Getting Through Customs in the Caribbean

Guidelines make the customs processes in the Caribbean easy to understand

Photo credit: © Bahamas Tourist Office

Caribbean Customs

Shopping in the Caribbean is a delightful pursuit--there's a special souvenir for any and every taste. Knowing the customs regulations for the Caribbean and your home country will guarantee a hassle-free travel experience.

As a Caribbean visitor, be aware of the following customs tips and rules before entering the region:

  • You may bring up to two liters of alcohol and two cartons of cigarettes to the Caribbean islands.

  • You may bring a "reasonable" amount of duty-free goods for personal use; anything deemed in excess of "reasonable" may incur an import tax.

  • All prescription drugs must be accompanied by an official prescription, and be transported in their original containers.

  • Firearms and recreational drugs are not permitted.

To avoid paying customs duty on the foreign-made high-ticket items you already own and will take on your Caribbean trip, register them with customs before you leave the country. Consider filing a Certificate of Registration for items such as laptops, cameras, watches, and other digital devices identified with serial numbers or other permanent markings; you can keep the certificate for other trips. Otherwise, bring with you a sales receipt or insurance form to show that you owned the item before you left the United States.

As an island shopper, remember these tips:

  • You should keep receipts for all items you buy in the Caribbean.

  • Upon departing your island getaway, make sure your purchases are easily accessible in case your home country's customs officials request an inspection.

  • If you have any questions or complaints about your customs experience, write to the port director at your point of reentry.

The following additional customs and reentry rules apply for United States citizens returning from the Caribbean:

  • If you are a U.S. resident who has visited any of the Caribbean countries except for the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) for at least 48 hours, you may bring home for personal use, up to $800(USD) worth of goods duty-free, as long as you haven't used any portion of the $800(USD) allowance during the 30 days preceding your trip. You may combine your $800(USD) exemption with family members. If you visit one of the aforementioned islands for fewer than 48 hours, the duty-free allowance is $200(USD), which cannot be pooled with other family member's exemptions. A flat rate of three percent will be applied to the next $1,000 spent over the duty-free limit.

  • If you're returning from the U.S. Virgin Islands, the duty free allowance is $1,600(USD). If your Caribbean travel included the USVI and another country, the $1,600 allowance still applies, but at least $800(USD) worth of goods must be from the USVI. A flat rate of 1.5 percent will be applied to the next $1,000 spent over the duty-free limit.

  • You may bring back to the U.S. up to two liters of alcohol (if you are 21 or older) providing one liter was produced in a CBI country. Up to 200 cigarettes, and 100 non-Cuban cigars may also be transported back to the U.S. If you stay less than 48 hours, you may bring home up to 150 ml of alcohol, 50 cigarettes, and 10 non-Cuban cigars.

  • If you visit the USVI, you are allowed to bring home up to 1,000 cigarettes (800 of which be from the USVI) and 5 liters of alcohol, but at least 1 liter must be from the USVI.

  • You may bring home original works of Caribbean art--such as paintings, drawings, and sculptures--and antiques (officially defined as objects more than 100 years old) duty-free.

  • You may send packages home duty-free, with a limit of one parcel per addressee per day, with the exception of alcohol or tobacco products, or perfume worth more than $5(USD).

  • You can mail up to $200(USD) worth of goods home to the U.S. for personal use; be sure to write "PERSONAL USE" on the parcel and attach a list of its contents and their retail value.

  • If you send home a parcel containing personal belongings that have been used, write "AMERICAN GOODS RETURNED" on the package to avoid a duty fee.

  • You may send up to $100(USD) worth of goods as a gift ($200 from the USVI) to someone in the U.S. provided you write "UNSOLICITED GIFT" on the package.

Mailed items do not affect your duty-free customs allowance upon your return from the Caribbean.

Since customs regulations are subject to change from time to time, it is best to check with your country's specific entry requirements before you visit the Caribbean, and keep your knowledge current using the following contact information:

Country Customs Contact
United States U.S. Customs Service
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20229
Tel: 877/227-5511
United Kingdom HM Customs & Excise
Tel: 0845/010-9000
Canada Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Tel: 800/461-9999
Australia Australian Customs Service
Tel: 1300/363-263
New Zealand New Zealand Customs Service
Tel: 04/473-6099

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