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Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Virginia
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Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Our trip commences this weekend (!), and I always pick up rocks on my travels. However, someone told me that an American tour guide in Iceland told his group not to because of customs problems. I've never had this problem before. Frankly, I just pack them in my luggage and take them out when I get home. Has anyone else had problems like this? Thanks!

Gardabaer, Iceland
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1. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

This question can only be answered in full by US customs. We're working on a new, fresh batch of lava for you so wait your turn ;-)

People tend to have more problems because of the luggage weight limit and "heavy luggage" fees rather than customs. But then again, I've never imported rocks to the US so I don't know for sure.

Annandale, Virginia
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2. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

I also bring back rocks from travel.. I have them from all over the world and have never been questioned by US Customs. they aren't living, so there is a presumption that they will not carry back pathogens to harm the US crop market.. that's usually the biggest issue with bringing back things... that and whether they are items of cultural significance to the country they came from (antiquities). I wouldn't (and won't) hesitate to bring rocks back from Iceland.

I did see, however, one of my many websites of reading, that one site did have a sign that says "please don't take the lava rocks"... I think this was in a place where they put down a lava rock path on purpose, though.

Virginia
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3. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Thanks, Stef! I do plan to continue my collection!

Virginia
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4. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Thanks, Unnar! Yes, that fresh batch brewing is exciting! But I don't think we'll be able to get near it.......but who knows! As I told Stef below, I'll take my chances. I've never been stopped either. If I am, I'll be sure and come back here and tell you!

Hafnarfjordur...
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5. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Hi JanieSD.

I would like to deter you from picking rocks in Iceland, and here is why.

Professional guides and most people concerned about the big picture of Iceland have the "take nothing, leave nothing" policy. As a matter of a fact taking something natural ( even rocks ) from a protected area of any kind (national park, wilderness area etc.) is a criminal offence according to Icelandic laws nr. 60/2013, chapter X, paragraph 57, and Iceland's main attractions are just about all protected (ust.is/library/Skrar/Einstaklingar/Fridlyst-…).

I know you probably think that picking up a piece of rock on an island made of volcanoes is no big deal, so let me bring that into context. This year around 800.000 visitors come to Iceland (only 320.000 live here) and due to limited access to many sights this number of travelers is concentrated on rather few places, only a few of those have any rocks one would fancy bringing home to a collection. Let's be very modest and say only 10% of the 800.000 like to take a piece of volcanic Iceland home, that leaves 80.000 people picking rocks from isolated locations. We have had a serious travel industry for some decades now with rising a number of visitors each year, so let's estimate only 50.000 people on average pick rocks, for a decade. That's 500.000 people picking rocks from Iceland's prime locations.

We are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Let's keep that in mind so that this year we'll only have 79.999 visitors taking away rocks for their collection.

Hope you guys have fun :)

Boston...
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6. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

You gotta be kiddin.....right? Half the stores in Reykjavik sell stuff made from lava and with new lava flow replacing any lava taken in the last 500 years, I think tourist's are safe taking a small piece here and there.

Mountain View...
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7. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

You cannot take souvenirs from any National Park in the United States. It is against the law. Here is a passage from the NPS.gov site. It is time Iceland institutes similar regulations.

Q: May I take a rock from the cave home with me?

A: No. As with all National Parks, taking souvenirs of any kind is prohibited. If you see a rock or other object that interests you, it would probably interest someone else as well - please leave the object where you find it.

Edited: 05 September 2014, 22:55
Boston...
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8. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Difference is that lava is everywhere, not just in parks.

Hafnarfjordur...
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9. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

Hi Michael T.

This view is the problem. Sure we have more than enough rocks in Iceland to feed the craving of any lithology buff out there, but are they taken evenly across the country, maybe in the middle of the lava field or on top of a random mountain? The answer to that is a big NO. The mass of visitors is focused on isolated areas that have today started to show the wear and tear of it. Souvenir shops in Iceland are indeed selling these rocks, but they are "harvested" off the beaten track, from fresh lava fields outside of protected areas or more often from open pit mines. So the answer is that I am not kidding you.

voiceofgoa is on spot about the US model, and that is in state here in Iceland as I wrote earlier in the Icelandic law nr. 60/2013, chapter X, paragraph 57. In that sense there is no difference between Iceland and the US apart from the laws having a wider scope of areas protected from "souvenir collection" here in Iceland.

If you have the insatiable urge to take home souvenirs, don't be "one of those". Get them from the souvenir shop or somewhere off the beaten track, and make sure you're not in a protected area. Better yet, prop them up and take photos.

Hope this explains a bit the common view here in Iceland.

Reykjavik
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10. Re: Picking up rocks and lava chunks--Any probs with US customs?

The same applies to Hawaii: Non-stop lava flow producing what might be seen as a constant supply of lave but still it’s against the law to take home samples.

Totally support the view that taking stones and samples isn’t a good idea and should be stopped.