Customs Procedures for China

All passengers entering China are required to fill out a Customs Declaration form. If you have nothing to declare then you can proceed through the Green Channel, handing your declaration form to a Customs officer who will barely glance at it. If you have something to declare you should head through the Red Channel. If in doubt about something, go through the Red Channel and ask.

What Should Be Declared

Items you carry into China are subject to ‘Personal Use’ and ‘Reasonable Quantity’ controls. ‘Personal Use’ means only for your private use or as gifts for friends or relatives (however, gifts worth more than ¥2000 should be declared). ‘Reasonable Quantity’ means the normal amount of a certain product someone would need given the time they intend to spend in the country. The ‘Personal Use’ and ‘Reasonable Quantity’ controls are up to the discretion of the Customs officers.

The main thing they want to ascertain is whether you intend to sell any items you are carrying. Therefore, it is no problem to bring your own digital camera and notebook computer. But if you had, for example, two digital cameras or notebook computers still packaged, it would look as if you had some commercial purpose in bringing them to China.

It should be noted that Chinese Customs isn’t particularly strict – you are unlikely to have your bags searched or be subjected to questioning. Just follow the rules and if you are in doubt – ask.

Following is a list of items that should be declared on entry to China:

  • Personal articles that are intended to remain in China, valued at ¥2000 or above, carried by non-Chinese residents.
  • More than 1.5L of alcoholic drinks (containing at least 12% alcohol);
  • More than 400 cigarettes; More than 100 cigars; More than 500g of tobacco.
  • Foreign currency exceeding US$5000 or equivalent.
  • Animals, plants and biological products
  • Radio transmitters, radio receivers and sensitive communication devices
  • Items for commercial activity (including advertising materials)

Upon leaving China, the following items should be declared:

  • Foreign currency exceeding US$5000 or equivalent
  • Gold, silver and other precious metals
  • Cultural relics and antiques (see below)
  • Radio transmitters; radio receivers and sensitive communication devices

Note that you can bring an unlimited amount of foreign currency into China, but you do need to declare any amount over US$5000 and you should not be carrying a larger amount on exit. For Chinese currency, ¥20000 is the maximum amount you can take in or out of the country.

Prohibited Items

The following items should not be taken in or out of China:

  • Arms, imitation arms, ammunition and explosives
  • Counterfeit currencies
  • Printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, recording tapes and video tapes, compact discs (video and audio), storage media for computers and other articles which are detrimental to the political, economic, cultural and moral interests of China.
  • Any sort of poisons
  • Illicit drugs such as opium, morphine, heroin, marijuana and psychotropic substances
  • Fruits, vegetables, live animals (except pet dogs and cats), animal products, pathogenic micro-organisms of animals and plants, pests and other harmful organisms, animal carcasses, soil, genetically modified organisms, relevant animals and plants, their products and other objects subject to quarantine from countries or regions with prevalent epidemic animal or plant diseases.
  • Endangered animals and plants (including their specimens), their seeds and reproducing materials.


Anything made prior to 1949 is considered to be an antique. To take them out of China you need a certificate from the State Administration of Cultural Relics. Anyone who sells you an antique should provide this certificate at purchase. Anything made before 1795 cannot be taken out of China.

Commercial Goods

If you are bringing commercial goods into or out of China, there are a range of tariffs that apply. Check the official Customs website for more details:

Pirated Goods

Most visitors to China will purchase some counterfeit goods, whether they are DVDs, clothes, watches, handbags or any of the other myriad pirated products available in China. Chinese Customs are making an effort to crack down on people taking such goods out of the country, however, generally the same principles of ‘Personal Use’ will apply. A couple of shirts and handbags is unlikely to cause a problem, but a large quantity of any counterfeit item could well be seized.