Packing Durians for Flight Travel

One of the greatest consternations I have about air travel is how the airlines always prohibit durians on flights. It’s kind of annoying because the whole point of checking in is that the cabin doesn’t smell but I suppose they are just paranoid about the luggage bins picking up the scent. I’ve heard of a durian seller in Goh Tong Jaya (Genting Highlands) who sells his durians in triple sealed vacuum plastic boxes and bags for clients who want to pick them up and take them straight onto a plane. He’s got a very good crowd of clients who visit the casinos and spend their money on durians, then head straight for the airport and bring them back to their home country (usually HK or Indonesia). I’ve heard that this does not present any real issues on check-in because the seal is tight and not a whiff escapes.

Well, I haven’t got a vacuum sealer machine (maybe I should invest in one soon) but I thought I’d share my experience of packing durians for a flight because SW made a special request for his friend JS’s wife TT who is also a fellow durian lover. Since we were going to their house for dinner, SW thought it would make a very meaningful and unique gift (which it really is I guess…). Here goes:

What to prepare

Paper towels


Cling Film

Masking Tape

Aluminium foil

Plastic bag (clean)

Baking soda

Clean damp cloth


Buy the durians preferably a day before travel, make sure that you tell the durian seller you want them ripening only the day after your purchase to ensure that they stay fresh and firm (not wet and soggy).

Durians in the take-away box

Then take off the lid and insert a piece of paper towel to absorb any condensation which could happen with temperature changes.

Piece of paper roll on top of the durian

Then put the lid back on and give the box a wipe with a clean, damp cloth and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (this is a very important step to remove durian residues which durian seller’s hands may leave on the box!). The next step would be to create a seal for the container. I chose to do this with some broad masking tape.

Get ready your masking tape and scissors

I have both broad and thin masking tape and of different materials, one which is more like a paper tape and easily torn just with your hands, and a more plastic-ky tape which requires a pair of scissors to cut the tape neatly.

Cling Film and more tape

I don’t know if it makes a difference but I think putting the broad plastic tape might be better.

After taping all four sides (try to make the tape contiguous), I then proceeded to wrap the sealed box with cling film twice over, using the cling film lengthways over and around the container. Then I sealed the cling filmed box with another round of masking tape which made it look something like this…

I still wasn’t quite convinced this would be enough to get me through, so I brought out some aluminium foil to deflect any potential scanners (or maybe eyeballs) which could confirm the contents.

Aluminium foil wrapping

And I sealed the edges of the foil with more masking tape. Do you think this is overdoing it?

All durian boxes wrapped in the same fashion

Satisfied? Not really. I decided one more layer with an added smell/ humidity absorber would be good. I chose to use sodium bicarbonate* (or baking soda), lightly sprinkled onto each box which I subsequently wrapped in another final plastic bag.

Final plastic bag wrap and sealed with tape

Now I was finally satisfied. I put the packaged durians in the fridge overnight to chill them down and packed them in my luggage with some dish towels and an ice pack to keep them cool for my 6-8 hour journey and doused by luggage with some nice perfume (I recommend Guerlain! a bit pricey but it’s a great distraction).

The durians made it to our friends with no problem and didn’t stink out the fridge here at home or the temporary chiller when I arrived either (our friends ate the durians 2 days after I bought and packed them). The durians remained condensation-free and firm with just the right amount of ripeness.

This works for once-in-a-while packing, but I guess if this request comes more often, the pungent mau sang wangs might make me seriously consider investing in vacuum technology.

*I also tried coffee powder which TT recommended as a great scent absorber and stain remover. It might work great for some scents, but durians are so strong that you really do require something more chemical in nature I think.


19 thoughts on “Packing Durians for Flight Travel

  1. I am Fillmore C. Sagario of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, Region 9, Mindanao, Philippines. I have to say, thank you for your post. It is so informative, educational and worth a million of thanks. I just hope, someday, I can have a chance of growing a seed from a Musang King or Rajah Kunyit, a Black Thorn, a Golden Phoenix, a D24 Sultan and a Rep Prawn or Udang Merah or Ang Hei. That is my long time dream since I learn to eat a puyat variety durian. Thanks again.

    • Hello Fillmore!

      Thanks for writing in to my blog. It’s nice that there are durian enthusiasts in the Philippines too. Does Mindanao have any durian trees? I heard that there are Philippino durians but have not tried any. If you can find out when the season is and what they are like, let me know!

      Stinky stinky always,

      • Here in our place durian trees are still on its flowering and fruit setting stages, some fruits are still of an egg size or smaller. This seasons ripe durian fruits are delivered to the city of Dipolog and other places in the Zamboanga Peninsula from Davao City. There are those that came from few durian orchards in adjacent provinces.

        Other durian growing places in the Philippines being named by durian enthusiasts are Palawan in the Visayas or Central Philippines, Basilan and Sulu Archipelago. Way back sometime in 1996 I saw a durian tree with plenty of fruits hanging on its branches whose trunk circumference or girth was about 480 cms or about 4.8 meters. Its height was more or less 25 to 35 meters with lower branches as big as a circle of an electric fan. It is sad to say that the owner cut and slice it into lumber. There are still durian trees in the forests, those that were saved by the illegal loggers.

        The most preferred varieties of durian by Durian lovers and durian eaters in Davao City here in the Philippines are Puyat, Arancillo, Mamer, Alcon Fancy, Monthong, Chanee, Red Prawn, D24, Basketball, Kradumthong and Duyaya. There are some others but I don’t know the names.

        Can I request you to send me seeds of Musang King or Mao Shan Wang and Black Thorn durian? My address is: Fillmore C. Sagario,Roxas St., Poblacion, Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines. You may send it thru mail or package thru LBC or other means available there in your place. Thanks.

      • Hi Fillmore!

        Thanks for all your information. It’s much appreciated. I would really like to know what these durians taste like. I wonder if any of them taste like the Malaysian durians or more like the Thai one. I’ll try to see if I can send you some seeds when the best durians come into season. However the Mao Shan Wangs tend to be clones and the seeds are usually not the type that grows well. Will let you know when I get some!

        Stinky always,

      • Hi Fillmore,

        I am sending you six Mao Shan wang seeds in the post tomorrow. I hope they make it to you!

        Let me know how it goes,
        Stinky Spikes

  2. mindano is the largest producer of durians in philippines, there are plenty of sub species available here,i had pretty good info from ur blog thank u ……. but im still scared of carrying it in flight cargo …. is it safe to make it thru flight ?? thank u —— Durian lover from India.

    • I think you can if you ensure airtight packaging. The airlines are very particular about the smell getting into the cabin and into other precious cargo goods. But apart from that, it’s not dangerous and certainly not a hazard. πŸ™‚


  3. Hi, Stinky Spikes, how is our Musang King and Black thorn durians now? I am still dreaming, wishing that someday I can taste or grow a few seeds of those varieties. Still waiting the seeds from you. Thank you very much, God bless you friend.

    • Hi Fillmore, the Mao Shan Wangs I get here in Hong Kong are not good for planting. The seeds are flat and somewhat small, it makes me think that these are clones that cannot be grown from a seedling.

      If I can find any of the other species I will keep you in mind as I look forward to visiting your private plantation sometime πŸ™‚

  4. By the way, the durian tree that I planted in 1997 is now bearing fruit. It has yellow flesh, taste sweet but not as tasty as the Puyat variety, it has big faceted spikes, the husk is color green, also creamy or with fine flesh texture, its fruits weigh from 1.5 to 5 kg, the branches are somewhat droopy with a trunk having about 1 foot in diameter. It has mild aroma, not so pungent, it smells good.

  5. Your post really made me laugh. Real overkill man. Ahh…for the love of all that is stinky. πŸ˜‰ No tape is too wide, no packing is too think/little! I secretly think that if the customs staff confiscate foodstuffs, they will be happily gorging themselves on it !!

    For me when I pack stinky food like belacan, ikan bilis, durian, I will put in packs of coffee beans. The powder type that is in sachets which you just add water and sold in big packs works wonders to absorb smell too. πŸ™‚

  6. Thank you very much for sharing, I am having this thought of packing some durians for my friend in London.
    What about using pandan leaf to block out some of the durian smell.

    • Hi!
      What a wonderful friend you are! All of us durian fanatics need more friends like you πŸ˜‰
      Ok down to business.
      Pandan leaves are not going to be strong enough. Durian overpowers pretty much everything unless it is completely (and I mean completely) contained. The longest flight I’ve taken with durian with my kind of home-made packing is 4 hours. London is at least 13 hours flight time plus another maybe 5 hours on either side for all the airport formalities. So that’s a total of 18 hours that the durian will be in your luggage. Given this scenario, I would highly recommend the following:

      1) Buy the deep frozen, individually wrapped, super heat-sealed durian, that has already been packed into boxes from Fruit Monkeys (look them up on my blog).
      2) Get a soft cooler bag, the type with decent lining and put the box of frozen durians in it when you’re packing the final bits and leaving for the airport.
      3) Put lots of soft clothing around the bag to keep the coolness in and prevent anything from puncturing the box.
      4) Get to your destination asap and make sure there’s a freezer or at least a decent fridge!

      As a side note, my uncle brought up some durians (not Fruit Monkeys) from KL to Hong Kong. It was seal packed and he stayed in a hotel and put it in the hotel fridge which isn’t very cold. By the time we ate it, around 2 days later, the durians had thawed and was tasting slightly sour.. so I would not recommend thawing and leaving it in a non-freezer environment.

      The durians from Fruit monkeys the packaging is the most meticulous I’ve seen in. Buy the best grade ones- delicious (expensive)- and they will be much appreciated by your friend. if your friend is picking you up at the airport then if he/she could bring ice packs, you can pop them straight into the cooler bag. If your friend is a durian fanatic, I’m sure this isn’t too much to ask ;).

      For all that effort, you may as well bring two boxes if you have the space and weight allowance.

      Let me know how it goes!


  7. Thank you for the packing advise 4 years down the road. Will try to bring some to Guangzhou later in the year for my cousins. Am freezing them now as its Musang King season and reasonably cheap. Wonder how I am going to vacuum pack them though. Have thought of the multiple layers like you blogged. Will wrapping them in layers of newspaper help?

    • Hi! Newspapers don’t do anything. Unfortunately the only way to seal in the smell is rather eco unfriendly. One supplier does a very good job in singapore, fruit monkeys. They wrap each durian fruit segment in cling film, then cling film the box many times. Then wrap with aluminium foil. One of the most important things is to maintain clean hands throughout the wrapping process. If you touch the durian and even a smear gets onto the packaging surface, you’re not doing yourself any favours!

    • Oh yes if you can buy one of those clothes pack plastic bags where you can use a vacuum hose to suck all the air out, this might help. Although ideally you find someone with a heat sealer and just seal it up.. even without a vacuum it’s fine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s