A Guide On Shipping to China

As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, increasing numbers of people are shipping to China, either for personal or business reasons. With a strong expat community in major cities like Shanghai, over 200,000 foreigners now call the city home – one of many great reasons to ship to China.

In this guide we will address some of the more common problems people face when sending a parcel to China, regardless if you are a small business sending your new product east, or sending a gift to a loved one.

Customs Clearance, Duties & Paperwork

All goods that go through customs are subject to duty and tax, aside from paperwork or documents. Customs charges are usually the responsibility of the recipient to pay upon entry, and are normally contacted by the local customs officials to agree on payment.

To clear your parcel through customs, you will need a customs invoice that details a description of the content, the country of manufacture, the individual value of each item and the reason for export.

Fees can range from 20-30% of the value of the goods being shipped. However, your parcel will be exempt from duties and tax if the goods are worth less than 500 Yuan. Shipments worth more than 1,000 Yuan will have to pass through formal customs clearance. This means your shipment could be delayed while this process is carried out.

Most importantly – all items require a tariff code before sending them to China. Don’t know it? This is the place to go.

Most customs paperwork will include fields to enter this information. ParcelHero automatically generates this paperwork based on the information entered at time of booking, making this process easy. The duty and taxes you will need to pay are then determined from the value of items as well as the the reason for export.

Shipping Tip: On average Express parcel delivery services to China give lead times of 3-4 days, depending on the addresses. This average does not take into account potential customs delays, service disruptions or deliveries to remote areas of China – so send your parcel early!

Restricted and Prohibited Items

China’s list of restricted and prohibited items changes fairly regularly, so you it is always best practice to check the official Chinese customs page ahead of booking a delivery, just to be safe. Sending an item that is banned from entry into China will only incur a delay to your delivery, as well as additional charges. It could even be destroyed.


Wood, cane, bamboo and rattan.

Any shipments that are made up of wood, cane, bamboo and rattan – including items packaged in wooden crates or pallets – will be subject to inspection by the local customs authority. Wooden items also need to be fumigated or require a Phytosanitary Certificate from the Plant Phytosanitary Authorities. If it is a processed wooden item in the package then it does not require this certificate, but the recipient must provide a statement of how the wood was processed.

Food Items

China is very strict on the food items it allows past its borders. As long as you follow these basic rules your food parcel should pass through with minimal delays. There is also extra paperwork required for food shipments into China, including a certificate from the Local Inspection and Quarantine Authority.

How Can My Food Parcel Pass Through China Customs?

  • Only ship food that is contained in its original manufacturing packaging.
  • Make sure that the food items have not been tampered with any way.
  • Food label must list all ingredients.
  • The food item needs to have a shelf life longer than 6 months.

Shipping Tip: Food items imported into China are also subject to a Quarantine Inspection. This is in addition to a regular customs check, which may add extra time to the shipping process. For more information on sending food abroad, read our in-depth guide.

Milk Powder and Baby Milk Powder are hugely popular items to import into China. If you are sending either of these, then you need to be aware of a few restrictions currently in place.

  • Baby milk powder can only be imported into China as personal effects.
  • Baby milk powder and milk powder have a weight restriction of 5kg per parcel.
  • The total value of the powder shipment must be below 1,000 Yuan.


Any electronic items like laptops, mobile phones, handheld GPS devices and others must be accompanied by a China Compulsory Certification (CCC) from the China Inspection and Quarantine Services to pass through customs. The receiver must provide this to customs.

However, some electronic items are exempt from this if they are declared as personal effects – make sure to contact the Chinese customs authority ahead of booking if you are unsure.



There are some items that are completely banned from entering into China. For example, any documents or pieces of media that the Chinese government believes undermine Chinese ideology or culture are illegal, and will be destroyed on sight. If you are not sure your item falls outside of this category then contact the official Chinese customs authority before shipping.

For a complete list of items banned from entry into China, visit the official Chinese customs site for more details.

These items can’t be sent via courier, click to find out more:

  • Aerosols
  • Dairy
  • Furs
  • Ivory
  • Fresh Food
  • Animals
  • Cash
  • Nail Varnish
  • Perfume
  • Plants
  • Tobacco
  • Seeds

Packaging Tips

How To Package a Parcel For Safe Delivery In China

  • Whenever you send a parcel, especially one containing fragile items, it is best to invest in a new double-corrugated cardboard box for the outer packaging.
  • For added protection, you can even purchase a triple-corrugated box for those really special items.
  • For internal packaging, use bubble-wrap and wrap your items individually. Remember to fill any remaining space left in the box with any left-over bubble wrap, newspaper or foam.

Need more information? Click here for our packaging and labelling guidelines.

Personal Effects, Luggage & Gifts

Personal effects and luggage shipments are restricted for import into China. That means that you can send personal effects and luggage to China but you will be required to submit additional information and documentation to Chinese customs.

If you are booking one of our luggage courier services to the China, you will need to ensure that all the necessary paperwork has been filled out for ‘personal effects’. Personal effects include items for personal use.

Qualify Your Parcel to Pass Through China Customs at No Extra Cost

  • You must list every item and their value on the customs invoice, and you must enter ‘Personal Effects’ in the ‘goods description’ section when you book it online.
  • Chinese Customs will require a Personal Import & Export Declaration Form to be completed upon entry, and they will contact you and ask you to submit your passport, visa and proof of entry to China (arrival stamp).
  • In some cases you may also be required to submit an Explanation Letter of Import Purpose.
  • Personal effects and luggage shipments will be subject to customs clearance inspection, duties and taxes, which may cause delays with delivery.

Sending a Gift

Gifts under 1000 Yuan (approx. 103 GBP) are exempt from duties and taxes provided they are shipped from individual to another with the description of “gift shipment”. You are required to provide a copy of the receiver’s passport for Customs in China.