What Can I bring? A Simple Guide to Australian Customs

It can be confronting when you arrive at the Customs section of any international airport. After a long-haul flight, you’re tired, confused and disoriented and then you have uniformed personnel asking you questions, possibly in a language you’re not used to.

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That’s why it’s best to know beforehand what you can and can’t take into a country. It saves stress and time and you’ll enter the country with a smile on your face. So, what can you bring into Australia? Our simple guide to Australian Customs will help.

Why is Australia so strict?

You’ll notice from this article that Australia is very strict on what people can bring into the country. Australia is not just a continent but a gigantic island, entirely “girt by sea” as the national anthem goes. This places it in a unique position of being able to control the biosecurity very well. The country’s eco-system is very fragile and vulnerable to contaminants such as diseases and pests and agriculture too can scarcely afford to come under attack by exotic intruders.

Customs officials in Australia are highly trained and equipped with state-of-the-art tools to properly screen people, animals and objects crossing the borders. This means Australia remains free from diseases like rabies, malaria and lyme disease and when vulnerabilities do occur, protocols are rapidly activated to prevent the spread.

Always declare what you’re bringing in

An important piece of advice for travellers entering any country is to always declare what you’re bringing in. On the plane, you’ll receive an Incoming Passenger Card; it’s a Customs declaration form that is a legal document.

It asks if you are bringing in any restricted types of foods, plant materials or animal items. Tick the ‘yes’ box to any that apply and when you get to Customs, you must declare these items. You may or may not be allowed to keep them but if you don’t declare them, and you get found out, penalties apply.

What foods can you bring into Australia?

It’s important to note that the following items each have their own conditions. For instance, you can bring coffee into Australia but only in personal use quantities and it must be in clean, new packaging, free from live insects or any other contamination. Only noodles or pasta that are manufactured commercially and contain only plant-based ingredients are allowed. For further details, take a look at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

  • Biscuits, bread, cakes, pastries
  • Cheese, butter and other dairy foods
  • Chocolates and confectionery
  • Coffee
  • Fish
  • Honey
  • Human breast milk
  • Beverage sachets
  • Infant formula
  • Soft drink and juice
  • Maple syrup
  • Meat products
  • Noodles and pasta
  • Nuts
  • Oil
  • Pet food and pet treats
  • Prawns
  • Preserved fruits and vegetables
  • Red dates
  • Rice
  • Sauces
  • Seafood other than prawns
  • Spices
  • Tea and dried herbs
  • Vitamins and supplements for human use

Bringing animals into Australia

Australian Customs are extremely strict on the importation of live animals such as cats, dogs and exotic pets. These need to be imported via complex processes and cannot simply be brought in as cargo without first going through the proper channels.

Souvenirs, collectables and household items

It can be hard to leave your precious belongings behind but if you do intend to bring seashells, an animal skin floor mat or feather pillows from home, they must be declared. You may be able to bring the following items in but keep in mind, they must be declared and they may not be allowed, once you’re in Customs.

  • Animal horns, bones or teeth
  • Some cosmetics
  • Feather items
  • Beeswax
  • Hiking, sports and fishing equipment
  • Leather hides, skin or fur
  • Rocks, fossils, sand or seashells
  • Live plants and seeds
  • Wooden items.

Prescription medications

By and large, you can bring your prescription medications into Australia, as long as they are for your own consumption and accompanied by documentation from the prescribing doctor. You can only bring a 3-month supply of medicine into Australia and if you are staying longer, you will have to consult an Australian-registered doctor for a new prescription. It’s against the law to bring medicines or medical devices into Australia to give to someone else.

You must declare all sedatives, hormones, kava and other medicines. Steroids, marijuana and recreational drugs are prohibited so you must not bring these products at all. The Office of Drug Control has more information on travelling to Australia with medicines.

For more information regarding the importation of medical cannabis, see the website of the Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Duty free items

If you are aged 18 or older, you are allowed to bring 2.25 litres of alcoholic beverages into Australia. Keep in mind that you must adhere to the airline’s liquids allowance. You can bring in 25 grams of tobacco (loose leaf or as cigarettes), which is equivalent to roughly 25 cigarettes, plus an open packet. The age limit applies for tobacco too.

Bringing money into Australia

Travellers are allowed to bring an unlimited amount of cash into and out of Australia but if the amount of Australian currency comes to $10,000 or more, it must be declared.

What are you not allowed to bring into Australia?

The following is not an exhaustive list but a general rundown on items you are not allowed to bring into Australia.

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Food you were given on the plane or ship
  • Homemade food

Though this may appear to be a short list, remember that for all other items shown throughout this article, you need to read up and be fully aware of your responsibilities. Otherwise, you could have your expensive or much-loved items confiscated, never to be seen – or enjoyed – again.

Declare, declare, declare!

When you arrive at Customs, if you think you have restricted items in your luggage, it’s wise to always declare them. If you don’t list them on your declaration form and they should not be entering the country, you could be up for costly penalties or legal ramifications.

Keep in mind that Australia’s biosecurity is a precarious, valuable thing and Customs officials are extremely good at their job. The declaration reminder very necessary, to save you from undesirable losses and to protect you from unwanted dealings with the law, before you even get to leave the airport.

Before you even start to pack your bags, ask yourself this: What can I bring into Australia? Do your homework, make lists and check the list before closing your suitcases.