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Weird customs regulations

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Posted by matt : Posted on June 15, 2011

Small UK businesses are doing their bit to put Britain back on the manufacturing map, but it’s important they keep an eye out for some of the more unusual customs regulations that might stand in the way…


You’ve taken the first few steps towards expanding your business internationally. You’ve identified the right market and spent hours researching everything from local cultural issues to shipping costs (if you haven’t, check out our guide to getting started in international trade). And you’ve done a thorough review of your company’s capabilities and visited the country firsthand.

But as your business looks to grow through import and/or export, there are a few less well known, surprising, but nonetheless vitally important facts that you need to be aware of. They surround a range of strange-but-true facts that could make a massive difference to your business – and they’re all to do with customs regulations.

Through our experience as the world’s leading international express delivery company, we’ve been busy compiling a list of some of the weirder customs regulations for SMEs to watch out for. These include:

Uncharted territories. Including maps in diaries or GPS systems being shipped to Argentina is a customs no-no.

Lonely soles. You’re not allowed to send a pair of matching shoes to South Africa, Mexico or India.

Do forget your toothbrush. The import of dental products to Algeria is prohibited.

Pitch perfect. Applying for a license is vital if you’re going to make a success of importing tents into Jordan.

Fake plastic flowers. Nigeria says no to the import of wheelbarrows and plastic flowers.

Phil Couchman, Chief Executive Officer of DHL Express explains: “many customs regulations are based on local and political issues, which can be difficult for a UK small business to anticipate. For instance, Morocco bans the import of maps not complying with Moroccan border territory in the Sahara desert.

Export markets offer important routes to growth for small businesses, but the instances above clearly demonstrate that thorough research is crucial. “Trading internationally can be the next logical step towards growing your business, and planning is vital for that success,” says Couchman.

“Initially you should thoroughly research regulations in the countries you are looking to expand into – otherwise certain customs will stop you getting your product to market. Not knowing these details could mean the difference between success and failure”.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to tackle customs issues alone. At DHL Express, we have the experience in international trade to help you cut through customs admin and help you remain customs compliant. We can provide valuable advice on expanding globally, as well as important information on rules and regulations governing import into specific countries – no matter how strange and obscure. We even have a dedicated customs section on this website, where you can find out more about the support we offer.

For more information on how DHL can support your expansion into international markets, visit

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