Australian Customs Regulations: What to Declare Before Entering Australia

australia customs regulation

Foreign nationals wishing to cross the Australian border must comply with both immigration and customs regulations. This means holding a valid Australian visa and observing its conditions as well as filling an accurate Australian customs declaration if needed.

Due to its geographical isolation, Australia presents a unique environment for the local flora and fauna. The biodiversity existing on the Australian territory is delicate and requires special measures in order to be protected from foreign agents (pests, diseases, etc.) that may disrupt its balance.

That — together with the health and safety of the Australian population — is one of the reasons why Australian customs regulations may seem stricter than those of other countries and the list of forbidden items may look longer.

This article provides useful customs information for travelers planning to enter Australia including what to declare to Australian Customs and forbidden items.

What Food Items Are Allowed into Australia?

Most food items must be declared on the Incoming Passenger Card that passengers of international flights are provided with before landing on Australian soil. These foods may be inspected and allowed or confiscated by biosecurity officers. Here’s a list of foods that must be declared to Australian customs:

  • Dairy products intended for human consumption like cheese and butter. They need to be commercially prepared and packaged. Only up to 10 kgs are allowed.
  • Canned, smoked, or dried fish products prepared and packaged commercially for human consumption. No more than 5kgs are allowed.
  • Honey products prepared and packaged commercially for human consumption.
  • Juice and soft drinks that are commercially packaged.
  • Unopened canned meat products that don’t need refrigeration.
  • Commercially prepared and packaged rice, noodles, and pasta of plant origin only.
  • Certain commercially prepared and packaged nuts.
  • Certain preserved fruit and vegetables that are canned or aseptically packaged. This may include jam, chutney, and pickles.
  • Commercially prepared and packaged sauces and curry pastes. This may include ketchup, soy, chili, and peanut sauce.
  • Commercially prepared and unopened dried herbs (including teas and infusions) and spices.
  • Duty-free products including alcohol and tobacco provided that they don’t go over the duty-free limits set per traveler.

Some food items aren’t allowed through customs. This means that Australian authorities will secure and destroy them at the traveler’s expense should they be found on them or in their luggage. These are just a few examples:

  • Uncanned meat including ham, bacon, sausages, salami, etc.
  • Food and drinks served during the flight.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Homemade meals and cakes, cured meat, etc.

Some food items are allowed into Australia if restrictions are met. This means that — provided that they abide by customs regulations — travelers are not required to declare these foods to customs. Examples include:

  • Commercially prepared and packaged, unopened coffee.
  • Commercially prepared and packaged chocolate and confectionery, biscuits, and cakes.

Are Prescription Drugs Allowed into Australia?

Travelers are allowed to bring prescription drugs to Australia, with certain restrictions:

  • All medicines should be declared. When in doubt, declaring goods is always the best option to comply with the law and avoid fines.
  • The traveler must present the prescription or a doctor’s note written in English to certify that the drugs have been prescribed to the person carrying them.
  • Some substances are not allowed without permission from the Australian Office of Drug Control. This includes steroids, Thalidomide, Yohimbe, Abortifacients, and more.

Bringing Animals and Pets to Australia

Travelers wishing to bring live animals with them should be aware that several restrictions apply. This is because of the great pest or disease risk associated with foreign animals and pets.

Cats, dogs, and horses can only be imported from a list of selected countries. Different importing conditions and quarantine periods apply to different countries of origin.

Specific species of rabbits and birds are allowed from New Zealand only.

For what concerns pet food — including rawhide chews, pigs’ ears, biscuits, kibble, canned pet food, jerky strips and ‘chocolate’ drops for pets — this is not allowed into Australia without an import permit.

The above is a series of general norms that should be followed by travelers who wish to cross the border carrying restricted items. After being granted their Australian ETA or Australian eVisitor, foreign nationals and travelers coming from abroad should get detailed information about forbidden goods and items subject to limitations in order to avoid fines.