If you’ve ever watched any of those programs like Border Security, Homeland Security or Border Patrol you would’ve seen some really crazy things that people try to take with them when crossing the border or entering another country. If you want to know how to get through customs and NOT get busted, check out my list of prohibited and restricted items before you go.
Honestly, you’d think this would be a no brainer but people still seem to think they can do it.
Schedule I drugs – these substances or chemicals are determined as drugs with no current accepted medical use, and a high potential of abuse or risk.
Some examples are heroin, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), marijuana (cannabis) and ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine).
Although medicinal marijuana (cannabis) has now been legalised in many US states and some countries’ it is still a strict no no to have it in your possession when travelling overseas or across the border (e.g. US to Canada) even with a medical exemption or doctors’ certificate.
The penalties for drug possession or trafficking is severe. Best case scenario is thousands of dollars in fines and years of imprisonment. Drug offences are punishable by death in over 35 countries’ and territories worldwide. Some popular tourist destinations which have capital punishment for such offences include Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Singapore.
Schedule II to V drugs –
Schedule II – these include things such as Cocaine, Methadone, Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Ritalin.
Schedule III – some of these are paracetamol with Codeine, Ketamine, Anabolic Steroids and Testosterone.
Schedule IV – these include items such as Xanax, Valium, Tramadol and Ativan.
Schedule V – these are generally antidiarrheal or analgesic preparations such as Lomotil, Lyrica and Robitussin AC.
As with the Schedule I drugs above, some of these lower scheduled items are strictly prohibited in other countries’ especially if taken in large quantities. If you absolutely must take a prescribed drug with you please ensure they are in their original packaging, complete with all the details of who it’s for, the dosage and the prescribing GPs details on it. Also, do yourself a favour and obtain an official letter from your GP stating a full list of your medications, dosage and what they are for.
Some travellers assume that if it is in their checked baggage that it is acceptable. Unfortunately, what is allowable at home is not necessarily allowable where ever you are travelling to.
Firearms of any kind are prohibited in many countries’. Some countries’ may allow firearms for official competitive events or hunting but this requires complete transparency and all the official paperwork to be completed well before travelling. What guns are allowable and how you transport them varies from country to country and airline to airline. To ensure safe transportation that is within the law please contact the airline you will be travelling on and the authorities of your destination country prior to travel. This is also the case for ammunition. Do your homework, obtain all the necessary permits and permissions and hopefully you well get through customs unscathed.
Knives are another thing altogether. Some countries’ may have a strict ban on knives of any kind while others may allow some but not others. Australia for example has a strict no weapons policy with a few exceptions such as a fixed blade knife, a katana or samurai sword, a multi tool knife or bayonet. These may be allowable but only if declared.
Sling shots and laser pointers are also on the restricted list and depending on the type may be prohibited altogether.
3. DANGEROUS GOODS
These are a range of items which are normally prohibited on an aircraft because they are highly dangerous. These include explosives, flammable liquids, high strength magnetic equipment, caustic based products (such as drain or oven cleaner), petrol, pesticides and some aerosols. An aircraft hold can be subject to severe temperatures, atmospheric pressure and vibration which may cause some items to behave unpredictably and dangerously.
Travellers need to be aware that possession of such material is a serious offence in most countries’ and if found guilty can be charged hundreds of thousands of dollars and may face years of imprisonment.
This not only relates to photographs, images, magazines, books, DVD’s or computer games but also to any media on your personal phone, laptop or tablet. Banned materials include such things as child pornography, explicit sexual violence, non-consensual sex, bestiality, degradation and cruelty.
5. PLANTS AND ANIMALS
To some people this may seem unreasonable. Maybe Aunt Mary has a beautiful plant that would look fabulous in your front garden? What harm can it do if I just take a piece or a few seeds? Or that kitten that you fell in love with while in Bali? Nobody owns it and it’s so cute.
Beware! There are strict laws regarding the import of live pants and or animals.
Bringing them internationally or even interstate can cause havoc with the agricultural balance of that country. What is a beautiful plant in one country is actually a noxious weed in another and live plants must not be imported unless you have a valid import permit issued by the relevant countries’ department of agriculture.
And animal diseases that may be rampant in one country has never been heard of in another, and they want to keep it that way. Because of this, many countries’ such as Australia have a very strict quarantine schedule for the import of live animals.
Now you would think that this would easy to get right. You’ve been on holiday and have been eating an array of tasty food the entire time you were away. Its delicious and you want to bring some home. That should be fine, shouldn’t it?
Well the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
Yes, you can take some food items. Most countries’ have a very clear list of what is freely allowable to bring into the country and what isn’t. For example, you may freely bring items such as coffee, chocolate, maple syrup and oil into Australia but items such as tea, meat, dairy, nuts or honey must be declared and checked by customs before entry. There are very strict quality and packaging regulations for these items. So, check the list of allowable goods for your destination and remember to tick yes on that section on your incoming customs declaration form. Because regardless of whether it is allowed or not it must be declared.
7. COUNTERFEIT GOODS
Gone are the days when you could pop over to Bali for a week and come home loaded with all the latest movies and music on DVD and CD. Despite the fact that Netflix, Foxtel and Amazon have taken the world by storm with their movie and TV streaming into millions of homes across the world, these counterfeit products are still available in some parts of the world. As are the reproduction fashion clothes and shoes made famous by the likes of Nike, Gucci and Lacoste.
These products have not been made legally with the required licences and as such are illegal. If you do purchase them be aware you may lose them once you go through customs and even receive a serious fine.
But Wait, There’s More…
I have covered the major items that may cause you some issue when travelling but I would also like to add some rather unusual, not commonly known, country specific information that you may not be aware of.
These items are strictly prohibited in Singapore:
Chewing gum, pistol or revolver shaped cigarette lighters, fire crackers, Rhinoceros Horn, any part of or product derived from any endangered species of animal and any tobacco products or those containing nicotine such as chewing tobacco, snuff, shishas, e cigarettes, vapes, patches, etc.
These items are restricted in Hong Kong:
Powdered Baby Formula, Rough Diamonds and certain frequency radio transmitting equipment.
Some items prohibited in the Philippines:
Used clothing and rags, hazardous waste, any gambling paraphernalia, apparatus or mechanical devices to be used in gambling or game of chance and lottery and sweepstakes tickets except those authorised by the Philippines government.
So, If in Doubt – Declare, Declare, Declare
Most people end up in trouble because they assume what they are bringing in will be OK, based on their limited knowledge and not the country specific rules and regulations. Sometimes that assumption or lack of preparation can make an innocent person look guilty because it looks like they are trying to hide something. I prefer to err on the side of caution and declare everything, even if I think it might be OK. I’d rather look like an idiot than end up with a fine, or worse.