When you bring back any item which you have bought in another country you are importing an item. Some items may need to have duty paid on them before you come into the country. Be aware that you should not expect to be able to bring back any material item or possession which is illegal, banned or restricted in the UK even if it is totally unrestricted in the country you are coming from.

What you can bring back depends on where you are going, within the EU you will have already paid European duty on items you buy so there is much more relaxed limits than in travel outside the EU.

Inside the EU

When traveling within the EU you will not have to pay UK duty on any product which you have bought tax paid in an EU country providing that the product is for your own use and you are traveling with the goods in question. HM Customs & Excise�s definition of “own use” extends to gifts and souvenirs for family and friends so it is perfectly ok to bring back goods for others as long as the goods are not for sale, re-sale or trade.

In practice there are some guideline quantities below which customs officials will not bother determining if the goods are for personal or trade use.

  • 3200 cigarettes
  • 400 cigarillos
  • 200 cigars
  • 3 kg of smoking tobacco
  • 110 litres of beer
  • 10 litres of spirits
  • 90 litres of wine
  • 20 litres of fortified wine

You are allowed to bring back more than these quantities but be prepared to explain to a customs official with reasonable proof that the products are for own use.

Travel outside the EU

As you will not have paid European duty on items bought outside the EU (and may not have even paid tax at all in some countries) you are liable to pay UK import duty on most items brought back with you. You do however have an allowance of items which you may import duty free provided they are for your own use. These are legal maximums not just guidelines so if you are bringing back more than this make sure you know how much duty you will need to pay and how to pay that duty.

  • 200 cigarettes; or
  • 100 cigarillos; or
  • 50 cigars; or
  • 250gms of tobacco60cc/ml of perfume
  • 2 litres of still table wine
  • 250cc/ml of toilet water
  • 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22% volume; or
  • 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs
  • �145 worth of all other goods including gifts and souvenirs.

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Illegal Imports

It is your responsibility to check if anything you are bringing back is illegal, if the goods you have are illegal or banned in the UK they will be an illegal import. Furthermore some goods require special licenses to import into the UK. If you are in doubt if you are carrying illegal imports then report to the Red Line when coming through customs signifying you have something to declare. Staff there will be able to assist you determining if your goods are illegal for import.

In addition there are tight controls on importing meat and plant materials from countries outside the EU in order to prevent the spread of infections or contaminants that may be present in meat/plants from countries other countries. If you are traveling outside the EU it is safest not to bring back any meat products or plants whatsoever as the import regulations are very detailed and are aimed at industrial scale import. It is probably not worth the money and effort to bring these products back.

HM Customs & Excise for more information on what you can import and how to pay duty if you are bringing back goods over your limit

DEFRA contains information on importing plant and animal products such as meat.