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I'm flying from the UK (Birmingham airport) to Lusaka Zambia (via Dubai) in January.

I have purchased a brand new mobile phone as a gift for a relative.

Can I carry the sealed mobile phone in my hand luggage? Or do I have to open the box?

The phone was purchased on Amazon.

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  • I have no idea what Zambia Customs will do when confronted by a sealed box. They may pass it; they may require you to open it. Their decision may be affected by their evaluation of you: your identity, nationality, mode of dress, presentment, and so on. Perhaps showing the Amazon receipt or packing slip would help. Whether sealed or open, and depending on Zambia law, you may have to pay import duty on the phone. – DavidSupportsMonica Nov 21 '19 at 21:05
  • I'm not worried about Zambia, they don't check hand luggage on arrival. It's Birmingham and Dubai which I'm worried about. I considered putting the phone in the hold luggage, but I don't think that's a good idea. – MrCola Nov 21 '19 at 21:08
  • There is no Customs process when leaving the UK, because the UK doesn't care what you carry out of the country. Still, you must pass through security at the airport, and security personnel could require you to open the box. As to Dubai, it will depend on whether you can pass your layover "airside," or whether you must go through Dubai Immigration and Customs. If the former, there'll be no check. If the latter, you'll be deemed to have "entered" Dubai and will be subject to whatever Dubai's customs regulations require. I agree fully that such an object should never be packed in hold luggage. – DavidSupportsMonica Nov 21 '19 at 21:11
  • What is the value of the phone? – jcaron Nov 21 '19 at 21:19
  • @MrCola customs can check any luggage they want on arrival, and make no difference between hand luggage and checked luggage (that’s why customs are always after baggage claim — so you have all the stuff entering the country with you). In most countries checks are not systematic and even possibly not very frequent, but there are spot checks, and if they do check, a brand new phone in original packaging will definitely tick them off. – jcaron Nov 21 '19 at 21:22
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There are two issues at play here: security before boarding and customs on arrival.

  • Security often requires electronics to be put on a tray, out of your bag. They will probably require the box to be opened so that the phone sits on the tray by itself, though this may vary based on the type of equipment they use and their local rules.

  • Customs regulations mean you need to declare (at least) goods purchased abroad that you are importing and will remain in the country, unless the total value of such goods is below the duty free allowance for such goods in that country. Depending on the value of the phone, it may be below or over that threshold. If you are over the threshold, you should declare it at customs and will usually need to pay taxes and duties on the value of the phone (don’t forget to keep the invoice so that have the appropriate value to tax on, otherwise they may “evaluate” it themselves and end up with a much higher figure.

    If you are under the threshold they may still want to check. Again, an invoice will help.

    If you are over the threshold and intend not to declare (which of course we won’t recommend here), any check will reveal a brand new phone still in its original packaging, you won’t be able to try to pretend that it’s your personal used phone.

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