This is a little note about crossing by ferry in a splitter van from Holyhead (UK) to Dublin (EU), then driving to Belfast (Northern Ireland) and taking the ferry to Cairnryan.

Remember to pack a hi vis and carry a form of ID!

Assuming you’ve got your carnet sorted (we use ROCKIT Cargo), you’ll want to head to the Holyhead Interim Inland Border Facility (24 hours) to get your carnet stamped out of the UK.

When I visited the area was under construction, so I won’t post any photos incase it looks different in a few months. Head to the front gate and say you’re processing a carnet. Customs took about 20 minutes to process our carnet, it wasn’t very busy. I processed it the night before travel as I was staying in Holyhead overnight to catch the morning ferry.

Parc Cybi, Holyhead LL65 2YQ

When you arrive in Dublin, head to T11 customs office in Dublin Port (24 hours). They’ll stamp your carnet into Ireland.

T11 customs office

9Q4Q+88 Dublin 3, Ireland

For export back to the UK, visit Yard 3 Customs Export. You’re looking for the small cabin next to the entry point. They’ll stamp your carnet out of Ireland

Yard 3 Customs Export

3 Promenade Rd, North Dock, Dublin, Ireland

If you’re travelling to Northern Ireland and then Cairnryan, you have two options on how to process your carnet. Cairnryan doesn’t have a customs facility, so processing is done by customs in Belfast on behalf of Cairnryan.

Option 1 is to visit Yard 3 Customs Export as above to export from Ireland, and then Custom Clearance Belfast to import into the UK.

Option 2 is just to visit Custom Clearance Belfast. They can process your carnet out of Ireland and into the UK (on behalf of Cairnryan as mentioned above) in one stop.

Custom Clearance Belfast

21 Duncrue St, Belfast BT3 9AQ

That’s it! It’s all relatively simple and the customs staff I interacted with knowledgable and friendly. For reference I was travelling on Stena Line regular passenger service.

If you’re a UK artist (or working with a UK artist) and are planning to tour in Canada, here are some quick tips to help you make a seamless border crossing.

You’ll need a carnet if you’re travelling with commercial goods. If you’re not sure what a carnet is check out our post on Carnet FAQ’s.

Valid Passports

Every member of the band will need to have a valid passport that does not expire in the next 6 months and has at least 5 blank pages.

In some cases American citizens can cross the Canadian border by land with an Enhanced Drivers License (EDL).

Letter of Invitation

The promoter or festival where the artist is playing needs to provide you with a Letter of Invitation. This letter is presented to the custom officials at the Canadian border to verify that you are travelling as a performing artist and are contracted for these shows.

To apply for this you will need to send passport scans of all members of the touring party to your point of contact at the promoters agency or festival. They will send you the Letter of Invitation digitally once completed.

For more information on this please read the official documentation here.

Crossing the Border

Print your Letter of Invitation and a Personnel Manifest (a list of names of the band and crew with corresponding passport numbers). If members are arriving on seperate flights / transports, make sure that they each have access to a copy of both documents.

Present these documents to the customs officer at your Port of Entry. They will check the letter against their records and allow you into the country to perform.

NOTE: If crossing the border by land, not all Ports of Entry can process a carnet. Make sure to cross over the major Ports of Entries (for freight), instead of some of the smaller ones

Selling Merch in Canada

If you’re travelling with merch, declare the goods at the Canadian Border. You’ll need a list of inventory of your merchandise and the wholesale price for each item. You’ll pay a sales tax of 5% to Canadian customs.

Thinking of building a compact mixing console solution for your band?

Arie van der Poel and monitor engineer Justin Grealy discuss how to build a compact mixing console for touring artists. A small footprint can save money on transport, and provides artists with greater flexibility on the road.

In the video we describe how to setup up 2 Behringer X32 cores and an S32 Stagebox. One is used for monitors, and the other for Front of House (FOH), with dual tablets used for control. An Extreme Waves Server and X-WSG card provides connection to Waves Multirack for extra flexibility. The entire rig is build to fly, at a combined weight of about 23 kilograms.

This talk is from the PLASA Focus Leeds trade show in 2018. We use a similar rig now, but with one X32 Core operating monitors and Waves LV1 operating Front of House (FOH). We’ll do a breakdown on this rig soon!

Check out the video below for more info on our compact rig:

Need a band van hire for your upcoming tour in the USA? Here are some of our favourite companies to rent from.

Some things to note:

  • Liability insurance is compulsory when driving in America. This is included in some USA residents motor insurance, but it might not cover vans used for commercial work. If you don’t have this insurance you’ll need to take out the companies policy, so make sure the company you are using can provide this
  • If you need to tow a trailer, be aware that not all van rental companies will cover towing under their insurance

For tips on touring in the USA, check out our blog post Quick Tips For Touring In The USA

North America


Bandago is on of the best van providers for touring musicians in North America. They have 13 locations in the United States, which is a life saver if you have problems with the van (breakdown, chip in the windshield etc) you’re never too far from an office where they can get you a replacement van.

They have 12 passenger Mercedes Sprinter splitter vans and 15 passenger Ford Transits available. Vans can be fitted with a tow hitch for an additional $10 / day, and Bandago can also provide liability insurance for international drivers.

Green Vans

Green Vans have locations in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and service the Boston & NYC areas including all major airports via delivery.

They have a selection of 15 seat vans (without cargo space) and can be fitted with a tow hitch. They’re great value for money and come out cheaper for a longer tour than companies like Bandago.


U-Haul has hundreds of offices around North America. In our opinion you can’t go wrong with U-Haul if you’re renting a trailer for your tour (about $20 USD / day). They also rent cargo vans.

If you are towing with U-Haul, you may need to purchase a pad lock and a light adapter for the brakes / indicator lights on the trailer. Ask your van rental company if they have any spare light adapters and padlocks for U-Haul trailers. They often have spares and could save you $40 (cost of new parts from U-Haul)


Turo is the worlds largest car sharing marketplace (peer to peer rental). You can find great deals on vans here that will be cheaper that the usual suspects, and Turo also can provide lability insurance for your drivers.

Captain Morgan Touring (New York / Los Angeles)

Captain Morgan Touring supplies backline and vans (15 seater) in New York and Los Angeles. Ben (owner) is awesome and helpful, and can probably do you a better deal than the major players, so worth giving him a call!

Alamo Car Rental

Alamo are good for fly shows when you need to pick up and drop off at an airport. They rent 15 passenger vans, and 7 passenger minivans and can provide liability insurance.

West Coast (California)

Sprinter Rentals (Los Angeles)

Sprinter Rentals in Los Angeles can provide 12 and 15 seat Mercedes Sprinter and Cargo vans.

Slate Van Rental (Los Angeles / Las Vegas)

Slate Van Rental has locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They offer 8, 12, and 15 person passenger vans as well as cargo vans.

Van Rental Center (Los Angeles)

VRC has 8, 11, 12, and 15 passenger and cargo vans available for hire from their offices in Los Angeles. They have weekly and monthly rental prices available on their website.

Los Angeles Van Rentals (Los Angeles)

Los Angeles Van Rentals have Mercedes Sprinters and 8, 12, and 15 passenger vans available for rent.

East Coast (New York)

VTI Van Rentals (Brooklyn, NYC)

VTI have a selection of vans and SUV’s available for hire. They do not support towing.

Sprinter Van Rental NYC (Queens / Manhattan, NYC)

15 Passenger and Mercedes Sprinter vans available for rent in Queens and Manhattan.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas on your next band van hire in the USA! Drop a comment if we’ve missed any of your favourite companies.

First time touring in the USA? Here are some quick tips and gotchas from the Tour Managers at Chuckwalla Touring.

Looking to rent a van? Check out our blog post Hiring a Van for Tour in the USA

Advancing Shows

In your advance specify you want fees wired to your booking agent and include their details otherwise you’ll end up with checks. There’s a wire fee for bank transfers in the United States so promoters assume you want a check to avoid it but it’s a hassle for international acts.


You’ll need an ATA Carnet to enter / exit the USA with equipment. It’s like a passport for your equipment to clear customs without paying duties and import taxes on anything that will be re-exported within 12 months.

Check out our blog post on Carnet FAQ’s and our case study on entry and exit with a carnet for more information.

Crossing into Canada

If you are travelling on a non USA / Canadian passport you won’t need a work visa to play shows in Canada, but the promoter for your first show on each crossing into the country will need to write you an invitation letter which you will print and present to the Canadian border officials upon entry.

If you’re driving, the border crossings in and out of Canada can get really busy during the day. If possible, we like to cross in the evenings or early in the mornings after shows. Typically the customs offices are less busy for your Carnet, and there is little to no traffic.

Travel Insurance

Get it. Health care costs in the USA are no joke! Often you can get a coverage for the whole band for the duration of the tour that might end up cheaper than individual policies.

Domestic flights / Airlines

Where possible, Southwest is a great airline to book your domestic travel on when touring as your first 2 pieces of checked luggage are free with your ticket.

  • Southwest is first come first serve, so make to sure to check in ASAP otherwise you might loose your seats or space for checked luggage
  • Early check in can be purchased. Often this is worth the extra cost as you will get priority boarding and be able to select the best seats for your band members before the plane fills up. Super important when your band are carrying instruments like violins / horns / guitars etc to make sure there is space in the overhead lockers

Travelling With Instruments

If your band is travelling with instruments that they do not want to check in the luggage hold, it’s good to know this FAA rule, called The Final Rule.

This rule requires that carriers must allow a passenger to carry into the cabin and stow a small musical instrument, such a violin or a guitar, in a suitable baggage compartment, such as the overhead bin or under the seats in accordance with FAA safety regulations.

In other words, the airline must try to fit the instruments on the plane in the overhead luggage lockers or wardrobes before they are allowed to force you to gate check them.

I’ve gate checked horns, guitars etc and touch wood they have been fine, but it’s always good to avoid if possible.

A good line to try if you’re having trouble taking instruments on board is:

“Sir / Ma’am I looked up the model of this aircraft online and noticed that it had a luggage wardrobe. Would it be possible to store my instrument in there?”


If you’re driving on tour in the USA, here are some fast tips

  • Looking to rent a van? Check out our blog post Hiring a Van for Tour in the USA
  • Always have cash in the van or bus for Toll booths, most do not accept cards
  • All states in America allow you to turn right on a red signal at a traffic lights, but watch out for New York and Montreal which are two major North American cities which ban right on red
  • You don’t need always an international driving permit to rent a car / van, see here for states that require an IDP
  • All van rentals require that you have a liability insurance. This is included in some USA residents motor insurance, but it might not cover vans used for commercial work. If you don’t have this insurance you’ll need to take out the companies policy, so make sure the company you are using can provide this
  • Watch your timezones! You’ll be driving across timezones so make sure to account for this when calculating your drives
  • If you see a police officer in a lay-by on a highway, you must change lanes to give them one lanes gap. Apparently this is a traffic offence!
  • Bandago are great for van rental on longer tours as they have van stock in lots of cities around the country. If you break down or smash a window they’ll be able to get a replacement van to you faster than other companies
  • Watch out for caps on miles / day on your van hires. It’s rare that a hire comes with unlimited miles in the USA
  • If you need a trailer, rent from U-Haul. they’ll run you about $20 USD a day and are good quality. Beware that not all van rental companies will cover towing under their insurance, so make sure to double check (Bandago does!)
  • If you are towing with U-Haul, you will need to purchase a pad lock and a light adapter for the brakes / indicator lights on the trailer. Ask your van rental company if they have any spare light adapters and padlocks for U-Haul trailers. They often have spares and could save you $40 (cost of new parts from U-Haul)
  • One way hires can be stupidly expensive, but if they are unavoidable try to get quotes from Bandago for your van, and SIR Backline for your backline. They both have locations all over the states which can help logistically

Mobile Phones and Data

Even if you have a great roaming plan on your current phone contract, it’s good to have a USA number for promoters to call.

We like to head straight to the local T-Mobile store after landing in the USA to pick up a pre-paid sim card. You can get unlimited talk, text and data for $40 USD / Month, and everything can be set up in store. These sim plans will also work in Canada.


  • Keep cash on hand for tips! General rule of thumb is 15 %, but this can change from state to state.

Note: All Chuckwalla staff and employees are fully vaccinated against COVID 19

After a hiatus from touring in the United States due to the world wide pandemic, we jumped back in to the fray in December 2021 for a run of East and West coast dates.

The tour presented some challenges, as there were mixed vaccination status’s between band members. We also had vaccination passports from multiple countries.

During the advancing phase I learned a few key things around touring in the USA at this time.


  • PCR test: A nasal swab conducted by a third party that typically takes 24 hours to return a result from a laboratory. 
  • Antigen test (Rapid): A different kind of nasal swap, that returns a result in a matter of hours
  • OTC (Over the counter) tests: Tests that can be purchased from pharmacies that you can conduct, they will give you results within 15 minutes

Entry to the USA:

As of December 2021, the USA requires a negative Antigen (Rapid) or PCR test conducted by a third party within 1 day of your departure flight. This can be tricky to organise depending on your country of origin. Check in with any band members that their tests are within the 1 day time frame specified by the government, and call their airlines to confirm current regulations.

Touring with fully vaccinated artists is easy!

If you and the musicians you work with are fully vaccinated, there are very few regulations for performing artists in the USA. You may be asked to wear masks when not on stage or in the green room, and venues will ask to see vaccination certificates on entry, though in practice even this is quite relaxed.

Touring with unvaccinated artists is possible:

The most important thing to note is to be open and honest about this situation in your advance. All the venues and promoters on our tour were able to accomodate unvaccinated crew members. Only one promoter presented a strong opinion on this matter, the rest were relaxed and easy to deal with.

A general rule of thumb is that an unvaccinated band member needs to provide a PCR test from 48-72 hours before doors to the promoter.

Logistically this can be quite tricky, especially if your routing between cities is tight timing wise. Here are some tips if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Many USA airports have rapid PCR testing available on site that return a result within 45 minutes to 2 hours. This comes at a cost of around $250-$350 USD (eg. XpresCheck)
  • Every city has multiple locations where you can get rapid test results (including PCR tests) within 24 hours (next day by 2pm), though in practice our results would turn up around 2 hours after the test was taken. These cost around $60 – $90 USD.

These results can be emailed to you for proof, or you can request a hard copy. All the promoters on this tour were happy with emailed proof of a negative result.

Some promoters / venues accept rapid over the counter tests as proof, and can even provide these tests for you upon entry to the venue.

Other promoters / venues do not mind that any of your crew may be unvaccinated and will not ask for a test.

General COVID courtesy:

Be kind, wear a mask whenever you are working alongside venue staff.

Have some OTC rapid tests available for band members who might feel under the weather, or for when new band members jump on the tour.

If anyone has had exposure to COVID 19, remove them from the tour immediately for at least 5 days and retest before they join the tour again.

Ways to limit exposure to COVID 19:

On this tour I limited green room access to band only to limit possible exposure to COVID 19.

If a band member had a special request for someone to be granted backstage access, that person would have to be vaccinated and provide a negative over the counter test result.

Other than the above, there is only so much you can do. There is a risk of exposure at any live event, or flight that you take. The members of this band were ok with that risk, and many had already contracted COVID earlier in the year.

That’s about it! Pop a comment if you have any questions.