How to Send a Balikbayan Box to the Philippines – A Complete Guide

Last Updated – Mar 30, 2022 @ 3:23 pm

One of the most integral characteristics of Filipinos is generosity. If you’re ever had a relative who worked abroad, you may be familiar with what a Balikbayan Box is.

Filled with imported food, beauty products, perfumes, clothes, and many others, Balikbayan boxes have become ingrained in our culture. 

The Balikbayan box is more than just a window to countries abroad. It also serves as a way to share your love with family, relatives, and friends.  

What is a Balikbayan Box?

A Balikbayan box is a term used to describe an Filipino’s way of sending packages to the Philippines.

Balikbayan (literally meaning “to return home”) boxes can be made up of a single big corrugated cardboard box or numerous ones.

Although there are always restrictions when it comes to sending items abroad, Balikbayan boxes are specially processed to ensure that your items will be delivered to their destination without hassle.


Who can send balikbayan boxes?

It’s possible for anyone to send Balikbayan Boxes to the Philippines, even partnerships and sole proprietors, and corporations.

However, not everyone can avail of tax and duty-free privileges. The three categories that qualify are:

  • Resident Filipinos
  • Non-resident Filipinos
  • Overseas Filipino workers

This includes Filipinos with dual citizenship that live abroad, and those with student visas or temporary worker visas. 


Documents required for sending a Balikbayan Box

Here are the documents you need to prepare if you plan on sending a Balikbayan box.

These documents need to be submitted to the Consolidator abroad who is responsible for transmitting them to the Bureau of Customs through the Deconsolidator/freight forwarder in the Philippines.

  • Information or Declaration Sheet which can be secured from the website, www.customs.gov.ph, Consolidator, or Value Added Service Provider
  • Photocopy of the biographical page of passport; and
  • Invoice or receipt, if any.

Items you can send in a Balikbayan Box

Anything can be sent in a Balikbayan Box, as long as it is within bounds of the law. To guide you, here’s a list of item classifications you need to keep in mind.

Hassle-free items

This refers to items that are sent in a Balikbayan box without clearance from the FDA. These items are usually for personal use, and they must follow the FDA’s set quantity.

  • Childcare belongings (5 kg maximum)
  • Toys (10 kg. maximum)
  • Perfumes (5 pieces maximum)
  • Lipsticks (10 pieces maximum)
  • Shampoo, lotion, and bar soaps (2 kg each maximum)
  • Assorted cosmetics (1 kg maximum)
  • Hazardous household products (5 kg maximum)
  • Vitamins and supplements (500g maximum)
  • Processed food (10 kg maximum)
  • Liquor and wine (2 bottles maximum. Each bottle should not be more than 1.5 L

Regulated Import Products

This includes products that can be included in your Balikbayan box, but they could be subject to Customs inspection:

  • Cosmetics – Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Optical disk writers/drives, hard disk drives, DVD/CD recorder, duplicators – Regulated by the Optical Media Board (OMB)
  • Jewelry – Regulated by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)
  • Lamps and similar products – Regulated by the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS)
  • Lighters for cigars and cigarettes – Regulated by the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS)

Restricted Imports

These cannot be included in your Balikbayan box. Keep in mind that the Bureau of Customs is very strict when it comes to illegal materials found in Balikbayan boxes. 

  • Dynamite, gunpowder, ammunitions and other explosives, firearms and weapons of war, or parts thereof
  • Roulette wheels, gambling outfits, loaded dice, marked cards, machines, apparatus or mechanical devices used in gambling or the distribution of money, cigars, cigarettes or other goods when such distribution is dependent on chance, including jackpot and pinball machines or similar contrivances, or parts thereof;
  • Lottery and sweepstakes tickets, except advertisements thereof and lists of drawings therein;
  • Marijuana, opium, poppies, coca leaves, heroin or other narcotics or synthetic drugs which are or may hereafter be declared habit forming by the President of the Philippines, or any compound, manufactured salt, derivative, or preparation thereof, except when imported by the government of the Philippines or any person duly authorized by the Dangerous Drugs Board, for medicinal purposes;
  • Opium pipes or parts thereof, of whatever material; and
  • Any other goods whose importation and exportation are restricted.

Items not allowed in a Balikbayan Box

These are the items that are not allowed to be included in Balikbayan boxes.

  • Alcohol/alcoholic drinks
  • Automobile/motorcycle, parts or whole
  • Ceramic tableware
  • Cultural artifacts and pottery
  • Defense articles or items with military or proliferation applications
  • Products containing dog or cat fur, as well as animal hide
  • Drug paraphernalia (unless prescribed for medical conditions)
  • Firearms, explosives (including parts)
  • Cheese, Meat, fruits and vegetables (unless canned)
  • Pets, plants, seeds, soil
  • Used clothing of commercial quantity (ukay-ukay or in bales)
  • Pornographic materials·  Fluids and perishable food items

How much does it cost to ship a balikbayan box?

Here’s how much it costs to ship a Balikbayan box.

Keep in mind that the rates may vary depending on the shipping company, and other factors such as destination and size of the Balikbayan box. 

CountryCost
USAP2,000 to P6,000
CanadaP3,500 to P4,800
Japanaround P4,200
AustraliaP4,100 to P6,600
ItalyP2,200 to P2,600
New ZealandP3,900 to P8,500
UKP4,200 to P6,000
GermanyP2,200 to P6,800
South KoreaP2,900 to P6,800
SpainP2,800 to P5,700
Saudi ArabiaP900 to P1,300
Hong KongP2,700 to P7,800

Related: Best Money Transfers & Remittance Services


How to send a Balikbayan Box (Step-by-step)

Here’s how to send a balikbayan box to your loved ones in the Philippines.

Step 1: Research shipping companies

Find shipping companies in your country that can deliver your package. Compare prices and see which ones offer the best rates.

Step 2: Pack the box

Get a box that can fit all the items you want to send. These empty flat-pack boxes are available from shipping agents and couriers for a fee. Boxes also come in a wide array of sizes. 

Then, gather everything you want to send to your family and relatives. List each item on the information sheet. 

If you are packing liquid items, make sure to secure them using a ziplock bag.

This will protect the other contents of your Balikbayan box from spills. If you are shipping fragile items, use bubble wrap to secure them.

Step 3: Secure the box

Place the information sheet on top of the items before securing the box. Use a tape to ensure that it is sturdy.

This way, it won’t get damaged while it is en route to the Philippines. Make sure not to forget to attach a label that contains the recipient’s name, address, and contact number.

Step 4: Get it delivered

Bring your balikbayan box to the courier, or schedule a pickup in your home.


List of Accredited Sea Freight Forwarders and Foreign Agents for Balikbayan Box shipments 

Check out this in-depth list of accredited Seafreight forwarders and foreign agents for Balikbayan boxes as of February 2022.

This extensive list contains agents per country and state/city, as well as details such as their address, contact number, fax, e-mail, and contact person.

As much as possible, do not transact with a company that is not included in this list.


Tips for sending Balikbayan Boxes

Packing a Balikbayan box can be extremely intimidating for first-timers. Make sure to keep these tips in mind to make the job easier.

Be practical

Try to avoid purchasing tons of food items that are available in your current country. This will only waste your space and valuable shipping space.

Follow the rules

There are restrictions on what you can send to the Philippines so make sure to do your research.

Aside from checking the rules, make sure to declare items correctly to avoid penalties.

Monitor the weight of your package

Shipping companies charge you based on the weight of your package. Make sure to monitor your package’s weight to avoid additional fees.

Plan it well

Do not just send a Balikbayan box mere days after you decide to do so. Sending an important package like this requires careful planning.

For example, if you are sending a package for Christmas, you need to plan months in advance so your package makes it just in time for the festivities.

Keep in mind that shipping Balikbayan boxes takes time, usually more than a month.

You can also plan your Balikbayan box shopping on big sales like Thanksgiving Day, Fourth of July, Amazon Prime Day, and many more.

Choose a pick-up option of available

When shipping your Balikbayan box, you can have it picked up by your freight forwarder. Most agents offer this service for free.

Choose a reliable forwarder/Only transact with DTI-accredited freight forwarders

With the high number of scammers and frauds today, you must choose your forwarder carefully. Make sure that they are accredited and have a good reputation.

If you have Filipino friends in your current country, ask them for recommendations and reviews.

Pack everything well

Do not rely on the box itself to protect your items. Your items will go through the hands of various people and the items will have to withstand several conditions and situations.

With this in mind, assume that every item is fragile.

Do not place breakable items on the bottom. If you are shipping clothes and accessories, always keep them in their original packaging.

This is to ensure that your items do not get damaged. Also make sure to pack the box tightly to ensure items do not move around.

Wrap the entire Balikbayan box

When you’re shipping a Balikbayan box, use sufficient adhesive tapes. Don’t rely on the flimsy tapes provided by shipping companies. 

You should also wrap the entire Balikbayan box with plastic and seal it well. Do not just seal the edges as this is not enough to keep everything in place especially if the Balikbayan box will be handled roughly.

Write a note to relatives about for whom each item is for

When sending a Balikbayan Box to the Philippines, it is a good idea to write a note stating to whom an item is intended for.

This is to ensure that your family members do not end up receiving an item that is intended for another.

Make sure these items are in good condition

One of the key points of sending a Balikbayan box is to ensure that each item is in good condition. If you send an item that is broken, you will come off as inconsiderate.

In the same way, always remember to send out only fresh items. You need to be aware of each item’s expiration dates, especially with chocolates.

You wouldn’t want to offend your relatives by sending out rancid or expired items.

Don’t forget to label it properly

It is important to label your Balikbayan box appropriately.

Make sure to label your box with the name of the shipping company, the recipient’s address, and the sender’s name.


Sending Balikbayan Boxes to the Philippines FAQs

What is the balikbayan box privilege?

This refers to the privilege given to qualified individuals that allow them to send Balikbayan boxes to families and relatives in the Philippines that are tax and duty-free.

How many times can I use my balikbayan box privilege?

Qualified individuals can only make three (3) shipments annually. The value of shipments must not exceed P150,000. 

What is De Minimis Value?

De Minimis value refers to the value of goods for which no duty and tax is collected. The country has a de minimis rate of P10,000.

This regulation is embodied in the first Customs Administrative Order, a salient feature of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act that has been signed into law.

Does the BOC check my Balikbayan Box before sending it to my recipient?

Yes. Each Balikbayan box goes through a process before it makes its way to the Philippines. One of these processes is inspection and assessment by the BOC. This is done through x-ray scanning. 

About MJ de Castro

MJ de Castro is the lead personal finance columnist at Grit PH.

MJ started her career as a writer for her local government’s City Information Office. Later on, she became a news anchor on PTV Davao del Norte.

Wanting to break free from the shackles of her 9-to-5 career to live by the beach, she pursued remote work. Over the years, she has developed a wide specialization on health, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, branding, and travel.

Now, she juggles writing professionally, her business centering on women’s menstrual health, and surfing.

Education: Ateneo de Davao University (AB Mass Communication)
Focus: Personal Finance, Personal Development, Entrepreneurship, & Marketing

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