Let's suppose I am going on a trip, and Victoria's Secret is on sale, so I buy tons of perfumes and take them to a country where they will be twice or three times the price I paid for them. If the security at the airport sees all that merchandise, would they allow me to go through to the airplane? And if I have all these perfumes, in what bag should I transport them?

  • 26
    You are aware this is known as smuggling and criminal in most places, right? (Or at least it is if you don't announce it all to customs on arrival) (That said, outgoing airport security should have no reason to stop you, although they may tip off customs at the destination)
    – CMaster
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 23:55
  • 15
    @CMaster "outgoing airport security should have no reason to stop you": one of the tags on this question is hand-luggage, which is definitely a context in which airport security would care about such a large quantity of volatile liquid.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 5:05
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    Customs and security systems have memories. I know a restaurant owner who used to take regular short "holidays" in Spain, and invite a few friends to go with him, to bring back some local wines for the restaurant. They were careful never to exceeded the personal duty-free allowance, but after a few trips he gave up, because he (and his friends) were being "selected at random" and searched on every trip.
    – alephzero
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 18:47
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    Also be aware that in some countries, local criminals (be they "the mob", gangs, whatever) have already discovered the profit to be made in exploiting these price differences, don't appreciate imitators, and might have contacts with airport security from their own activities in this area. I've a pair of friends who tried exactly this type of scheme (Victoria's Secret, too, but underwear not perfume) and on their third trip were... advised of how unwise continuing to do this would be Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 20:41
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    @CMaster if OP was aware then they wouldn't have asked the question, would they? It's the whole point of this website
    – Aaron F
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 21:20

5 Answers 5


There are several things which may affect your plan:

  • First, many retailers (especially if they are the brand’s own store) have limits on how many identical items one can buy, especially when there are special promotions. It may be different for end of the season sales where they want to offload anything that is going to be out of fashion quickly, but for items like perfumes this is not the case. They do this precisely because they want to avoid grey/black market.

  • Next, you mention going through security with these, which implies you want to have them in your carry on. In most countries, carrying liquids in hand luggage is very limited, all your liquid containers need to fit inside a 1l transparent bag. You definitely won’t fit hundreds of perfumes in there. And don’t forget you would need to unpack all of them, which would probably have an impact on resale value.

  • You could still put them in your checked luggage, but given their flammable nature, there may be limits on how much you can carry.

  • Upon arrival in your destination country, you will need to declare them to customs, as this is clearly way over personal use, and there is clearly intent to sell. If you don’t declare them and get caught, it will lead to taxation, penalties and possibly confiscation of the goods.

  • The first hurdle you’ll probably meet at this point is that to resell them, you need to be registered as a business. Buying, importing, reselling is a business, and to do that you need to be registered, and in many cases collect and repay tax (such as VAT, GST, sales tax, or whatever it is called in your country), declare your earnings, pay tax, etc.

  • The next hurdle is that in some countries you can’t declare imports for business purposes at the airport (this only works for personal stuff over the tax-free limit). You need to go through a company which handles business imports, which will of course lead to further costs.

  • In any case, you will most probably have to pay taxes, duties and tariffs, the amount of which varies tremendously depending on the country you import into, the one it comes from, the one where it was produced (country of origin), and the nature of the goods. There are thousands and thousands of categories.

    Of course, they need to have a basis for taxation, so you’ll need to have proper invoices showing the price. Note that they don’t necessarily have to accept the price you give them, they may consider it wrong and decide to tax based to the market value and pick any method they want to determine that.

You may end up finding out that the whole reason a given product is so expensive in your country is just that the amount of taxes on that product is so high. Taxes of several 100% are not unheard of.

  • thanks, just one more question. What if the business sold them paid taxes ect and I just delivered/transported them? Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 16:22
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    If you don’t declare them and get caught, it will lead to taxation, penalties and possibly confiscation of the goods. Prison is also a possibility in many countries, depending on the severity. +1
    – J...
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 17:53
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    @Andreaherrera at that point, you are either working as an importer or a haulier, which can lead to its own collection of paperwork. That also doesn't doesn't usually remove the duty on you to make sure the import is legal and it's very likely that if you are following the rules of the countries involved then you'll be out-competed by the goods travelling via truck & container ship
    – origimbo
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 19:12
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    @Andreaherrera the company you bought them from most likely paid all required taxes in the country where you bought them. But the country you import them into doesn’t care about that at all, they want their taxes to be paid to them. The only exception being customs unions such as the EU, but even those have limits. And buying and reselling, even in the same countries, is still a business which usually requires registration, accounts, tax reporting, and taxes to be paid. If you only carry the items you need to be registered with customs to process goods and collect taxes etc.
    – jcaron
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 22:16
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    This is a great answer which makes me reminisce about my time working for Delta Airlines. A family from India had to reduce the weight of their overweight luggage to avoid a huge international overweight bag fee. They decided to quickly re-arrange a few things directly at the counter (quite common) and I was astounded to see the amount of spices they were bringing with them. Everything was friendly and chatty and the man said "It's insane to think that these spices were grown in our country but it's cheaper to buy them here and fly them back home."
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 12:52

If the perfumes are liquids, you may not be allowed to bring a large quantity of them in a carry on bag. A checked bag should be fine from a security standpoint; however as Nate Eldridge points out in the comments there may be a limit as to how much you can bring if they are considered flammable.

The bigger issue will be customs at the destination country. Generally if you are bringing more than a certain value of items, or if you are bringing items with intent to sell them, you will need to declare them to customs on arrival. Depending on the laws of the destination country, you will likely be required to pay an import tax or duty on the value of the items you bring in for sale. In some cases, you may also need a license to import goods for sale. Failure to follow the rules of the destination country can lead to heavy penalties or even prosecution. You should carefully research the rules of the destination country to ensure that you comply with their rules. In short, it's not something you should consider just doing on a whim.

  • 5
    Perfumes are often flammable so there may be limits on checked baggage as well. For the US it looks like the limit is 2 liters, see faa.gov/hazmat/packsafe under "Medicinal and Toiletry". Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 0:59
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    Also, side from the import tax and duty issue, you may find yourself on the hook for taxable income, either in the country of sale or your home country (and in a few places, both).
    – user29788
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 8:28
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    You may not be allowed to sell things in the country, period, as a visitor. Depending on how you intended to do it, it could be considered working. And if you don't declare the items at a proper value and quantity, they may well be seized. You could also be fined and perhaps even deported. Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 16:54
  • thank for the answer very helpful Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 16:24

This is not an issue for airport security (unless you violate the limits they define), they couldn't care less if you have 500 pairs of underwear or such.

It's an issue for Customs at arrivals. Most countries limit the things you can bring for free, and require you to pay import duty for articles you plan to sell. Bypassing this is called 'smuggling'.

It depends on your destination country what is limited and how.

  • haha great thanks for answering Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 16:23
  • Most countries expect you to bring items for your personal use, so 500 pairs of underwear (or socks, or watches) actually would draw their attention. If they were new-in-package they would likely assume they were goods for resale, or commercial samples, both of which would be dutied, taxed and/or restricted. You might claim they were gifts for your hosts, in which case their value over a certain limit would be dutied. In both cases you would have needed to declare them before they were discovered. If you really did need them for personal use for your trip, be prepared to convince them.
    – CCTO
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 15:04

They'll let you fly. And make you fly home!

Entering a foreign country is not a right, unless you are a citizen there.

They'll let you board the plane. But either at your destination or enroute, you will have to go through Immigration (which is looking at you) and Customs (which is looking at your stuff).

You will be asked the purpose of your trip, and whether you have anything to declare. If you disclose that you have all those perfumes and that you are there to sell them, then Immigration will refuse you entry into the country because you are entering on a visa that doesn't allow that kind of trading.

If you do not disclose both things, then Customs will pull you aside because of what they saw on the X-ray, and they will make you open up your bags et voilà. Now caught, you will be taken back to Immigration, who will refuse you for above reasons, and also deception. Deception is a show-stopper in immigration, it typically results in a very long ban.

You must now pay walk-up prices for a flight home.

You do not get to enter the country. You must now immediately book an immediate flight home. You will most likely be spending time until the flight in the immigration detention area.

The airline that flew you there is obliged to take you back, but can charge you any price they please. Typically that is "full-boat retail" - as you may know, most airline tickets are heavily discounted. It might be free if you have a full-service ticket that allows date changes and you are able to reach their ticket desk and change it. But discount travelers usually don't spend the money for those.

Regardless, most likely you will be spending the time from now until the return flight inside the immigration interview/detention area. And then be escorted to the gate at the relevant times.

If you are lucky, the state may allow to stay in the international departures area of the airport (including any hotel there) until flight time.

If you are very, very lucky, they will grant you entry solely to wait for the flight at a normal hotel "in town". This is a trap! It's awesome data for them: if you comply, they know you're trying. If you flake out, then forget ever getting a visa approved.

"But I don't need to apply for a visa! My country has a visa waiver agreement!" Heh heh.

More repercussions

If you came in on a visa waiver, you won't be doing that anymore because of the refusal, and must now apply for a visa for any future trips. Applying for visas is expensive. It will also prejudice your entry into other countries with which this country shares data.

  • "The airline that flew you there is obliged to take you back, but can charge you any price they please" -- what if you simply refuse to pay?
    – nanoman
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 5:13
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    @nanoman travel.stackexchange.com/questions/23622/…
    – Martheen
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 5:42
  • They will also confiscate your smuggleware and probably destroy it.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 6:37

The official way to do this, as other answers have pointed out or alluded to, is to check with customs (and probably immigration) of the country you intend to sell the items in beforehand what the legal terms are. I assume that practically all countries will legally require a declaration of the goods you are importing to customs and will require you to pay import taxes and/or customs duties. Many will require some kind of business id (e.g. you may have to have a company set up that is able to do international trading or simply to legally sell the goods after bringing them in) and/or an appropriate (business) visa if you are not a citizen of the country (assume that no visa waiver agreement will cover any of this). You can pretty much expect the fees, taxes and duties you have to pay to eat up practically all of your profit margin.

Anything outside of the aforementioned legal pathway is illegal and considered smuggling. It can get you into serious trouble, especially if you are trying to smuggle into a country that you are not a citizen of.

That said, your odds of getting caught will vary wildly based on such things as:

  • the type of goods you are trying to smuggle
  • the extent to which arriving passengers' luggage is screened
  • the way immigration but especially customs inspections are set up (both in the destination country as a whole but also the specific airport)
  • your luck on a specific day

Possibly one of the easiest ways to not get caught would be to fly into the EU as a citizen and have an intra-Schengen (but international) connecting flight as your final leg. That way, to local customs it is a plane arriving from an city where no inspections are typically necessary and no passenger is expected to have anything to declare. (While EU customs are generally very lenient towards air passengers, there are cases of planes coming in from common holiday destinations where travellers are more likely to pick up illegal goods or attempt to smuggle something in which are then completely screened on arrival; i.e. the Nothing to Declare Lane is blocked off. You definitely do not want to be on one of those.)

On the other hand, I remember arriving in one country and having to put my hand luggage down on the ground at some point between disembarking and leaving the airport to allow a customs dog to pass by everything; in such a jurisdiction, expect to be caught every single time especially if it is something the dog is expected to smell. I would especially expect countries like Australia and New Zealand -- which have very strict rules on what may and may not be brought in and do their best to enforce them -- to catch you and make you regret.

I will repeat that smuggling items past customs like this is illegal and will have severe repercussions if you are caught. I do not condone this activity.

A word on airport security since you mentioned hand luggage.

There are two instances where you may be looked at. Number one is at check in. Airlines only allow a certain amount of hand luggage and there is typically also a weight restriction. I have been told to weigh my hand luggage, it was found too heavy and parts of it had to be added as hold luggage; I had to pay the full fee for additional hold luggage that I required. Check in will also remind you of certain items that are prohibited in hand luggage (such as sharp objects, and liquids), certain items that are prohibited in hold luggage (powerbanks, most items with lithium ion batteries) and certain items that are prohibited on the plane together (explosives). They will typically not check your luggage on the spot though.

Number two is airport security. They, however, will only care for the security aspect of things. i.e. no knives, blades or similar sharp objects, no explosives, and no liquids outside of the permitted amount (your transparent bag containing flasks of a certain size and not exceeding a certain combined volume). Assuming you intend to take perfumes, security will find them and *will refuse to let you pass because perfumes are, obviously, liquids. They typically won't mind if you take, e.g. 50 copies of the same book with you because paper isn't considered a weapon of any sort. They also won't care about the weight of your luggage because different airlines have different limits and it's not their job to check.

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