10 Items You Can't Mail Abroad from China

10 Items You Can't Mail Abroad from China
Dec 07, 2012 By Andrea Scarlatelli , eChinacities.com

So, you want to mail a package abroad? China can be rather hit or miss when it comes to their postal service (if someone has lived here for more than a year, chances are they have at least one “lost in the mail” horror story). But having a parcel sent can actually be a fairly easy process – provided you follow the basic rules about what can, and can't, be mailed. Penalties for mailing prohibited items abroad vary but can include a “seizure and forfeiture of assets, criminal fines, imprisonment, and civil penalties.” And while some banned items are pretty obvious (hint: mailing cocaine is generally not a good idea), others may surprise you. So next time you're tempted to send something to your loved ones back home, check out this list of some popular items that cannot be mailed abroad.

1) Currency

10 Items You Can't Mail Abroad from China
Photo: b.9mi.me

Yes, reminbi bills look like Monopoly money. Yes, it's fun to flash a wad of pinkies and pretend you're rich. But don't even think about sending home a bill or two for your family scrapbook – mailing Chinese currency is strictly prohibited. And counterfeit currency? Well, I hope you enjoy Chinese prison...

2) Live Animals
While it's unlikely you'll want to ship Fluffy home via China Post, this rule counts for any animal that hasn't been quarantined via China's guidelines and given the appropriate shots, vaccinations, etc. Fun fact: This rule applies to all animals except leeches, bees, and silkworms. So, if the mood strikes you, go ahead and send that package full of leeches to your buddy back home – great souvenir!

3) DVDs  

10 Items You Can't Mail Abroad from China
Photo: slate.com

It's a statistical fact that expats accumulate approximately 547 ½ DVD's for each year they live in China. It's also a fact that if you get caught trying to mail said DVD's abroad, you will never see those discs again. Ever. So host a DVD swap with your friends or have a bonfire – just don't send your DVD's by post.

4) Meat & Animal Products
Most people realise they can't mail slabs of beef from country to country, but keep in mind that this restriction applies to all animal products – including any sort of fur. So while you may love that fabulous bobcat/chinchilla/panda coat you just bought, just be sure to wear it (and declare it at customs!), not mail it, over the border.

5) Perfume/Hairspray
A good rule of thumb is to avoid sending anything in an aerosol spray can or pressurized bottle overseas. Due to dramatic and frequent changes in temperature and air pressure during the actual shipping process, these sorts of items can easily burst, potentially harming package handlers and recipients.

6) Nail Polish
This one may seem a wee bit random, but nail polish is considered a “combustible product” by the post office because of its finicky nature around extreme temperatures. So feel free to stock up on the latest OPI colours, but if you want to take them home you'll have to carry it across the international border yourself.

7) Alcoholic Beverages

10 Items You Can't Mail Abroad from China
Photo: alh.com.sg

The world would be a much better place if giant 4 RMB bottles of Tsingtao and 10 RMB bottles of baijiu could be shared with our friends all over the world, but alas... Besides the high possibility of the containers breaking in transit (either due to a fluctuation in temperatures or careless handling), alcohol is just one of those things governments don't like being exchanged via post.

8) Hazardous Materials
I'm sincerely hoping that most people know they can't mail grenades under any circumstances – either domestically or internationally. But I'd like to remind everyone that this also applies to that favourite Chinese invention, the one that expats love and fear all at the same time – that's right, fireworks. While China has some of the best, unfortunately you can't share them with your friends back home.

9) Tobacco & Tobacco Products
While cigarettes here in China are astoundingly cheap, don't even think of trying to spread the wealth. Tobacco is still considered a plant (another no-no for mailing abroad) and laws/taxes vary so wildly from country to country that governments want to keep tight control. And yes, this rule also applies to cigars, roll-your-own cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco. 

10) Counterfeit Items
And lastly, we come to every expat’s favourite Chinese souvenirs: fake items. The good news is that it's perfectly legal to carry them out of the country yourself – provided they're “intended for personal use and imported in reasonable quantities” (ie: you don't have a suitcase full of “Prada” bags). But mailing fake watches, bags, sunglasses, etc. through the post can be a risky operation – and will most likely result in you never seeing those items again.

So when mailing packages, whether prohibited or not, let your common sense and good judgement guide you - and when in doubt, check out the website of the service you're using! While jail time and even fines are unlikely, you'd hate for your packages not to arrive because you accidentally included a bottle of perfume for your girlfriend or a folder full of DVD's for your boyfriend...

Related links
Is China Still a Shopping Paradise? What to Buy Here and What Not
How to Save Thousands Through Online Shopping in China
5 Signs it’s Time to Pack up and Leave China

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Keywords: posting from China things not to mail from China things can’t be posted from China sending mail and parcels from china


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Makes sense I guess, I mean most of the things on this list are generally no-go from any country not just China.

Dec 13, 2012 14:28 Report Abuse


Zak Lonbee

I want to try and successfully send a few live animals through the post. may try a couple of chinchillas, a natterjack toad and a parrott to start with.

Dec 09, 2012 15:46 Report Abuse



I have two questions:

1. Does that mean that we're not allowed to be sent DVDs from abroad as well? I was thinking of buying some DVDs from the UK to add to my collection as I dislike the Chinese ones, can't I do this??

2. Regarding DVDs being sent OUT of the country, does that only apply to fake DVDs? or is it a blanket ban on all DVDs? because that makes no sense really. I cannot think of one reason why they would ban legitimate DVDs from entering other countries. Surely it would help with globalisation, even if just a little bit.


Dec 08, 2012 00:51 Report Abuse



This covers all DVDs.
There will be a reason. It does not seem sense if you do not know the reason.

One possibility with all recorded material, to prevent trafficking fakes, how is a postal worker supposed to know if it is fake or genuine.

Dec 08, 2012 06:27 Report Abuse



I need help mailing a package to china!
I'm only sending personal clothing to my good friend in college!
Need advice and info on how to shop internationally!

Dec 07, 2012 20:40 Report Abuse



Use a postal service, and not courier service. In some countries only the postal service has a licence to send personal effects. The couriers must treat it as commercial. This can cause paperwork issues as well as attracting duty.

Find out what the maximum duty free allowances (monetary value) is on gifts or personal effects. Do no exceed this in any one shipment.

Dec 07, 2012 23:48 Report Abuse


Mr. Martel

Step 1: Bring the goods you intend to send to the post office
Step 2: Tell them you want to send a package to China. They should sell boxes there of varying sizes. I'm assuming you're not sending massive amounts of clothing.
Step 3: Fill out your friend's address on the box
Step 4: They will weigh it, and ask you which class you want to send it
Step 5: Pay the man

It may sound daunting, but it's actually pretty easy. :)

Dec 07, 2012 23:53 Report Abuse


Jerry Tom

Squeeky stuffed toys (activated by touch or motion) are absolutely verboten! It's the sound coming from a taped box, I am told by the Post, that get's everyone down the distribution channel questioning the contents! And it will be confiscated!

Dec 07, 2012 20:19 Report Abuse



Is this ban only for abroad? What about domestic? If that's true then Taobao would do down overnight with all the counterfeit stuff that's sold.

Dec 07, 2012 17:42 Report Abuse



The suppliers probably use a courier for this kind of stuff.
A courier will not expect to see the unopened box to look for contraband items.

Dec 08, 2012 23:01 Report Abuse



Technically, it is not just DVD. It also includes CDs, and magnetic tape.

China post will be more strict. They are civil servants who do not have to answer to the business needs of the employers. And they have a pension to consider.
Typical civil servants, and I don't mean that in a negative way.

Dec 07, 2012 17:08 Report Abuse


Pete Marchetto

I did hear that you can't email fragile items cushioned with Chinese newspapers. Apparently - according to my source - they don't like Chinese newsprint getting abroad. However, I think it's only China Post that follows this directive.

I may be wrong on this but, as I said, so I've heard...

Sep 26, 2011 23:38 Report Abuse



probably you meant to say "post" instead of "email" and yes it is true... you cannot post abroad anything that has parts of newspapers in it.

Sep 27, 2011 06:04 Report Abuse



so it is perfectly acceptable to produce millions of fake stuff and rip off tourists but it is not acceptable to send it home if you live here? China is so hypocritical, arrogant and lacking in any kind of business sense: it extracts the Michael.

Sep 10, 2011 02:01 Report Abuse



The production of an item and the export of an item are mutually exclusive. To say that it is hypocritical to allow a company to manufacture a fake product intended for domestic use where the international copyright laws are lax is somehow related to the export of the same product is ignorant. That is not to mention that arrogance has nothing to do with this particular situation. As far as ripping off tourists, if someone is willing to pay top dollar for a "designer" product anywhere except a certified retail store than they deserve getting ripped off. I personally would never buy such items anywhere in the world without an extreme discount, and if you do then that is your problem.

Oct 09, 2011 08:56 Report Abuse



Ref. the ripping off tourists comment.

If a CC bag is USD 1000, then it is not fair, sensible, or even logical to expect that a CC bag bought on the back streets, for 500RMB (or less) is genuine.

In fact the buyer is trying to 'rip off' the genuine manufacturer. Quid pro quo, don't ya think?

Dec 07, 2012 17:04 Report Abuse


JAY (Just Another Yangguizi)

"...it extracts the Michael." What an excellent turn of phrase!

Dec 09, 2012 12:19 Report Abuse



Sorry the article is incorrect. I also have mailed everything spoken of through the post (except animals) and have never had a problem. Also have had them with me in my baggage on planes 4 or 5 times a year for 10 years and sent them in packages via ships to the USA. 850 DVD's in fact. Never had a problem once. Only problem I ever had was a pocket knife taken off of me in Beijing airport. Then they turn around and give me a steak knife at dinner on the same plane.

Go figure.

Sep 08, 2011 12:57 Report Abuse



I doubt its incorrect - if you are mailing fireworks, cigarettes etc it just means you have not been caught! People buy stun guns and other firearms through the post in the UK - still illegal!

Oct 08, 2011 16:09 Report Abuse



I'd have thought that for US residents some shipments would cause significant trouble on the US side. Fireworks? Only if you want Janet "Nappy" Napolitano (now head of US Dept. of Homeland Insecurities) to arrest you as a right-wing extremist/terrorist.

Dec 09, 2012 12:26 Report Abuse



This is nothing special. Tjhinks like that are in almost many countries worldwide ...

Sep 01, 2011 20:36 Report Abuse



I have sent currency, perfume, alcoholic beverages, DVD's and counterfeit items through the post. Not a problem

Aug 31, 2011 05:39 Report Abuse



If it is ilegal to send counterfeit goods, how can local companies send their fake Nike shoes through the mail worldwide>

Aug 31, 2011 03:57 Report Abuse



Maybe hong bao are accepted

Dec 07, 2012 17:00 Report Abuse



Thanks for this great article man. Foreigners really need to pay attention and be aware of tis. Been in Beijing for 12 years and been sending bunch of stuff U talked about that list... Had bad more bad resultst than good ones::))) Bottom line I agree and support this writing.

Aug 30, 2011 20:43 Report Abuse