Shipping 107
What can and cannot be shipped

What can and cannot be shipped

Most items can be shipped without any issues, but each carrier has a set of things they either restrict or prohibit entirely.

Get Estimate

Package Type

Most items can be shipped without any issues, but each carrier has a set of things they either restrict or prohibit entirely. It's important to be familiar with your carrier's policies to ensure that you're shipping items approved by that specific carrier. Shipping restricted or prohibited items can lead to substantial penalties, and, in some cases, confiscation.


Prohibited Goods

Of course, anything illegal under the laws of either the sender's or receiver's country is prohibited by default, but there are other items that carriers have specifically banned. The specific list of contents can vary widely, so don't assume that the rules are going to be the same if you switch carriers. Some of the items that carriers typically forbid include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Animal skins (non-domesticated)
  • Articles of exceptional value (ie. works of art, antiques, precious stones, gold and silver)
  • Dangerous goods/Hazardous materials (following IATA regulations for Express and Expedited, and following ADR regulations for Standard)
  • Firearms
  • Furs
  • Human or animal remains or parts
  • Illegal Items
  • Ivory and ivory products
  • Live animals
  • Money or negotiable items
  • Perishable goods
  • Plants
  • Pornographic materials
  • Seeds
  • Tobacco and tobacco products
  • And more...

The carriers are quick to prohibit any items that have a high probability to soil, impair, or damage merchandise or equipment. This includes items that can endanger the safety of the carrier's personnel.


Hazardous Goods not permitted for shipping


Check the carrier's terms and conditions if you are unsure

As you can see, items of all kinds can be excluded from shipping, with some being more obvious than others. Most people, for example, would think twice before sending anything hazardous, but it's less likely that they would be concerned about artwork. Therefore, we recommend checking your carrier's prohibited items list before shipping:

Shipping prohibited items can lead to severe penalties, so it's important to avoid this. If you ship something that your carrier considers dangerous, you are subject to unlimited liability. After an incident, a Chinese state-run company was ordered to pay 65 million USD plus interest, and high fines are extremely common in this situation. More details on this story here.


Permission to Ship Prohibited Goods (ie. Restricted Goods)

There are some items that the carriers will accept even if they are on the prohibited list provided you have made prior arrangements with the carrier and obtained permission from them. This can include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Flowers
  • Lithium ion and Lithium metal batteries
  • Perishable goods
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Tobacco and tobacco products
  • And more...


The specific conditions under which an item may be shipped can vary widely depending on your shipping volume, the carrier, and other factors. Live animals, for example, are a category I assumed would be prohibited regardless of carrier, but both UPS and Canada Post only restrict them; UPS will carry them "under certain criteria", while Canada Post requires an "agreement...prior to mailing". If you're planning to ship anything that you think could be prohibited, check with every available carrier-there's a good chance at least one of them will work with you.



While some of the prohibited and restricted items are the same regardless of carrier, others can vary widely, as can the restrictions involved. If you're in doubt about a specific item, the best thing you can do is check your carrier's terms and conditions, or contact them directly.

It's important to learn each carrier's policy on your goods before shipping, as the penalties for shipping prohibited, restricted, or especially dangerous goods are often steep. Most of the time, you'll be able to find a carrier who's willing to work with you on a contractual or conditional basis, so don't be discouraged if your goods are on these lists.


Next Lesson

108: Tracking

Read more