Crossing borders with Joplin

I'm looking for advice from other Joplin users.

I travel internationally with some frequency. When I do, I carry my phone with Joplin installed on it and my many thousands of notes. Sadly, the customs agents at a handful of prominent international borders are empowered to search digital devices, and can compel travellers to give up their device passwords.

I have nothing illegal in my Joplin but it does contain almost all of my digital life: private diary entries, notes about health issues, work stuff, and probably enough personal information to steal my identity. In short, it's not something that I would like others to browse or have it copied off my device to be used who knows how.

Up to now, what I've done is uninstall Joplin before travel and then reinstall and re-sync after arriving at my destination. This is annoying for a variety of reasons: it takes forever (at least overnight) even with fast internet, I have no access to my notes while en route, and it is very impractical when travelling to locations with slow internet.

I am curious how others handle this? Do you run the risk of exposing your digital lives when travelling internationally? Do you do what I do? Do you leave the benefits of Joplin behind when you travel? Do you have some other approach?


I travel between the US and South Asia about once a year, but I've never thought about digital security. I've never had anyone ask to see any of my electronic devices (I have Joplin on my PC, phone and Kindle Fire). Has it happened to you? If so, which airport or border crossing? I've lived abroad and travelled internationally for 20+ years, but this has never happened to me. And the slowness of syncing means that I'd never consider uninstalling Joplin before travelling. Maybe you can just hide the app and delete all shortcuts to the app while traveling.

Interesting question! I wasn’t aware of the problem, because I travelled only within the European Union since I use Joplin, and there I had no real border checks.

And I have to admit, the only solution I can imagine would be a cloud-based service, so you would only need to delete app so no one has access to the data via your advice. But that is not what Choplin can be.

Which leads me to another question: I suppose you use a password manager. How do you hide that to officers at boarders?

Complicated issue, since Joplin is lacking a web client. To ease your pain a little bit, I would recommend to speed up the sync process by;

  1. Reducing the days of "Note History" kept or even competely dissabling the setting (Note History | Joplin)
  2. Avoiding downloading attachments "Synchronization" > "Attachment download behavior" > "Auto" or "Manual"
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You could try syncing to file system and using this as backup. Better to test it first though

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Another idea, doesn't android have an option to back up an app's data? (or was that for all the apps only?)
Maybe restoring from that would be quicker than re-syncing.

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Thank you, all!

Hasn't happened to me but it is not unheard of when entering the US. For example, see here and here. Other countries with similar policies include Australia, Canada, and China.

My password manager's database is encrypted. Having access to my phone would not give an adversarial party access to my passwords.

I knew about the attachment setting but did not know that note history may affect sync speed. Does that mean that when syncing the app downloads all note versions for the last X days?

Aha, this sounds like a great idea! So, disable the cloud sync, enable FS sync, sync to FS, uninstall the app, travel, reinstall, sync from FS, and then switch back to cloud sync? Do I have this right? This would never have occurred to me.

This sounds like a good idea too. I will have to test it.

Now that I think of it, I am staring to suspect it may cause issues, especially if you change any notes on the sever (e.g. from another client) before reinstalling the app.

Best to try this at home first, backing up your data first.