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What NOT to pack

Items to avoid bringing into or out of Australia


As you pack your bags to return home (or to begin your holiday), take special care to avoid packing items that could get you in trouble at customs. But are you unsure on what to do with that souvenir seashell necklace, or those exotic lollies that your little one just had to bring home?

Because of the delicate ecosystem in Australia, quarantine can seem quite strict, though if you take some easy precautions and declare items honestly, there should be little problem.

If you have any doubts about items you may be taking out of Australia to your holiday destination, there may be some differences in what you can bring in and out, though many items will be the same as below. If in doubt, contact the tourism bureau or foreign consulate/embassy to make sure that the items you’ve packed will be let in.

It goes without saying that illegal drugs should NEVER be transported during travels, though even some prescription medicines are not allowed into other countries. Ask the consulate or embassy of the country you’ll be visiting prior to departure. It may also help to have a doctor’s letter explaining your condition and a copy of your prescription with you. Beware – taking Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines abroad is illegal unless for personal use.

As a rule of thumb, you should completely avoid transporting items that were once or are still living and may be harbouring harmful pests or diseases. Other items such as firearms and heritage items will require permits, and may not be allowed into your destination country.

If in doubt for any item in your possession, you can leave it at home, ask a Quarantine officer, dispose of it in quarantine bins at the airport or declare it at customs. Though declaring items at customs may place you in a longer queue, you will not be penalised for any goods that you declare. If you fail to declare or dispose of any quarantine items, you can face heavy fines or, in extreme cases, even jail time.

The following items pose a high quarantine risk and MUST be declared. They may be allowed if accompanied by an Import Permit or with treatment, or they may be seized and destroyed. Alternatively, you can dispose of them in quarantine bins at the airport.

“High risk” items include:

Dairy and egg products: Milk (fresh or powdered), cheese, ‘non-dairy’ creamers, especially from countries with foot and mouth disease; any airline food containing dairy, such as milk, yoghurt or cheese; whole, dried and powdered eggs, or products containing more than 10% egg such as mayonnaise; and homeade egg products, such as noodles and pasta that are not commercially made.

Animal products: Fresh, dried, frozen, cooked, smoked, salted or preserved meats of any kind, including sausages, salami and sliced meats; any airline food containing meat products; pet food including canned food or rawhide chews; and handicrafts or articles made of rawhide, such as drums.

Live animals: Including mammals, birds (including eggs and nests), fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Plant materials: Any viable plant material, including potted plants, cuttings, roots, bulbs, flowers and stems; banana products, including food (fresh or dried) or souvenirs made of banana leaf; and souvenirs made of or stuff with straw, such as cushions.

Seeds and nuts: Cereal grains, popping corn, raw nuts, pine cones, birdseed, some packaged seeds and ornaments containing seeds. Airline foods or snacks containing nuts or seeds.

Fruits and vegetables: All fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

The following are likely to be allowed through customs, but they must be declared and inspected for signs of insects, contamination or disease. Items may need to be treated or, if contaminated, seized and destroyed. Failure to declare items that are contaminated can result in a fine.

“Moderate risk” items include:

Food items: Commercial prepared, cooked and raw food and ingredients; dried fruit and vegetables; canned meat products; dairy products containing less than 10% dairy; cheese (from countries free of food and mouth disease); fish and other seafood products; packaged meals, including instant noodles and rice; herbs and spices, including herbal medicines, remedies, and teas; snack foods, including biscuits, cakes and confectionery; beverages including teas and coffees; and instant formula (must be accompanying a child).

Animal products: Feathers, bones, horns, tusks, wool, animal hair, skins, hides and furs; stuffed animals and birds (taxidermy certificate required); shells and corals including jewellery and souvenir items; bee products including honey, beeswax and honeycomb; animal equipment such as veterinary equipment, shearing or meat trade tools, and animal or bird cages.

Planet material: Wooden articles and carvings, including painted or lacquered items; items including bark (requires treatment or removal of bark); any souvenirs, handicrafts, accessories or artefacts made from plant material, palm fronds, leaves, bamboo, cane, rattan or coconut shells; straw products and packaging; wreaths and ornaments; dried or fresh flowers, including potpourri, floral arrangements and leis.

Other goods: Used sporting and camping equipment, such as tents, shoes, boots, golf equipment, bicycles and fishing gear; biological specimens, and craft/hobby lines made of animal or plant material.

If in doubt, declare it. 


Further information

Smarttraveller (Australian Government's travel advisory and consular assistance service)

Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service

Australian Customs Service

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