Customs and Duties
When shopping abroad, keep receipts for all purchases. Upon reentering the country, be ready to show customs officials what you've bought. If you feel a duty is incorrect, appeal the assessment. If you object to the way your clearance was handled, note the inspector's badge number. In either case, first ask to see a supervisor. If the problem isn't resolved, write to the appropriate authorities, beginning with the port director at your point of entry.
Keep in mind that it is illegal to export antiques unless you get special permission to do so. If you purchase an item that looks like an antique, be sure to get a note from the owner of the store stating that it is not.
U.S. residents who have been out of the country for at least 48 hours may bring home, for personal use, $800 worth of foreign goods duty-free, as long as they haven't used the $800 allowance or any part of it in the past 30 days and only once every six months for Vietnam. This exemption may include 1 liter of alcohol (for travelers 21 and older), 200 cigarettes, and 100 non-Cuban cigars. Family members from the same household who are traveling together may pool their $800 personal exemptions. For fewer than 48 hours, the duty-free allowance drops to $200, which may include 50 cigarettes, 10 non-Cuban cigars, and 150 ml of alcohol (or perfume containing alcohol). The $200 allowance cannot be combined with other individuals' exemptions, and if you exceed it, the full value of all the goods will be taxed. Antiques, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection defines as objects more than 100 years old, enter duty-free, as do original works of art done entirely by hand, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
You may also send packages home duty-free, with a limit of one parcel per addressee per day (except alcohol or tobacco products or perfume worth more than $5). You can mail up to $200 worth of goods for personal use; label the package "Personal Use" and attach a list of its contents and their retail value. If the package contains your used personal belongings, mark it "Personal Goods Returned" to avoid paying duties. You may send up to $100 worth of goods as a gift; mark the package "Unsolicited Gift." Mailed items do not affect your duty-free allowance on your return.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC, Washington, District of Columbia, 20229. 202/325–8000; 877/227–5511; www.cbp.gov.
Do not attempt to bring anything that could be considered subversive (such as political or religious materials) into Vietnam, as you may receive a hefty fine, be detained, or, in extreme cases, jailed. It is a requirement to declare foreign currency over $5,000 or Vietnamese currency in excess of 15,000,000d. Contact the Embassy of Vietnam for more information on customs requirements.
Embassy of Vietnam. 1233 20th St. NW, Suite 400, Washington, District of Columbia, 20036. 202/861–0737; 202/861–0917; www.vietnamembassy-usa.org.