There are a number of physical formats you can consider when buying gold:
Buying gold on credit or speculating on the future price can lead to getting yourself in a significant financial jam.
Instead, put some money to the side that you're sure you're not going to need in a short time horizon, and use that to invest.
If you're not buying an huge amount of gold, you should aim to maintain direct control over it at your home or other property.
If you're investing heavily, to the point where you need a safe alternative location to store it, be sure to go somewhere like Switzerland with strong property rights. It's key to make sure they can't lend or hedge using your stash.
Having liquid gold on-hand and ready in the event of a crisis is the best hedge. Being invested in gold ETFs is fine depending on your objectives, but if you're truly hedging against unforeseen market collapses, you want physical metal in your possession.
It's important to comply with the law when it comes to buying gold, and knowing what they are goes a long way.
Under a certain dollar amount, there's no need to declare (which may be attractive to some), but once you hit a threshold you will need to (and should) declare your holdings.