Must Know International Customs Tips for Smooth Cross-Border Trade

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Governments around the world operate a customs department to control what goes in and out of their country. As globalization rapidly grew, international trade also soared in demand. Many businesses and industries began sourcing for supplies from cross-border markets, while consumers began purchasing from foreign sellers.

The vast diversification of international trade has been heavily intertwined in our modern society. Customs regulations in different countries also grew in complexity over the years, making it more challenging to import and export around the world. 

Typically, customs would implement restrictions by imposing duties and taxes or through their own classifications of commodities. While the exact restrictions vary from country to country, they are usually derived from the common theme of shipment value and Harmonized System (HS) code classifications. 


If you are a business looking to expand into another country’s market, customs restrictions or limitations may cause you to incur unnecessary charges, delays or worse – confiscation – all of which would affect the progress or profitability of your operations. In order to avoid all of that, here are the things that you should know and do.

1. Know the country’s customs regulations and processes

The customs regulations of another country can primarily be viewed as a set of laws that govern trade. These regulations are properly documented and are usually readily available online. It is recommended to educate yourself with the country’s regulations that are applicable to your product or item prior to shipping, allowing you to know what to expect based on the configuration of your shipment. 

2. Be updated with the current economic situation of the destination country

The next important thing that you can do is to keep up to speed with the current economic situation of the country that you are shipping to or from. In some countries, varying situations might affect the clearing of customs. For example, due to the recent COVID-19 crisis, there were many customs restrictions that temporarily halted trade around the world. If you had sent a shipment during this period, your shipment would most likely be held up by customs or returned. Other examples include changes in regulations, political or situational circumstances that could impact clearance capabilities.

3. Adopt a smarter approach when sending your shipments to save freight costs

The final measure you can take is by splitting up your shipments. In most cases, customs regulations are applicable to a single Air Waybill (AWB). A common misconception is that by including more items within an AWB, you will save on freight charges. While that may be true on its own, the cumulative value of your shipment may push the costs of your duties and taxes up. If not planned properly, there are situations where the price of taxes can be even more costly than the actual freight itself.

By educating yourself on current affairs and by taking the initiative to understand how your various products might fall into different categories in another country will be a tremendous help for your shipping paperwork and potentially on costs. By adhering to quantity, price, or classifications restrictions, you are able to better prepare yourself for what to expect when you ship internationally.


DHL Express, express courier delivery in Singapore, has been handling international shipping and customs for over 50 years, pioneering the “Express Clearance” which allows the customs processing of a shipment prior to the arrival at the destination country. By garnering a close relationship with the customs department and also maintaining a reputable track record of exemplary clearance, DHL Express enjoys the luxury of smooth processing procedures worldwide.

In almost all the countries that we serve, we employ a dedicated customs clearance team that handles all international importing and exporting from the country. Over the decades, we have established a successful relationship with regulatory bodies all around the world, while optimizing our clearance processes. With the help of technology and online communications, liaising with agents across the globe has also made it easier to exchange information. 

Having good relationships and processes is not the only way DHL Express remains ahead of international clearance requirements. Our sales staff plays an important role to extract relevant information from your company and a better understanding of the profile of your shipments. This in turn helps us to curate a customized strategy to grant your business fuss-free cross-border access. Naturally, this will also guide us to find the best way to help your business tackle international customs. 

On a global scale, DHL Express also works closely with public and private industry sectors around various regions to optimize customs clearance processes. By understanding general business trends and rectifying cross-border issues, we are able to continuously ensure smooth clearances for all our shipments. So when you ship with DHL Express, you don’t have to worry about all the back-end complications or the complicated nature of customs.

Talk to us and find out how you can leverage on our customs expertise today!