Getting through Australian Customs and Qarantine
Australian customs regulations are some of the strictest in the world in terms of what products you can bring into the country. Customs employees will be scanning you, your passport and luggage upon return into the country and will be looking for any kind of plant or animal material you have picked up while travelling (along with any illicit items of course).
It’s good to be informed before you leave so you don’t end up having to abandon stuff you have picked up on the way.
The following is a quick guide to what to expect while departing and arriving back in Australia.
Departing passenger cards
As you leave the country all passengers have to fill out a departing passenger card. These cards just have details of your intentions on your holiday, and what goods you are carrying. You can fill them in at the customs hall, but a better tip is to get a hold of this small green form and fill it in before you get to the airport. It just saves looking around for a pen or waiting to use one with a cue of other flustered travellers (especially the case for families). A good travel agent will always give you one with your tickets; otherwise just ask at any agency if they can give you as many as you need. Failing that try your local post office.
Goods exported in passenger baggage
If you are taking away things like expensive cameras and a lap top that might appear on return to Australia as something you have purchased duty free, then it’s an idea to fill in the goods exported in passenger baggage form (which you can get off the customs website). Once filled in you give this form to customs as you leave. You will have to keep the copy they give you, but this means you won’t have to declare the goods when you arrive back into Australia.
- You will be given an incoming passenger card to fill out on the flight back into the country; err on the side of caution and declare anything that you are unsure off. This will help to avoid hassles and possible fines in customs (keep a pen handy for this as flight attendants seem to loath little less than you asking for one).
- Declare if you have been on a farm, camping in some countries as dust or mud on your shoes and bags can get you in trouble (I once had to wait while some tent pegs were cleaned, apparently narrowly avoiding a fine for not declaring I had camped out while in New Zealand)
- Always declare food products – don’t assume packaged products will be ok
- Try to avoid coming home with a mountain of pirated CD’s and DVD’s; its technically illegal to have these copies and having heaps of them might make it look like you plan to sell them on at home
- Declare any wildlife souvenirs to make sure you are not buying products from endangered or threatened species
- Try to avoid all animal and plant products if you are worried about getting them in (carvings included, especially from Africa)
Duty free goods
There are limits (clearly set out on the incoming passenger card and the customs site) to the values and amounts of goods you can bring back into Australia (alcohol and cigarette limits will be the most common category to effect incoming passengers). The following are the current limits and are subject to change.
If you are aged 18 years or over, you can bring up to AUD$900 worth of general goods into Australia duty-free. If you are under 18 years of age there is a AUD$450 limit. General goods include gifts, souvenirs, cameras, electronic equipment, perfume concentrates, jewellery, watches and sporting equipment.
If you are aged 18 years or over, you can bring 2.25 litres of alcohol duty-free into Australia with you. All alcohol in accompanied baggage is included in this category, regardless of where or how it was purchased.
If you are aged 18 years or over, you can bring 250 cigarettes, or 250 grams of cigars or tobacco products duty-free into Australia with you.
Why is the plane I’m travelling on sometimes sprayed before landing?
According to the customs website this is to protect against insects and insect born diseases such as Dengue Fever, Malaria and Yellow Fever.
What is sprayed contains two active ingredients; permethrin and d-Phenothrin. This is similar stuff that’s used to treat your clothes and nets for protection from Malaria. The amounts are not highly concentrated.
The procedure is called ‘disinfection’ and should not have any ill effects. For more info see the customs site.
What are those Beagals looking for?
The dogs active at major Australian airports are on the hunt for plant and animal material, and or other illicit substances. They are as likely to sniff out the beef jerky you bought in the States as they are anything stuffed into a boogie board bag.
The Australian customs service has a brochure you can print out informing you of what you can and can’t take out of and back into Australia. Have a read at; www.customs.gov.au. For a list of other embassies websites to see what the customs rules for other countries check out www.smarttraveller.gov.au, or an easy to search embassy data base at Embassy World (www.embassyworld.com/).
So if you have any worries with customs laws and regulations, head to the customs site. These rules can change fairly regularly.