled in 2017.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the June 2018 issue.
Rick Steves, a longtime supporter of ITN. Photo by Dave Irving

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 508th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine.

We got a letter from Dave Irving of Media, PA, who wrote, “ITN Contributing Editor Rick Steves gave two travel talks in the Philadelphia area on Feb. 26. I spoke to him about travel media/magazines, and we agreed that ITN provides the best anecdotal information about ‘real travel experiences’ when compared to the glossy-format travel magazines.

“His opinion is confirmed by his ‘thumb up’ in the enclosed photo.”

Thanks for the photograph, Dave.

Rick’s column has been running in ITN since the February 1998 issue. Back then, his column was called “Europe Through the Back Door,” which was the title of his very first travel guidebook.

His column “Rick Steves’ Europe” appears in most issues of ITN now, but he actually distributes one article per week, and subscribers can read the additional articles on ITN’s website. (On our homepage at, go to “Departments,” then “Columns.”

I have a caution/reminder for travelers.

Be very aware of what you’re carrying when exiting the plane after an overseas flight.

An American woman who flew to Denver from Paris was fined $500 when a Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) agent found an apple in her carry-on. The apple had been given to her during the flight as part of a meal, and she had decided to save it for later. It was still in the airline’s resealable plastic bag that it had come in.

Upon going through Customs, she did not declare the apple to the officer when asked if she was carrying any food items. In a random search of her bag, the officer then discovered the fruit.

A Delta spokesperson said that fruit given out during flights is meant to be eaten on board the aircraft and also reminded passengers to always follow CBP rules, which would include declaring any food items, even those received during the flight. 

A couple of CORRECTIONS before I get into this month’s main topic —

• Peter Calingaert of Chapel Hill, NC, and Tony Leisner of Tarpon Springs, FL, both pointed out that the reader’s letter about his tour of the Balkan states Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia was incorrectly titled “The Baltics with Original World” (May ’18, pg. 29).

This oversight by ITN’s editors appears to be an annual tradition. The same Balkans/Baltics error slipped by in the March 2017 issue, page 59.

• In the Travel Brief “Swiss Waterfall Climb” (May ’18, pg. 64), there were one too many hyphens in the URL. The actual website is

You’re reading the June issue, which means it’s time to announce the results of our “Where Were You in 2017?” poll. In a tradition started by ITN’s founding publisher, the late Armond Noble, at the beginning of each year we ask all of our subscribers to report the countries and territories they traveled to (outside of their home countries) in the previous calendar year, and we reward a lucky few for doing so.

For 2017, we got a great response. People must be traveling more than ever. In sending in her list, Susan Greek of Corona, California, wrote, “Thanks for compiling this list again. I always enjoy seeing where others traveled.”

Let’s, along with Susan, look at the numbers.

As for geographical regions, subscribers reported being in European countries 43% of the time, the most of any region. In second place was Asia/Middle East, accounting for 20% of the visits made to individual countries. Third most visited was North & Central America & the Caribbean, at 12%, then Africa, 11%, South America, 6%, and Oceania, 3%. Nonsovereign territories (areas that are semiautonomous but administered by ruling countries elsewhere) accounted for an additional 5% of places visited.

The stats in this next paragraph are what always impress me.

ITN readers visited an average of 6.6 foreign destinations apiece in 2017, which is up from the average of 5.9 in 2016. Readers who visited 1 to 4 destinations made up 39.9% of the respondents, while 39.1% each went to 5-9 destinations, 18.8% went to 10-19 destinations, and 2.2% went to 20 or more destinations. One reader racked up 31 destinations (8 of which were nonsovereign territories).

So what country/destination is the leader for having the most visits by ITN subscribers last year? For the second year in a row, it was France, with 19.9% of respondents going there. In second place was Italy (18.3%), then Canada (18%).  The United Kingdom, which shared 2016’s top spot with France, took a fall to fourth in 2017, with 17.2% reporting visiting it, followed by Germany (16.1%), Spain (15.5%), Mexico (12.2%), Croatia (11.1%), India (10%) and Netherlands (9.4%), to round out the top 10.

Here’s the breakdown for the remainder of the countries ITN subscribers reported visiting: 11. Switzerland, 12. China, 13. Iceland, Norway and Portugal, 16. Austria, 17. Chile and South Africa, 19. Argentina and Thailand, 21. Greece, 22. Hungary and Poland, 24. Australia, Denmark, Montenegro, Russia, Singapore, UAE and Vietnam, 31. Albania, Colombia, Ireland and Japan, 35. Indonesia and Morocco, 37. Malta, Panama, Slovenia and Sweden, 41. Estonia, 42. Belgium and Bosnia & Herzegovina, 44. Cambodia, Czechia, Myanmar and New Zealand, 48. Cuba, Finland, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Tajikistan and Zimbabwe, 54. Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Botswana, Israel/Palestinian Territories, Kyrgyzstan and Serbia, 60. Costa Rica, Jordan, Tanzania and Uzbekistan, 64. Bulgaria, Laos, Philippines, Romania, South Korea and Turkmenistan, 70. Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Latvia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Monaco, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Zambia, 82. Georgia, Guatemala, Kenya, Lithuania, Nicaragua and Uruguay, 88. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Fiji, Oman, San Marino and Turkey, 95. Andorra, the Bahamas, Belarus, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Grenada, Liechtenstein, Mozambique, Namibia, St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago, 106. Belize, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Moldova, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Sudan and Tunisia, 114. Cyprus, Honduras, Rwanda, Swaziland (eSwatini), Uganda, Ukraine and Vanuatu, 121. Bhutan, Bolivia, Cameroon, El Salvador, Guyana, Madagascar, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Suriname and Vatican City, 131. Brunei, Lesotho, Malawi, Mongolia, Nepal and Seychelles, 137. Bahrain, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Mauritius, Qatar and Tonga, 147. Bangladesh, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Mauritania, Palau, Samoa, São Tomé & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Togo and, finally, 161. Afghanistan, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Gabon, Guinea, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Republic of the Congo, the Gambia, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Venezuela.

In our poll of places visited back in 2016, out of the 196 sovereign states on The ITN Official List of Nations, there were 27 that no one reported visiting that year. For 2017, there were only eight countries that nobody reported visiting. 

Specifically, Mali and Yemen were not visited for the fourth year in a row, and people also avoided Iraq (third year) and Libya (second year). It has been more than five years since an ITN reader has claimed to have visited Syria. And Nauru, North Korea and South Sudan are countries that were visited in 2016 but not in 2017.

That leaves 19 countries that readers skipped in 2016 but did visit last year: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lebanon, Liberia, Mauritania, Moldova, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tunisia.

You can consider Belarus to be this year’s biggest riser, as it jumped from having been not visited at all in 2016 to the number-95 spot, but don’t neglect Malta, which went from 93 to 37! Other strong showings came from the Dominican Republic, leapfrogging 25 places (120 to 95), and Belgium, up 15 slots (57 to 42). 

Meanwhile, Jamaica fell 61 places in 2017, from position 76 to 137, and Australia dropped in level from 9 to 24, knocking it out of the top 10.

In the following list of nonsovereign territories reported being visited by ITN subscribers, each territory is followed by (in parentheses and italics) its administering country.

The most-visited was Greenland (Denmark), listed by 3.3% of respondents. It was followed by 2. French Polynesia (France), 3. Aruba (Netherlands), 4. Bonaire (Netherlands), Curaçao (Netherlands) and French Guiana (France), 7. Falkland Islands (UK), Gibraltar (UK) and Turks & Caicos (UK), 10. Azores (Portugal), Canary Islands (Spain) and Cayman Islands (UK), 13. British Virgin Islands (UK), Faroe Islands (Denmark), Madeira (Portugal), Réunion (France) and South Georgia (UK), 18. Martinique (France), Saint-Pierre & Miquelon (France) and Sint Maarten (Netherlands), 21. Bermuda (UK), Cook Islands (New Zealand), Guernsey (UK), Isle of Man (UK), New Caledonia (France), Niue (New Zealand), Pitcairn Island (UK), Saint-Martin (France) and Saint-Barthélemy (France), 30. Jersey (UK), Mayotte (France) and Svalbard (Norway).

Two regions that do not (officially) belong to any single country were also visited by ITN subscribers: Antarctica (with 1.9% going there) and Western Sahara (0.55%).

OK, that was the meat and potatoes. Now for dessert!

We’re giving out prizes this year to eight people who participated in our poll, with the winners picked in random drawings. In first place, winning a 3-year extension to her ITN subscription, is Janet Campbell of West Wareham, MA. In second place, winning a 2-year extension, is Günther Eichhorn of Scottsdale, AZ. In third place and getting a year’s extension are Nanci & Keith Alexander of Lexington, KY. 

Five subscribers have each won an ITN mug (perfect for imbibing hot drinks from exotic locales): Ellen Rado of Hollis, NY; Richard & Susan Slaymaker of Clinton, MS; Don Horel of Thousand Palms, CA; Jean Frazier of Scarborough, ME, and Anne Gabriel of Olympia, WA.

So the paragraphs above show where many of you have been. Perhaps our informal poll will inspire you to expand your travels. 

Knowing where our subscribers are going helps ITN staff in editorial decisions and also in promoting the magazine. As Mary Latta of Woodbridge, VA, noted with her list, “Hope this helps with your advertising.”

If you’re contacting a company that you read about in ITN, tell them that you saw their ad here or saw them mentioned here. (In ITN, the ads, themselves, are actually of interest, with so many announcing exciting trips!)

This seems like the right moment to introduce a few new ITN travel awards.

Among the couple dozen awards that ITN has been offering, we have a 100 Nations Award (you need to have set foot in 100 of the 196 on the list) and the Quarto Mondo Award (visit 49, a quarter of the total).

Eugene Schmitt III of Green Bay, WI, wrote (a while back), “All those awards but not one for someone who has traveled to all 196. Not a simple feat, it took me 50 years to do it. Some of the countries were not that easy to get into, and a few I was glad to get out of!”

For those privileged few, we now offer the ITN Been There, Done That! (All Sovereign Nations) Award.

Henri J. Mackor of West Warwick, RI, wrote, “I think it would be neat to have an award for having visited 150 countries.”

Agreed! We’re calling it the ITN Nifty One-Fifty Nations Award.

And Phyllis Bettelheim of Temecula, CA, once wrote, “I would like to suggest a new award, ‘The ITN Third of the World! Award,’ for those having visited 66 countries.” Done.

If you think you may have qualified for any of these, visit and go to “Resources” and “Awards,” then click on any of the above-mentioned awards to find The ITN Official List of Nations. Print out a copy of the list (or copy the list on page 56 in this issue) and check off the countries you have been to at some time in your life. (You’re on the honor system; we do not demand proof.)

If you’ve been to the required number of countries for your chosen award, put the checked list into an envelope addressed to ITN, as instructed, along with your payment of $7 (for each award). You may enclose a check, payable to ITN, or credit card info (Visa, M/C and AmEx accepted; include card number, expiration date and signature). 

You will be sent an 8½"x11", framable certificate personalized with your name, and your name will be printed in the magazine along with the names of other award recipients.

You had fun doing the traveling, but it took some doing. Get some recognition for it!