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Because of reasons, I am likely to want to carry 30-40 ebook readers, still in their boxes, with me when traveling from Canada to the UK.

Am I going to run into any trouble if I have them in my carry-on luggage? In particular if I have a separate bag/box that just contains them. Should I put them in my checked luggage? Or is it all fine and airport security will be like "weird but not illegal"?

If they are in my carry on will i be required to place them individually on trays like i would a laptop?

I am sorting out any customs issues at the other end, so don't worry about that.


(Update: We concluded it was much simpler and safer to ship them.)

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  • 89
    Customs will almost certainly ask you why you are importing that many eReader, and "because reasons" will not be a sufficient answer. Dec 2 '21 at 3:34
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    I've never been a witness to such a situation but would speculate security will ask a lot of questions. This is immediately suspicious, so be prepared to be "randomly selected" for a secondary inspection, especially if you are coy about your reasons to travel with this. Dec 2 '21 at 14:33
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    "Customs will almost certainly ask you why you are importing that many eReader, and "because reasons" will not be a sufficient answer". As I said I am sorting that out. I do not was to spend time distracting this topic with that discussion. Nor with my reasons. Dec 2 '21 at 16:16
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    Thanks for the update re: your chosen method
    – Aleks G
    Dec 2 '21 at 21:02
62

First, 30 to 40 ebook readers still in their boxes is going to take quite some space, and weigh a decent amount.

So the first issue is that it’s likely to exceed your carry-on allowance, either in size or weight. You mention a separate bag/box for them, but most airlines won’t allow you to have multiple pieces of carry-on. This all depends on the airline, class of travel and fare, so it’s difficult to say more (we don’t know either the size or weight they represent).

It’s more than likely you’ll have to put those in checked luggage. If you manage to fit within the allowances for hand luggage, yes, you’ll have to put them all in separate trays at security if they require it for electronics (not the case everywhere depending on the equipment they have).

The second issue is related to the batteries in the devices. For safety reasons, there are regulations on the number of Lithium-ion batteries you can carry, which are summarised here. In your case, it’s likely you’ll have to abide with a limit of 15 devices with a battery.

As alluded to, there will be issues with customs. If this is a temporary import, your best bet is probably an ATA Carnet. Otherwise (if the devices stay in the destination country) be warned that in some countries, customs for passengers at the airports (the “red lane”) are NOT able to process commercial imports (which this will be deemed to be). If that is the case (no idea for the UK), the items will need to be handed over to an agent which will process them for you, which takes time (days, not hours) and costs money (in addition to taxes).

So it’s not an easy proposition, but with the right preparation it’s possible. I’ve been on projects where we had hundreds of tablets for an event which were carried by air (as checked luggage, in special protective cases), temporarily imported (with an ATA Carnet), and exported and flown back.

A (somewhat) easier alternative is to ship them (via UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.). It’s often cheaper than the extra baggage fees (especially if you can wait 3 days), it’s often more convenient (they pick it up and deliver it directly where you want, you don’t have to carry them yourself). Pay attention to regulations regarding batteries (which are different from those for passengers) and customs issues (temporary imports are probably a lot more difficult).

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    I wouldnt be surprised if Carnat Ata does not go through smooth, except you have 'reasons'. On first sight it does not seem plausible for temporary import having the same device many times.
    – lalala
    Dec 2 '21 at 12:06
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    @lalala I'm not sure I understand why there would be an issue with a Carnet ATA? It's quite common to have lots of identical devices for exhibitions and events, which is one of the main uses of Carnet ATA (and likewise for shooting movies and the like). I believe a partner of ours actually did exactly that with hundreds of tablets and I don't remember any issues (other than the fact in theory they have to see all the stuff before export).
    – jcaron
    Dec 2 '21 at 12:12
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    Alternatively, if you're travelling in a group, you could distribute them among 3-4 people, which might be less likely to raise alarms, especially if you go through different lines at security. On the other hand, it might backfire and arouse more suspicion in that it'd look like an organized scheme of some sort. Shipping is still probably the least likely to cause problems. Dec 2 '21 at 15:45
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica most if not current all eBook readers do not have user removable batteries and haven't had for many years. It's not trivial to remove and replace batteries in many modern consumer electronics. It's also often not trivial to buy a replacement part.
    – Ivan McA
    Dec 3 '21 at 9:57
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    @LyndonWhite Other people who search their question and find this one need to know about customs, even if you don't.
    – user253751
    Dec 3 '21 at 21:21
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I'd expect customs to be extremely interested in your products, and almost certainly ask you about the commercial import license and/or import fees payment for them.

Trying to sneak them past customs may very well get you into serious trouble with you being kicked out of the country and/or the entire load being confiscated as you're going to be assumed to be trying to smuggle them to selling Canada. And even were you to convince them that they're all gifts for your dozens of Canadian friends, you're likely to run into restrictions on the total value of such things you're allowed to be bring into the country without paying customs fees.

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    The OP says he is traveling from Canada to the UK, and states he will deal with customs issues
    – Peter M
    Dec 1 '21 at 21:38
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    It's not answering the question and OP clearly states that they will deal with customs
    – Hilmar
    Dec 2 '21 at 14:22

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