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

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  

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

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



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



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