I am taking a trip to Shanghai next week to see some friends. They have requested that I bring a few items with me to give to them that are difficult (or expensive) for them to obtain where they live:

  • Gluten-free crackers and pizza crust mix
  • Personal lubricant
  • Vitamins
  • Energy drink mix
  • Dental floss
  • Swiss army knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Designer earrings (18K gold)

As this will be my first time travelling to China, I'm not sure what to expect, and I would like to know if there's anything I should be aware of:

  • Will I need to declare any of these items specifically on the immigration form?
    • Are there any special considerations since I will not be taking these items out of the country when I leave?
  • Are there any items that will be confiscated or destroyed if I bring them with me?
  • Will I be charged a duty or import tax on any of these items?
  • Is there anything else I should know before attempting to bring these items into China?

Also, the value of the earrings is in excess of the ¥2.000 threshold noted in the document linked from Ankur's answer, so it seems that I will need to pay a duty tax on them. This raises a couple of additional questions:

  • What is the duty tax rate for US citizens?
  • Can I pay the duty tax in US Dollars or with a credit card, or will I need to acquire Renminbi before I arrive?

I am a US citizen coming in on a single-entry tourist ("L") visa.

  • 1
    Um, you have to declare the items but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to pay duty on it. I'll look into whether you have to. Dec 2, 2011 at 20:14
  • Also I'll probably merge the two questions since they're pretty similar and can be covered in one question. Dec 2, 2011 at 20:15
  • FYI, I went ahead and edited the other question to include the info from this one.
    – user82
    Dec 2, 2011 at 20:29
  • Okay, so I'll merge these two and then update my answer after some research. Shanghai airport's website is only in Chinese so I'll tap into some friend who can translate it for me. Dec 2, 2011 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


Shanghai office of Customs department in China has a guide for international travellers. Looking at your list, you should be fine as none of these fall under prohibited or controlled items...except for designer earrings. Gold items fall under controlled items and you will need to declare that by filling up a customs declaration form and passing through red channel. The only exception is if the total weight of gold is less than 50g, in which case it does not need to be declared for inward visitors into the country.

I don't know how strict they are enforcing these rules in Shanghai, but in SARs like Macau and Hong Kong they aren't that bothered.

I looked for what taxation rates are for customs duty in China without any success on finding official documents that mention the actual rates. There are references to preferential rates and conventional rates depending what on what country a traveller is from. Additionally, there is documentation on how exchange rates are handled and it seems it is possible to pay duty in currencies other than Chinese RMB. What I'm not so sure of is whether you will be allowed to pay using Visa/MasterCard since in mainland China they typically use a payment card system called UnionPay.

  • Updated answer with further details Dec 3, 2011 at 21:59
  • Thanks for the extra effort! I'm awarding a bounty to this answer to thank you for all your help.
    – user82
    Dec 12, 2011 at 20:58
  • 3
    ... in 23 hours and 59 minutes.
    – user82
    Dec 12, 2011 at 20:58
  • Did you check out the list!, they haven't gone to any supermarket, store, in china. All that is very easy to obtain. No need at all to fly the stuff from America.
    – MaoYiyi
    Sep 14, 2012 at 6:19
  • "2 Personal articles intended to remain in the territory, valued at RMB2,000 or above, carried by non-Chinese residents. " lets you bring in ~$300 worth of stuff ($600 as there are two of you) without having to declare it. I would think it likely that this covers everything but the earrings. Feb 23, 2013 at 3:58

I don't have any authoritative information on what the rules are but my guts tell me that you should be fine taking all of these things.

All the stuff can be considered part of your own personal belongings as long as you take them out of the shrink wrapped packaging.

The fact that you wont have them when leaving can be easily explained: You lost them or they got stolen.

I never arrived in China by air. On overland entries my luggage was never checked.

  • 7
    I've entered by air in Shanghai many times. The only time customs has shown any interest in our bags was when the guy was standing around and I was wheeling out a cart with 4 large suitcases (and no carryons), and my entry two days earlier definitely interested him. When my wife caught up and explained (she's a native speaker, I let her do the talking) it was a case of the bags taking two days to catch up to us he lost interest. Other than that they've never shown the slightest interest even the day she set off their nuke alarm. Feb 23, 2013 at 4:01

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