Laptops at foreign airports.

Laptops at foreign airports.

Laptops at foreign airports.

Answers to your questions about the news.
Nov. 23 2005 2:06 PM

Laptops at the Airport, Part 2

Do you have to take out your computer at foreign airports?

Lax laptop security in the international skies. Click image to expand.
Lax laptop security in the international skies

In yesterday's column, the Explainer asked readers about their experiences with airport security outside the United States. So, do you have to take out your laptop when you're in another country?

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

Not very often. Quite a few readers report being castigated for taking out their computers unnecessarily. (One quoted an airport guard in the U.K.: "That's the easiest way to spot an American.") Here's a summary of the results, based on the first few hundred responses.

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North America: Laptop screening is routine throughout Canada, where security personnel often swab computers for traces of explosives. (In some cases, you don't have to take out your laptop until after your bag goes through the X-ray machine.) Passengers at Canadian airports are sometimes asked to turn on their computers.

Europe: Very few countries in the EU require special screening for laptops. In general, you're more likely to be asked to take out your computer for trips to the U.S. than for trips within Europe. Readers report that checkpoints in Ireland tend to be very scrupulous, however, as are those in Belgium. Travelers report being asked to remove their computers from time to time in Austria, the Netherlands, Greece, and England. (Among the London airports, Heathrow tends to be stricter than Gatwick.) In the late 1990s, says one reader, German security asked to weigh his laptop to see if it matched manufacturer standards.

Asia: The Explainer's reader survey indicates that checkpoints in Japan seem to ask fewer than half of all passengers to remove and power up laptops. Other Asian countries are much more lax, and almost never give special attention to computers. Even Indonesia, which has been hit by a rash of terrorist bombings in the past few years, seems not to inspect laptops. According to one reader, India requires four separate security screenings for domestic flights to Kashmir, and that guards confiscate the batteries for all electronic devices for the duration of the flight.

Australia and New Zealand: Australia requires the removal of laptops in most cases. (A few years ago, you had to take out your batteries, too.) Airports in New Zealand sometimes ask passengers to turn on their computers and load up "Microsoft Word or something similar."

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Middle East: Airports in the Middle East rarely ask travelers to take out their computers. Readers gave mixed accounts of the procedures in Israel: About half said they sailed right through the checkpoints with their laptops securely in their carry-on baggage.

Readers report no special screening for laptops in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks everyone who wrote in with their travel experiences.