Shipment conditions

International rules for sending post and parcels

Some goods and substances may not be sent abroad. Keep in mind the international rules. This prevents customs from seizing or destroying your post.

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What’s changed?

Do you ever send goods abroad using a stamp? From 1 January 2020, this will no longer be possible regardless of the value of the product. Due to changes in international regulations we have to start distinguishing strictly between goods and letters. This means it is no longer possible to send an item in an envelope with stamps. From now on, you need to send it as a parcel without track & trace. That way, there will always be a shipping label including a barcode.

How long does it take a parcel to reach its destination? View the delivery time per country.

Ban on sending personal protective equipment outside the European Union

On 15 March 2020, a regulation was published by the European Commission banning the export of personal protective equipment for the time being. For consumers and businesses, this means that sending personal protective equipment to countries outside the EU via PostNL is no longer allowed until further notice.

Generally prohibited goods and substances

The following goods and substances are prohibited by law to ship in every country:

  • perfume and aftershave
  • lithium (batteries)
  • aerosols (e.g. deodorants, air fresheners, hairspray and whipped cream)

Gases (flammable and non-flammable)

  • aerosols (e.g. deodorants, air fresheners, hairspray and whipped cream)
  • gas canisters
  • lighters
  • fire-extinguishing equipment

Flammable liquids

  • perfume and aftershave
  • nail polish, lacquer, varnish and paint

  • petrol and spirit

  • glue and adhesive

  • removal agents or thinners for paint, lacquer and varnish
  • alcoholic beverages containing more than 24% alcohol

Flammable solids

  • all matches and fire igniters
  • cellulose nitrate films

Oxidising agents and organic peroxides

  • disinfectants
  • hair and textile dye

Toxic and infectious substances

  • crop protection agents and pesticides
  • infectious organisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses and parasites)

  • medical samples and examination samples

Radioactive materials

  • clinical waste

Acidic substances

  • cleaning fluids
  • rust removal and prevention agents

  • mercury and gallium
  • lead-acid batteries

Drugs and intoxicants

  • medicines
  • soft drugs (e.g. cannabis, CBD oil and qat)

  • hard drugs (e.g. cocaine and ecstasy)

Lithium (batteries) and magnets

  • magnets (stronger than 0.159A/m)
  • loose lithium batteries
  • used batteries and oils

Excise goods

  • cigarettes
  • cigars
  • (pipe) tobacco

Weapons (covered by the Arms and Ammunition Act)

  • (automatic) firearms
  • fake weapons
  • (ballistic) knives
  • knuckle dusters
  • blackjacks
  • electric shock weapons
  • pepper spray

Explosive substances and goods

  • ammunition
  • fireworks fuses and ignition equipment
  • primers for counterfeit
  • weapons
  • airbags

Pornographic materials

  • videos and printed matter
  • child pornography

Human and animal material

  • excrements
  • tissue
  • blood

Live animals

Additional prohibited items per country

Many countries made additions to the general list of prohibited goods and substances. Below you will find these additions for the countries where most post is sent to. It also says what can be sent under certain conditions.

United States

It is prohibited to ship the following goods to the United States:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • lottery tickets
  • narcotics, unless these are permitted as controlled substances. More information can be found on the website of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
  • tobacco products such as cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco and snuff
What can only be sent to the US under certain conditions?
  • shipments containing food products, including food supplements and beverages. These must be reported online with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to shipment. To do so, you must first register at Registrar Corp. Did you receive a registration number? Make this Prior Notice Number clearly visible on the shipping document of the parcel. Please note: you do not need to report gift shipments of food products sent by you as consumer-to-consumer.
  • shipments of lithium batteries.

Ask the local postal service or the embassy under which conditions these goods can be sent.


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Canada:

  • alcoholic products, except where the consignee is the holder of the licence. In this case, the alcohol content must be less than 24%

What can only be sent to Canada under certain conditions?

  • shipments with wooden packaging that do not meet certain handling and marking requirements can be returned. Ask the Canadian postal service what these requirements are.
  • shipments of lithium batteries.

Ask the local postal service or the embassy under which conditions these goods can be sent.


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Australia:

  • llithium batteries. It does not matter whether they are loose batteries or installed into a device
  • weapons and military clothing, e.g. vests with room for explosives
  • items resembling weapons or explosives
  • straw and other vegetable or animal stuffing materials

What can only be sent under certain conditions?

  • anabolic or androgenic substances 
  • antibiotics 
  • articles depicting the Australian flag or Australian coat of arms 
  • goods with the word ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) on it or advertising material for such goods 
  • cosmetic products containing lead 
  • growth hormones 
  • dog hair or skin and cat hair or skin 
  • animal-unfriendly collars for dogs 
  • light bulbs 
  • ceramics containing lead or cadmium 
  • toys containing lead 
  • chewing tobacco 
  • cigarette lighters 
  • electric fly swatters 
  • laser pens 
  • personal protective equipment (sprays, bulletproof clothing, truncheon, electric shock equipment or acoustic shock equipment) 
  • brushes containing lead 
  • non-refillable containers containing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) for use in refrigeration systems and 
  • products containing HFC pesticides that deplete the ozone layer products containing PCB, terphenyl and polyphenyl 
  • tablet presses 
  • tobacco leaves

Ask the local postal service or the embassy under which conditions these goods can be sent. In order to prevent infectious diseases, items like footwear, sports and camping equipment must be thoroughly cleaned before shipment.


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Germany:

  • lithium batteries

It does not matter whether the batteries are packed separately or are part of an appliance.


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Turkey:

  • narcotics and products containing 'bonsai' (JWH-0181) 
  • cosmetics 
  • mobile phones 
  • tickets for and announcements of unlisted foreign lotteries 
  • animal and plant products, such as fish and tinned meat 
  • smoked and seasoned meat 
  • fruit and vegetables, fresh or dried 
  • white pepper 
  • silver money and foreign currencies
  • exceptions to these are:
    - gold coins for collections
    - obsolete money for collections
    - not valid bank paper
    - imitation money to make jewellery

What can only be sent under certain conditions?

  • alcoholic beverages
  • medicines
  • hard soap and soap in powder form, except for medicinal soap
  • coffee (maximum of 1 kg per person per month)
  • medical thermometers
  • saccharin and similar substances
  • tobacco and related items
  • tea

Ask the local postal service or the embassy under which conditions these goods can be sent.

The following goods can only be shipped with an import permit:

  • bees
  • leeches and silkworms
  • animal products
  • medicines and vitamins not intended for private individuals
  • vegetables
  • dairy products
  • plants and seeds
  • fishery products


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Switzerland:

  • antiradar equipment 
  • animal products covered by the CITES ban 
  • doping agents 
  • medicines 
  • narcotics 
  • products containing pornographic or violent images 
  • arms 
  • coins 
  • banknotes 
  • monetary or bearer instruments 
  • traveller's checks 
  • platinum 
  • gold or silver, processed or otherwise precious stones 
  • jewels


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to China:

  • printed matter, DVDs, CDs or other information carriers with content that is politically, economically, culturally or morally offensive to China 
  • cash and negotiable instruments 
  • lethal venom 
  • animals, plants and their products that carry infections 
  • narcotics medicines and other items from epidemic areas 
  • platinum 
  • gold or silver (processed or otherwise) 
  • precious stones 
  • jewels

China has an official list of products that are on the 'blacklist list', which may not be shipped. The Chinese government's website has a list of the products concerned.

What can only be sent under certain conditions?

  • radio transmitting and encrypted communication equipment 
  • tobacco products and wine 
  • endangered animal species, plants and their reproductive material

Ask the local postal service or the embassy under which conditions these goods can be sent.


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Russia:

  • printed and audio-visual materials (such as documents, photographs, films, graphics, drawings, digital information carriers) likely to cause political or economic damage to the Russian Federation. This includes materials with Nazi symbols and related symbols. The above-mentioned material that incites terrorist or extremist activity and material that justifies terrorism.
  • material which is harmful to the public security of the Russian Federation or to the health of its inhabitants 
  • pornographic material 
  • weapons, ammunition and parts thereof 
  • material for the unauthorised acquisition of information 
  • toxic substances 
  • narcotics or psychotropic substances 
  • human organs or parts thereof and blood and blood particles 
  • plants and seeds 
  • plant protection products covered by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 
  • certain products for fishing aquatic plant biotopes 
  • products that destroy the ozone layer 
  • alcoholic products 
  • tobacco products 
  • perishable food products 
  • art treasures 
  • precious stones and diamonds if not intended for jewellers


The Russian postal service advises to send parcels up to 2 kg by registered post. This is to send the content more securely and to better track the shipment.

New Zealand

It is prohibited to ship the following goods to New Zealand:

  • items for the use of controlled substances 
  • chewing tobacco 
  • disposable and refillable lighters 
  • products that affect the ozone layer 
  • products containing PCB 
  • harmful pencils, finger paint and watercolour intended for children 
  • equipment to disrupt radio or transmission traffic 
  • dog tracking equipment 
  • animal hair or items made with animal hair 
  • goods made by prisoners 
  • thermos flasks made of rubber and/or plastic


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Curaçao:

  • books printed in violation of copyright

What can only be sent under certain conditions?

  • copper, bronze or nickel coins and plates for producing coins. This is only allowed if the import is done on behalf of the Gouvernement.

Ask the local postal service or the embassy under which conditions these goods can be sent.


It is prohibited to ship the following goods to Egypt:

  • lithium batteries

It doesn't matter whether the batteries are packaged separately or are part of equipment.

  • liquids
Is the country of destination not listed? Consult the customs site of the country concerned for a complete list.

Useful information when shipping to a country outside the EU

Report it to customs

If you send goods abroad, you need a customs form. You will receive this form at a PostNL location or online via app/web. On this form you state the content, value and weight. Stick the form on the letter or parcel. The local customs authorities determine whether the post sent meets the requirements. They also consider whether the recipient must pay import duties.

Please note: From 1 January 2020, you will also have to provide goods shipments by letter with a shipping label with barcode. In addition, information on these shipments must be shared digitally and in advance with the postal company in the country to which they are being sent.

Import duties or taxes

When post is sent to a country outside the EU, the recipient may have to pay import duties and/or taxes.

United Kingdom

From 1 November 2019, it will be prohibited to send the following goods to the UK:

  • Products with a sharp edge or point (such as scissors, files, knives, axes, etc).
  • Flowers, plants, vegetables and fruit. More info can be found at website.

Brexit affects everyone who ships and delivers to and from the United Kingdom (UK). This particularly concerns letters and parcels containing goods. We explain more about the consequences. More on the consequences.


Please note that from 1 May 2019, goods with a value lower than 22 euros will no longer be exempt from import tax. The recipient in Turkey will now pay 18 per cent import tax (calculated on the value of the contents). A clearance fee of €0.74 will also be charged. This applies to all goods except books and other printed matter. These are exempt from import tax up to €150.