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Navigating UK Customs and Import Restrictions
- The UK allows imports of packaged food from an EU member state, including bread, cakes, chocolate, and biscuits.
- If you’re entering the UK from outside the EU, you are not allowed to bring meat or dairy products, and there are limits on other foodstuffs.
- There are limits on importing alcohol and tobacco products — if you exceed these limits your items will be taxed.
- Controlled medical prescriptions may be imported in small amounts with a doctor’s note.
Make sure that you know which items you can declare to UK customs without paying import taxes, customs duties, or tariffs. In the worst case, your goods can be seized by HM Revenue & Customs at the UK border or you could run into trouble with customs authorities. When it comes to bringing your pets or your family car, our respective articles on pets in the UK and driving in the UK tell you more about the specific customs and import restrictions.
Tobacco, Wine, and Liquor: Cash and Duty-Free Goods
As far as cash and duty-free items (mainly tobacco and liquor) are concerned, the rules for declaring them to UK customs and importing them duty-free are relatively simple. If you enter the UK from a non-EU country, you have to declare cash worth more than 10,000 EUR. This includes notes, coins, bankers’ drafts, and travelers’ checks.
When you arrive from a non-EU country, only the following quantities tobacco and alcohol are duty-free:
- 200 cigarettes / 100 cigarillos / 50 cigars / 250 g of tobacco
- 16 l beer
- 4 l still wine
- 1 l of strong liquor (over 22%), or 2 l of fortified wine (such as port or sherry)
Arrive With a Full Pantry
Foodstuffs may seem perfectly harmless, but they are subject to numerous, complex import restrictions. In order to avoid public-health risks, animal epidemics or plant diseases, UK customs authorities have detailed specifications on what you are allowed to import.
Processed and packaged food that you bought at the airport isn’t usually a problem. You’re also allowed to import any food from a member state of the EU, including most sorts of bread, cakes, chocolate, and biscuits, so if you were planning to take a few edible souvenirs for your friends and colleagues, go ahead!
However, if you enter the UK from a non-EU country you are not permitted to import any meat or dairy products. Moreover, fish, seafood, eggs, and honey are also subject to certain restrictions: for example, you are only allowed less than 2 kg of honey, but up to 20 kg of fish.
Disease and pest-free fruits and vegetables can also safely be brought into the UK for your personal consumption. If you come from outside the EU, you may only pack 2 kg or less of fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, soil, citrus trees, and vines are prohibited.
If you wanted to buy some flowers for someone waiting to greet you at the airport, you’ll be relieved to hear that one bouquet of cut flowers is considered safe. You can also import one holiday decoration made from plants from listed European or Mediterranean countries.
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