Suppose, someone enters a country as a tourist and brings in personal electronics. Suppose, the electronic breaks inside the country so it becomes useless.

Can that tourist then throw away the electronics within the country to free up baggage space when he eventually leaves the country, or is he supposed to bring everything that he entered the country back, even if it's been rendered useless due to damage? Does customs/border control at airports in general care about stuff like that when a person exits a country?

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    Questions that say "in a foreign country", especially legal ones, ought to be automatically closed as too broad. What country?
    – fkraiem
    Aug 10, 2017 at 23:21
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    @fkraiem: Not if the answer is the same for all countries...
    – user541686
    Aug 11, 2017 at 3:54
  • @Mehrdad I feel that a question is a valid or invalid question based on the merits of the question itself, and not of its potential answers.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 11, 2017 at 5:35
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    @fkraiem There exist certain norms that virtually every country follows. Most laws are put in place only when a problem arises. Once that problem becomes codified in a law, other countries go "Hey, if Whatthecrapistan is doing it to make their country better, why aren't we?!" and within a few years / decades, many countries do whatever that thing is. So no, I don't think that asking about generalizations between countries makes a question too broad. I think it's better than the alternative, which is 194 individual questions on the topic each pertaining to its own country.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 11, 2017 at 5:37
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    Even if the exact details vary from country-to-country, the norms here are similar in enough countries that the question can be answered generally. I'm obviously biased here, but I think I and the other answerers did an adequate job of that. The OP asked a general question and got a general answer. If they need legal advice for a specific country, that's a different problem. Aug 11, 2017 at 6:19

4 Answers 4


In general, this is no problem. The country may have environmental laws governing the recycling and disposal of electronics, which a tourist would have to comply with, but assuming they are disposed of properly, there is no problem, because most countries do not make any record of the typical electronic devices carried by tourists. If you didn't register the goods with customs on the way in, there's no way they know or care whether you're taking them out.

Occasionally, some countries will be concerned about whether you're really planning on taking electronics back out with you, as you would be required to pay duty if the goods are imported. If this applies to you, you'll usually know about it, and it generally applies to valuable technical articles or excessive quantities of electronics (usually think professional broadcast gear or an unusual number of laptops, not just the typical laptop/smartphone/camera carried by a tourist). Such goods could be covered under the ATA Carnet scheme, which obliges you to re-export the goods within a year or pay the applicable duty. Without a Carnet, the country could impose a deposit or charge import duty, and you'd have to use whatever mechanism exists in that country to get a refund when you export the goods.

If any of that applies to you, and again, it would not as a typical tourist in most all places (if you're going to, say, North Korea, there may be more scrutiny), throwing the goods away would mean that you wouldn't get your deposit back, because you're required to export the goods to do so. If this is the case, you'd likely need to hold on to the broken electronics.

In short, unless the goods underwent some kind of special registration when you imported them, nobody is going to know or care whether you export them or throw them out.


No one cares about the stuff you bring in to another country, as long as this stuff is legal. If you legally bring an electronic device to another country, no one cares about whether you will take it back or not and no one keeps track of it.

The only thing you should consider, as a citizen of world, is that it's very much appreciated if you appropriately recycle your electronic devise instead of throwing it into the next trash bin, or even worse (God forbid) throw it into the streets.

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    "If you legally bring an electronic device to another country, no one cares about whether you will take it back or not" Customs most certainly does care about whether you intend to take back the items you're bringing into the country or not. They don't want you selling them and circumventing the relevant import restrictions and/or duties. Of course, they won't care in the specific case described by the OP, though, as that's pretty clearly not a case of intending to circumvent import rules or duties.
    – reirab
    Aug 11, 2017 at 7:51
  • Can you reference an example source, where customs explicitly mention that electronic devices should be brought back? If yes, that would make an interesting answer per se.
    – gdrt
    Aug 11, 2017 at 10:17
  • If you intend to sell it, it would fall under the "commercial merchandise" which I think every customs form I've ever filled out for any country asked about. For example, question 1 on the U.S. CBP form is "Do I (we) have any commercial merchandise or am I (we) transporting currency or monetary instruments equal to or greater than $10,000 U.S. or foreign equivalent in any form?"
    – reirab
    Aug 11, 2017 at 14:40
  • Thanks for the example, but that was definitely not what OP was interested in, and that is why I skipped such corner cases in my example with words like legal and legally.
    – gdrt
    Aug 11, 2017 at 14:47

When you enter a country, you are supposed to declare anything you bring in, especially gifts. This is so that appropriate taxes can be applied. In fact, at customs, they may stop you and ask you if you are bringing in anything of value. For example, you could be bringing in a new computer, on which you may be asked to pay import taxes. However, if you can prove that it is yours, and you will take it back with you, you do not have to pay anything. In those rare cases the custom officer may fill out a form, so that you will be required to take that object back out with you. This is the only case in which you may have to worry about paying import taxes if the object later breaks and you throw it out (unless you can prove it). Now this happens rarely, but this is how in theory it should work.

Of course, as others have pointed out, you should also make sure electronics is disposed properly, no matter where you are.


How would they know, unless they took an inventory of your luggage when you arrived?

There are a few caveats to this:

  • If it was a piece of equipment that attracts a special tax or import duty, they might think that you had sold it in the country if you no longer have it with you when you leave. You could be stung with a large tax bill on departure if they think you lied about it being for personal use when you brought it in.
  • If the item is in some way illegal in the country or contains something that is illegal (some countries have rules about things like religious texts, for example).
  • You could be accused of littering, endangering wildlife, or some such thing if you don't dispose of it in the proper way.

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