I am aware of a couple of items that are not allowed to take when traveling to a US destination (from abroad), even though they would be OK in most other countries:

I don't want to have any bad surprise when going through TSA security. What are other such banned items that would be OK in most other countries but not in the United States?

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    I think this is too broad to ask for all the different items, a valid answer is basically going to just link to the TSA list...
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 5:42
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    @MarkMayo nope, this is a really good question, that unfortunately attracted dumb answers.
    – o0'.
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 9:10
  • Uncharged electronic devices are now being blocked at UK airports in general, not just on flights to the US. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 10:11
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    The best answers are in the question!
    – g .
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 3:38

5 Answers 5


Some unusual items from the official list:

  • Ivory not certified to be over 100 years old is prohibited
  • Items originating from Cuba are prohibited, even if purchased elsewhere
  • Any items made of dog or cat fur are prohibited
  • Absinthe has some unusual restrictions:

The absinthe content must be "thujone free" (that is, it must contain less than 10 parts per million of thujone); the term "absinthe" cannot be the brand name; the term "absinthe" cannot stand alone on the label; and the artwork and/or graphics cannot project images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic or mind-altering effects.

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    Surely the ivory ban is normal in almost all the 180 states that are members of CITES Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 9:36
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    @RedGrittyBrick It's the 100 years exception I found interesting Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 10:25
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    I believe that the antique worked ivory exception is part of the CITES agreement, not a peculiarity of the US implementation. Reference Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 10:40

The full list of items restricted from being brought into the United States, is maintained by the US Customs and Border Protection agency, and can be found here.

Aside from the usual agricultural and weapons restrictions, be aware of the complete ban on the importation of Cuban made items, and the peculiar regulations regarding Absinthe.

Also, be advised that several US States have their own specific and unique restrictions on imports - particularly of alcohol, fruits, vegetables and other food items - that may be more stringent than federal laws. For example, the State of Hawaii imposes significant restrictions on the free movement of plants, fruits and vegetables.

Finally, as Mark Mayo notes, there is also a comprehensive list of items not allowed on an Airplane traveling within or into the United States, though for the most part, these are common sense and/or widely known and advertised.

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    This doesn't even attempt to answer the question. It is an answer to the different question "which items are forbidden to take when traveling to the US?". The whole point of this question is to get a quick summary of the unusual prohibitions, not all of them!
    – o0'.
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 9:09
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    @Lohoris The second and third paragraphs do address the question directly. The rest is a bit broader but still seems relevant. +1 from me.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 9:26
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    @Lohoris the only thing that would in your logic answer the question is going through the import restrictions of every single country on the planet, crosscheck those all with US import restrictions, then make a guess as to what constitutes "most countries" in the mind of OP, and generate a list based on that. Go ahead and do so if you have the time and inclination...
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 11:16
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    @jwenting or just use common sense?
    – o0'.
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 11:38
  • LOL: "dog or cat fur" (presumably, it is OK if it is still on a live animal). Also, I found one that I have actually violated, but bringing a Shan knife back from Burma. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 16:55

Haggis is prohibited. Traditionally haggis is made with sheep lungs, which have been banned from food in the USA since 1971.

There have recently been calls to end this ban, see a report from The Guardian - Scotland to petition US to bring back haggis. Though I don't think the law has changed yet.

Even though sheep lungs are a traditional ingredient, not all haggis recipes use them. So some types may be allowed in the USA. There is vegetarian haggis available, which often tastes just as good, and would probably avoid any import restrictions.

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    Vegetarian haggis can't really be called haggis, can it? There are few non-meat ingredients in haggis except oatmeal.
    – Tim Nevins
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 22:28

Some quick Googling for other's experience (as I have been fortunate enough to never have anything but a screwdriver confiscated while travelling in/out of the USA) turns up mostly things that are either agriculture related (any sort of dead animal or a dead animal product) or controlled substances (even "ordinary" things that are not prescription but may be of uncertain origin) and most importantly, counterfeit items. The US is keen (probably more so than just about every other country) to vigorously enforce copyright rules and things like bootleg DVDs or even children's toys that are of unlicensed origin can be subject to seizure. Luxury items like fake rolex watches will be scrutinized too.

Here is a basic list of stuff to leave at home that might be OK in some/all other countries:
1: Anything that just recently died
2: Anything that might grow
3: Anything that might be counterfeit
4: Any food that you aren't going to eat before you get to the US CBP checkpoint (you either don't need it because its available in the USA, or if it's not then it's probably banned for some reason or another so leave it at home either way).

Also as others have explained, in case you are new to traveling abroad you will be subject to at least two (more if you are going through other countries) searches. One will be before boarding your US-bound flight, where you and your carry on belongings are subject to the TSA regulations to protect flight safety (things like potential explosives or weapons) and another when you arrive in the USA and want to disembark the airport (to officially enter the USA), which is the US Customs and Border Protection check that screens all your belongings for "odd" things like dead animals, counterfeit goods, large sums of cash, etc.

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    "Any food that you aren't going to eat before you get to the US CBP checkpoint (you either don't need it because its available in the USA, or if it's not then it's probably banned for some reason or another so leave it at home either way)". Nonsense. Most food that isn't fresh fruit, fresh vegetables or meat can be brought into the USA Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 23:46
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    "Most food" is correct but without getting into a convoluted list of what is/isn't good (the aforementioned Kinder eggs are one example) just carrying what you want to eat on your travel to the US is the best idea. Food in the US is generally cheaper than places abroad (thanks, farm subsidies) so you really aren't doing yourself a favor by trying to import a bunch of it, and the odds of getting hassled by CBP go up. If you do want to bring food, make sure it doesn't contain any ingredients that could be construed as medicinal (ie energy drinks) and that the country of origin is not banned.
    – Jeff Meden
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 14:59
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    Nobody said anything about "importing a bunch of" food. When travelling to visit somebody, it is very common to bring them a small gift. Food is a very common choice of gift, especially snack foods from the traveller's home country which, contrary to your assertion, are often very hard to find in the USA or can only be bought there at a huge mark-up because they're specialist imports. I have done this many times; it has never been an issue. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 15:16

Since rules change over time from country to country, and we're unlikely to go through every item comparing it to every country, the best solution is to go to the source - the TSA.

Their list of Prohibited Items is updated regularly and is extensive and thorough. There are some perhaps unexpected items, but often with good reason - certain chemicals, for example, and you don't want a vehicle airbag going off in the hold, I guess. It's good to see that snow-globes are usually permitted(!).

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    Note that this list is specific to what may be carried on an airplane; travelers entering the US overland or by sea, or having their belongings shipped, are not subject to most of these restrictions. Additionally, there are a number of items restricted by customs, such as the aforementioned dumb Kinder Egg restrictions, or specific agricultural items, which are not listed here at all. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 7:29
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz indeed, a valid point, although even the uncharged devices example the OP gives is a TSA-only restriction, and he specifically asks about TSA security..
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 7:44
  • I recall an issue many years ago (I would have to say 1970s or early 80s) where snow globes from Taiwan were found to contain contaminated water. Some kind of biohazard if memory serves. Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 1:45

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