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Machetes and Turtles: People Tell Us About Stuff They Snuck Past Airport Security

"I didn't want to throw that gram of cocaine away. My grandmother lived through the war and raised me to never waste things."

This article originally appeared on VICE Spain As hard as I try, I can't help but panic every time I go through airport security. Seeing me sweat, you'd think I was smuggling ten machine guns, 20kg of coke and a quartered corpse. It's usually nothing, though all that stress felt justified one time, when I had accidentally left a Swiss Army Knife in my rucksack and had to part with it at security.

Those security checks are there for very good reason, but they don't always work like they're supposed to. I spoke to six people who were luckier than I, about the most ill-advised things they've managed to sneak past airport security.



"I've carried drugs through airport security so many times – cocaine, marijuana, LSD, hash, everything. Most of the time, I would walk straight through with them in my pocket, without anyone noticing. After you put your luggage through the scanners, they hardly check your person. Once, on a trip back from Portugal to Spain, I went through security with a gram of coke on me. I had been to Portugal to party with friends over Christmas, and we had a lot of gear left over. I didn't want to throw it away. My grandmother lived through the war and raised me to never waste things."

– Javier*


"I was a volunteer tutor with an Esplai for years – which is like the Scouts, in Spain. At the time, I owned a very large knife – almost the size of a machete – that I used on excursions and for certain outdoor activities. During the summers, we would take the kids to camp in the mountains.

One year, as I packed for a summer camp in Sevilla, I didn't notice the knife was still in my backpack from a previous trip. When we arrived at the airport in Barcelona, I went through security without any problems; the scanner didn't detect it at all. It wasn't until I was catching my return flight in Seville that the guard at security asked me to please remove the item I had in my backpack. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I calmly started taking out all my things and, suddenly, as if materialising from nowhere, there was this large knife. I obviously had to leave it with security, but I still can't believe I managed to take it on the flight from Barcelona."


– Marc*

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"I was 12 years old and visiting Barcelona with my parents. One afternoon, I went for a walk on Las Ramblas and saw someone selling tiny turtles for €5. I had that much in pocket money, so I bought one.

When I got back to the hotel, my parents freaked out. I took the turtle with me to the airport in a plastic bowl. Before going through security, I went to the bathroom, emptied the tank and put it through the scanner empty. I hid the turtle inside one of my dad's cigarette packs. We went through security and boarded the plane without a problem. I guess they didn't search me because I was a 12-year-old boy with his family. Once on the plane, I went to the bathroom and refilled the tank with water. That's how the turtle went back with me to Argentina." – Tomás


"I'm an archaeologist, and a year ago we travelled to the province of Castellón in eastern Spain to restore a piece. As we were driving to the airport on our way back, we realised that our ticket home didn't include check-in luggage. In our bags, we had all kinds of different tools: scalpels, syringes, solvents and a variety of knives. When we reached security, the only thing that was taken from us was the pocketknife I had on me. Everything else in our suitcase made it through security and on to our flight."

– Mireia


"On a trip with five friends around Europe, we were in Bulgaria when we bought ten ninja stars, without any real consideration for how we were going to travel back with them. On our way back home, we didn't know where to put them. In the end, we decided to split the weapons between our five suitcases. I remember us hiding them between our underwear. At airport security, nobody said anything to us. In the end, the ninja stars arrived in Madrid safe and sound.”

– Alejandro



"A while ago at Seville airport, I was about to miss my flight, so they let me skip security all together. I was carrying a huge, black case that was almost bigger than me. It was so large, it probably wouldn't have fit through the scanner anyway.

There was nothing dodgy inside it, just a load of filming equipment – cameras, lenses, microphones – but I could have had anything in that case. After thinking it through, it frightened me just how easy it had been to get on the plane with that humongous case without anyone checking anything, just trusting my word for it."

– Maria

*Javier and Marc's names have been changed to protect their identity.