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If you’re looking to bring some souvenirs or gifts back from your holiday, you might need to check a few things. There are some UK customs regulations about the kind of items that you can and can’t bring in the country.

There are lots of different guidelines and rules about what you can and can’t bring into the UK after your holiday. For the full list, it’s best to check the government website. But we’ve compiled a list of the most common items you might want to bring home with you, and what the rules are.

Customs
1

Food and animal products

There are strict controls around bringing food into the UK. And these rules get even tighter if you’re bringing in goods from outside of the EU. In particular, meat products and dairy products from most non-EU countries are banned.

Whether you’re bringing these items in for yourself, a friend or a family member – or even if you’re posting them – there are strict guidelines that must be followed. And, if you’re looking to bring in an animal hide, then this must be tanned – a process using vegetable or chemical agents to hardened the skin – but there are no weight restrictions on the amount that you bring in.

2

Souvenirs and endangered animals

If you purchase a souvenir abroad that comes from an endangered species, you'll not be allowed to bring this in to the UK and may even be subject to prosecution. Some endangered plant species to be aware of include cacti, orchids and mahogany trees. And when it comes to animals, endangered creatures include rhinos, elephants, whales, turtles and coral.

If you do want to buy a wildlife souvenir abroad, always make sure you’re certain that it’s not sourced from an endangered animal. If it is, you risk breaking British law and having your goods seized by customs officers upon arrival in the UK. Particular items to avoid are elephant ivory, turtle shells and traditional medicines containing parts from endangered animals.

3

Alcohol and tobacco

If you're travelling from an EU country, there’s generally no limit on the amount of goods that you can bring back. But there are two conditions – the goods have to be for your own personal use, and you must’ve paid the relevant tax and duty in the country where you bought them.

If you’re bringing in goods from outside of the EU, then you’ll need to stick to the duty free allowance. You can bring either one litre of spirits, one litre of liqueurs over 22% volume, or two litres of sparkling wine, fortified wine – like port or sherry – or any other alcoholic drink that’s less than 22% ABV. You can combine these limits but you can’t bring in more than half of each allowance (maximum of two items). Plus, you’re allowed to bring back 16 litres of beer and four litres of regular wine.

When it comes to tobacco, you can bring back one of the following – 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco.

4

Cash

You only need to declare cash if you’re entering or leaving the UK from outside of the EU and carrying €10,000 or more, or the equivalent in any other currencies. This covers currency notes, coins, bankers drafts, cheques and travellers cheques.

You must declare the cash using a C9011 form and post the completed copy 1 in the drop-off box provided at the airport. For ease, this form can be downloaded from the UK Border Agencies website. Cash will only be seized if it’s thought to be the proceeds of an illegal activity or designed for use to engage in illegal activities. This cash will not be kept for more than 48 hours – excluding public holidays and weekends. But if a court order is applied for by the UK Border Agency, the cash may be held while inquiries are carried out.

Arriving in a UK airport

When you arrive at a UK airport, always remember to look for the red ‘something to declare’ area and the green ‘nothing to declare’ area. If you’re unsure about anything you’re bringing into the UK, it’s best to speak to a member of the border force. Or you can use one of the red telephones provided at the airport to speak direct to a member of staff.

If you’ve travelled through the red ‘something to declare’ area and you’re found with banned or illegal goods, these will be confiscated and destroyed. But if you go through the green ‘nothing to declare’ area and you’re found to be carrying banned or illegal goods, you could face a lengthy delay, a fine or even a jail sentence.

If you’re in doubt about anything you’re carrying, simply speak to a member of staff – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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