Every country has different requirements about what visitors can and can’t bring into the country. As a strict country, Singapore has a long list of items that they absolutely don’t allow to be brought in, and items that they allow. Some items are duty free, some items require Custom Import Permit.
I wrote this article to help enlighten travelers who are coming to Singapore for the first time and do not have a single clue about the country’s requirement, as well as residents who are not sure about custom requirement.
Do note that regulations keep changing, so does custom requirements. I do my best to make this article as updated as possible. I also include official links so that you can learn more about certain rules and to check on the latest requirements.
Things You Absolutely Can’t Bring to Singapore
Here are items that are considered “Prohibited Goods.” In simple words, do not bring these items to Singapore.
Chewing gum. I know how great it feels to chew a gum. I grew up with chewing various flavored gums in Indonesia. Unfortunately, chewing gum is banned in Singapore, so don’t even try to bring one. There is an exception though. You can bring approved oral dental and medicinal chewing gum but these have to be approved by Health Sciences Authority of Singapore.
Cigarette lighters with pistol/gun/revolver shapes.
Drugs. I’m not talking about medicine here. I’m talking about drugs. Death penalty awaits drug smugglers.
E-cigarettes and other tobacco imitation products. Well, you can bring cigarettes (see below section) but you can’t bring e-cigarettes and other tobacco imitation products.
Endangered wildlife & their by-products.
Fire crackers. I can hear you say, “What? Where’s the fun?!” But when you think about it, Singapore is really dense and crowded so there are not many places where you can play fire crackers without worrying about safety. The last thing you want on your holiday is being injured by fire crackers. To be honest, watching fireworks is more fun than playing the deaf-inducing fire crackers.
Pirated articles. Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, so I highly encourage you to always buy original products. If your works get pirated or copied without your consent, it’s not fair for you, right?
Pornography articles. No, no, no. Don’t. Just don’t.
Things You Can Bring into Singapore with Limited Quantities
Alcohol. Alcohol allowance is really tricky because it is duty-free up to certain amount; beyond that, you need to pay duty or obtain a permit to import alcohol. I’ll try my best to explain it in the simplest possible method. Do note that alcohol/liquor also includes sake, cooking wine, rice wine, soju and any alcoholic drinks that has more than 0.5% alcohol content.
Alcohol Case 1: You don’t need to pay duty and don’t need to declare if you fulfill all the conditions below:
- You are at least 18 years old
- You have spent at least 48 hours outside Singapore before arrival
- You are not arriving from Malaysia
- The liquor is for your own consumption, not for sales
- The liquor is not prohibited from import into Singapore
- You are bringing any one of these combinations:
- 1 liter of spirit & 1 liter of wine; or
- 1 liter of spirit & 1 liter of beer; or
- 1 liter of wine & 1 liter of beer; or
- 2 liters of wine; or
- 2 liters of beer
Alcohol Case 2: You need to pay duty if you are bringing more than the duty-free allowance mentioned above, but the quantity of alcohol is capped at 10 liters. When you arrive, just proceed to the Singapore Customs Tax Payment Office to make tax payment; alternatively, you can pay via [email protected] app.
Alcohol Case 3: You need to obtain Custom Import Permit (before you arrive) if you’re bringing more than 10 liters of liquors. When you arrive, you need to show the permit at Red Channel.
For all of the cases above, the alcohol that you buy from Singapore airport upon arrival is also counted in your total import quantity. For example, if you buy 2 liters of beers from overseas, then 2 liters of wine from Singapore airport, you’ll fall under Case 2. Thus, you need to pay duty on the 2 liters of wine or beers.
The information about duty-free allowance can be found here.
Bak kwa. Bak kwa (also known as barbecue pork) is a popular Chinese New Year delicacies in Singapore. 5kg of bak kwa is allowed to be brought into Singapore if the origin country is in the list of approved countries. Since Malaysia is not in the list, it means Malaysia’s bak kwa is not allowed. Don’t be sad though, there are plenty of yummy bak kwa in Singapore!
Cigarettes. You can bring cigarettes into Singapore but you need to pay duty. At the time of writing, the duty for cigarettes is 42.7 cents for every gram of clove cigarettes. Assuming each stick is 2 gram, the duty for each stick is 2*0.427 cents = $0.854. Duty for a box of 12 sticks is 12*0.854 = $10.248. That’s why cigarettes are so expensive in Singapore. And that’s why you should stop smoking 🙂
And just because you can afford to pay the duty for cigarettes, don’t assume you can bring hundreds of kilos of cigarettes easily. A Custom Import Permit is required if you are bringing more than 400 grams of cigarettes.
Bird’s nest, cleaned and dried. You can bring 1kg of cleaned dried bird’s nest for personal consumption.
Processed food. In general, you can bring in a maximum of 5kg or 5 litres of processed food products, and the total value of these products cannot exceed $100 per person. Processed food includes all food that are not meat products, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, and eggs.
Seafood, meat, fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. If you’re planning to bring any of these food items, be very careful of the food origin. Only food from approved origin can be brought into Singapore. There’s a limit for each category for personal consumption. Detailed information can be found here.
Things You Can Bring into Singapore but Require Declaration
Cash. According to ICA regulation, if you bring more than SGD 20,000 cash or equivalent in foreign currency, you need to fill up NP727 Form and submit it at the Customs Red Channel located at the baggage claim area.
Hand Sanitisers, Masks, Thermometers. In view of the recent surge of Coronavirus COVID-19, if you’re bringing these items for personal use within the allowable limit, you do not need to declare. However, if you’re bringing these items for commercial purpose, you need to notify HSA here.
Here’s the allowable limit of hand sanitisers, masks and thermometers for personal use:
- Surgical masks: 3 boxes (3 x 50 pieces) per person
- Particulate Respirators: 3 boxes (3 x 20 pieces) per person
- Thermometers: 2 units per person
You may need to pay 7% GST for ALL products that are brought into Singapore for personal use
So, you’ve already learned what things you can bring into Singapore and you’ve decided what you’ll bring and how much you’ll bring. The next step is to assess whether you need to pay for GST (Goods and Services Tax).
Case 1: You hold a work permit, employment pass, student pass, dependent pass or long-term pass issued by the Singapore Government. Well, you need to pay 7% GST for any new things brought into the country for personal use.
Case 2: You’re a citizen or permanent resident.
If the value of the goods you’re bringing is more than the allowable limit, you need to pay 7% GST. What are the limit?
- If you’ve been away from Singapore for more than 48 hours, you need to pay GST if the value of your goods are more than SGD 500. If your goods are worth less than SGD 500, you don’t have to pay GST. Eg: you purchased a bag that costs SGD 700 from overseas, so you need to pay 7% of the excess value, which is 7%*200 = SGD 14.
- If you’ve been away from Singapore for less than 48 hours, you need to pay GST if the value of your goods are more than SGD 100. If your goods are worth less than SGD 100, you don’t have to pay GST. Eg: you purchased a bag that costs SGD 700 from overseas, so you need to pay 7% of the excess value, which is 7%*600 = SGD 42.
Is the value equals to the price? Well, the value is the sum of the product’s price, plus insurance, cargo fees (if any) and any other costs involved.
What are Green Channel and Red Channel?
When you arrive in Singapore, right after immigration and baggage claim, you will see Green Channel and Red Channel at the exit of immigration hall. Which one should you go to?
Go to green channel if:
- You have nothing to declare. In other words, you don’t bring items that you’re not supposed to bring. Or you’re not bringing more than the allowable duty-free or GST relief limit.
Go to red channel if:
- You have dutiable or taxable goods exceeding your duty-free concession or GST relief. Even though you have made duty payment through the app or at Custom Tax Office, you still have to go to red channel to show the documents of your payment.
- You are bringing Controlled or restricted goods. Even though you have obtained the Custom Import Permit, you need to show them at the red channel.
- You are bringing Prohibited goods.
I urge that you be honest and not try to test your luck because it is a strict country after all. The penalty isn’t worth whatever thing you’ll gain from the dishonest behavior.
Have any questions? Let me know in the comments or ask me in the Trevallog Community Facebook group.