Written by guest blogger Kacey Bradley
Are you a U.S. citizen or resident and planning to spend some major cash overseas? Shopping abroad is more complicated than you may think, especially compared to your typical shopping trip here in the U.S. If you love to shop, then you’ll definitely look forward to that part of your trip because international shopping is an experience in itself. You get to haggle with merchants on the street, browse handcrafted items from locals and even window-shop chic designer hand-bags that haven’t even hit the U.S. market yet.
There are many things to keep in mind when shopping internationally, but the following ten will be very useful for everyone. While they're specifically for U.S. citizens and residents, if you're resident in another country you should check whether these tips apply to your country as well.
Register Already Purchased Items
The United States Customs and Border Protection recommends that you register certain items before you leave the U.S. so you’re able to prove ownership of the item prior to your trip. Think laptops, jewellery and other items like such, especially if they’re foreign-made. Go to your nearest CBP office to register these items or to the international airport you’re departing from. Ask for a Certificate of Registration, and keep it handy when you travel.
Learn About Duty-Free Exemptions
Usually you can travel back to the U.S. with up to $800 worth of merchandise and not have to pay U.S. duties. However, many exceptions apply, so confirm your personal exemption beforehand. If you’re travelling with other family members, combine personal exemptions. However, once you go over your personal exemption, you’ll have to pay U.S. duties on those items, even though they are considered duty-free in the country of purchase.
Duty-free exemptions must be in your possession when you enter back into the U.S. to avoid duties.
Pay Duties before You Get to the U.S.
Any duty you owe must be paid before you arrive back in the U.S. Duties can be paid with U.S. Currency, a personal check linked to a U.S. bank, a money order, government check or a traveller’s check. Some locations accept credit card payments as well.
Use a Personal Shopping Service
You don’t always have to pay duties. Try out a duty-free company for personal shopping services that offer duty-free pricing.
While it’s a bit different than your typical online shopping experience, it’s a great option for those of you who can’t necessarily purchase items overseas in person. You tell your personal shopper what you want, then they will assemble a list of choices to present to you. Their job is to find exactly what you need, while getting you same discounts and financing options local customers get. Some retailers even offer free shipping.
You May Have to File a Currency Reporting Form
If you carry more than $10,000 worth of traveler’s checks, money orders or cash, you’ll have to file a Currency Reporting Form with U.S. Customs. You’re allowed to bring unlimited monetary instruments, but this is a good rule to keep in mind if you are planning to take more than $10,000 on your trip.
Know What’s Prohibited and Restricted
Firearms, plants, meat products and more are included on the prohibited and restricted item list or are only admitted into the United States under special circumstances. The CBP’s list of prohibited and restricted items is posted for your viewing pleasure. Know what you can and can’t come back with before you depart.
Know How to Fill Out a Customs Declaration Form
When it comes to customs, new merchandise from overseas will warrant a Customs Declaration Form. On this form, include how much you paid on anything purchased when you left the United States. It’s a good idea to keep your receipts from those purchases in case you need to quickly present them at the airport. Pack these items together so they too are also easily accessible for inspection.
Watch Out for Knock-Offs
Some cities overseas are notorious for knock-off designer purses, sunglasses, clothing and jewelry. Unless you’re looking for knock-off goods, make sure you learn to differentiate genuine goods from counterfeit goods. If you’re deliberately taking the knock-off route, keep in mind the process can become dangerous and illegal. If you aren’t able to find information about your location and counterfeit goods offered there, ask your hotel concierge for advice or use a tour guide.
Learn How to Haggle
Haggling is a dying art in some countries, but many of them still practice bargaining, and almost expect it, especially from tourists. Learn how to haggle to get a better deal, and make sure you brush up on your negotiating skills before your departure so you’re ready with a strategy. You’ll first want to make the determination of whether or not bargaining is appropriate for the particular item, then figure out an idea of what the item is worth and what you’re willing to pay.
Remember — be pleasant. If you become rude or forceful, you’ll likely lose out on the sale.
Mail Things from Overseas
If you choose to mail items back overseas instead of bringing them back with you, you’re still responsible for paying the duties and taxes that come with those items. Your personal exemption only applies if you have those items with you when you travel back into the country. There are three categories when it comes to shipping things back overseas — U.S. mail, express shipments and freight. You’ll need to determine the best option for you and your items.
If you haven’t done research on international shopping, you may not know of the ten things above that will undoubtedly assist you with your travels abroad. It’s important to keep these tips in mind next time you do so because they can save you time, money and the unnecessary hassle of being stopped too long at customs. You can never be too prepared when it comes to international shopping.
Kacey Bradley is the lifestyle and travel blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that
expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with
a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself
with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for
the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. Along with writing
for her blog, she frequently writes for sites like US Travel News, Thought Catalog, Style Me Pretty, Tripping.com
Header photo by Tristan Colangelo on Unsplash