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Shopping From China: To Ship Or Not To Ship?

On the topic of shipping, the majority of Singaporeans know the usual items that are barred by customs. The general items that cannot be shipped include: cigarettes, gasoline, weapons, pornographic material etc. In fact, the majority of these items are deemed illegal and could land one in hot soup with the authorities if discovered.

But while we already know the usual prohibited items, there are other gray items that leave room for doubt before one clicks the “buy” button. And especially now with the ease of purchase of items from China thanks for TaoBao, these are the items that the everyday shopper is more concerned about- the items that raises questions ranging from “why is it stated that this is disallowed but…” to “can we ship this variant now that I had shipped a similar item the last time?”

Here we dive into the mechanics of some of the more everyday Items that vPost does not ship from China to understand the intricacies better.

Items That vPost Do Not Ship To Singapore From China

Face mask, Disposable/Reusable surgical mask

Following the global shortage of masks in the race to combat COVID-19 in mid-2020, the Chinese government ruled that only licensed manufacturers of surgical masks, test kits, ventilators, protective gear etc would be allowed to export their products. The rest- meaning majority of shops on TaoBao- would only be allowed to distribute their products within the mainland.

There is an exception of cloth masks that are non-surgical in nature if you are able to find a TaoBao shop that would allow a non-resident to add such items to cart; but with the recent guidelines on of COVID-19 and its variants being aerosol in nature, it is better to purchase surgical masks with 99% BFE (bacterial filtration efficacy) from your local pharmacy anyway.

Items that are not labeled in English (Dietary supplements/ Cosmetics/ Food)

Here we have one of those fine lines between products within the same category that can be shipped, and those that can’t. The only difference between the two is labelling. It explains why the currently explosively popular Guerlain Arbeille Royale Discovery Skincare Set will pass through customs while the One Leaf mask, the no. 1 most consumed and must-have skincare product among Chinese women (according to, would not make it past our shores. Hence when in doubt, check with the stores on the language printed on their labels before clicking ‘buy’.

Any food, supplement, drug or cosmetic that has been issued a Consumer Safety Advisory Warning by Authority (HSA or etc)

This is pretty straightforward and you can verify the items via a quick google search before purchase. If a health product or cosmetic has been issued with a safety advisory warning by our own health science authority, avoid it at all costs- even if it could make you lose 10kilos within 2 weeks. ESPECIALLY if it can make you lose 10kilos in 2 weeks.

Find out more about HSA's restrictions here.

Antiques/ Art Works

The artworks here do not mean the decorative art prints we put beside our desk plants, or the run-of-the-mill Van Gogh reprints for average space decor. They refer to the real McCoys- the Qing ceramics that have withstood the test of centuries, pottery or necklace beads dating back to the Han Dynasty, or the Chinese equivalent of real Van Goghs amounting to the price of three 5-room HDB flats and beyond. Some of these are national artifacts that could amount to art theft if shipped out of the country- so if what you intend to purchase does not fall within that type of category, feel free to add to cart.


Like any country, there are rules and restrictions for moving precious items of gold, silver and precious metals out of China. These are declarable items that may or may not be passed by the authorities depending on their value at the time of declaration. In fact, people who are caught secretly carrying such precious metals out of China without declaring them to customs would be dealt with as smugglers. We recommend avoiding purchase altogether if you cannot be there to declare them in person.

Motor vehicles

(including but not limited to, personal mobility devices, such as Hover board, Electric Scooter, Segway, Unicycle and power assisted bicycle.

As for road motor vehicles, the guidelines on LTA states that one can “import a brand new car directly from the manufacturer or from a country with higher or equivalent safety and exhaust emission standards as Singapore” and that the individual must ensure that the vehicle meets the registration and technical requirements specific to the type of vehicle they are importing.

Given the paperwork that needs to be ready upon docking, this is something that would be better handled by specialist shippers for car imports- to avoid your new ride being stuck at customs.

Diamonds, jewelry, precious metals and stones

This is a category as broad as the range of jewelry out in the market. So for starters, if you are buying paste and costume jewelry, the above wouldn’t apply and you could still go ahead with shipment. What is being referred to here are the haute-jewelries- the diamonds, rubies, non-heated emeralds, the works.

Advisably, it would be more prudent to have a formal contract with trusted sellers who can arrange for direct shipment for you with insurance if you are purchasing large ticket items from their shop.

Ditto for stones, in this case, stone crystals, jade and other semi-precious rocks in their raw form. In some cases, the import of these goods may also be subject to customs declaration depending on their value. But if what you are purchasing are the smaller, average consumer pieces with prices hovering at a few hundred RMB, this category wouldn’t apply to you.

Perishable foods & Processed foods*

Any food that is fresh and perishable would have the potential of carrying foreign contaminant or bacteria that can be very detrimental to a country’s agricultural industry. As for processed and canned food, (we’re looking at the equivalent of your Lao Gan Ma chilli pastes, the Suan La Fens of instant noodles and other delicious munchies from beyond), just be sure they are sealed and under the price and weight of 100SGD or 5 kilos for the shipping.

If ever in doubt, check with the store or vPost before purchase. Some stores would be able to advise if their items have ever been returned by freight forwarding warehouses so you can make informed purchases. As for the ones that are good to proceed, remember that when you cannot be present to present a case, labelling is your best friend, and most stores would be happy to help in that regard. Happy shopping!

*: more than 5kg and above SGD100 (food products that are not classified as meat, seafood or fresh fruits and vegetables)

Click here for full list of items that vPost does not ship from China to Singapore.

By Jessie Kok.

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