Which exit? UK Customs Regulations

Find out what you can or can't bring back in to the UK

You arrive back to the airport after a great holiday and the last hurdle to get through once you've collected your luggage is getting through customs checks. It's not as complicated as you may think-when making your way towards customs you will be faced with two exits:

Green Channel – Use this exit if you don't have any goods that go over your allowance, are banned or restricted

Red Channel – You must use this exit if you have goods or cash to declare, you are carrying commercial goods, or if you are not sure about what you need to declare.

Goods allowances when arriving in the UK

You can bring goods into the UK from abroad without paying tax so long as they are for your own use or gifts. They must also fall into the allowances below.  Anything over and above your allowance must be declared and tax paid.  

If you are under the age of 17 years you will not be allowed to have any alcohol and tobacco allowances.

If you intend on selling or accepting any form of payment for the goods this will be classed as commercial use and has different rules associated with it.

Alcohol & Tobacco

You are allowed to bring the following into the UK without paying duty and/or tax:

You can bring in both:

  • beer - 42 litres
  • wine (not sparkling) - 18 litres

You can also bring in either:

  • spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol - 4 litres

or

  • fortified wine (for example port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol - 9 litres

You can split this last allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

If you are bringing tobacco back into the UK you will be allowed to bring in one from the following list:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250 grams of tobacco

You are allowed to combine your tobacco allowances, for example, if you bring in 100 cigarettes you can also bring in 25 cigars.

You are not allowed to combine alcohol and tobacco allowances.

Food and plants

You are not allowed to bring in any meat or dairy products from most countries. The majority of fruits, vegetables, seeds and bulbs are subject to weight or quantity restrictions. Some plants and plant products (including potatoes) and loose soil may not be brought into the UK unless you have obtained the relevant licence.

Check the UK Government website for a detailed guide on which food and plants you can and can't bring back to the UK.

Other goods

Most travellers can bring other goods such as perfume and souvenirs into the UK worth up to £390 without having to pay duty and/or tax. You cannot group individual allowances together to bring in an item worth more than the limit.

Souvenirs and gifts

You might want to think twice before buying a souvenir made from an endangered species, as you may not be allowed to bring it back to the UK and may even face prosecution. Endangered species include:

  • Animals such as elephants, rhinos, whales, turtles, coral and many reptiles
  • Plants such as orchids, cacti and mahogany and ramin trees

Items to avoid (where international trade is prohibited)

  • Elephant ivory (including carvings and jewellery)
  • Traditional medicine containing endangered species
  • Sea turtle shells
  • Products made from big cats (such as jaguars, leopards and tigers)
  • Shahtoosh (type of shawl woven from the hair of the Tibetan antelope)
  • Bushmeat

Banned goods

Regardless of what country you are travelling from there are certain goods that you are not allowed to bring into the UK.

The following goods are banned completely:

  • Drugs (such as heroine, morphine, cocaine)
  • Offensive weapons (such as flick knives, daggers, swordsticks, and some martial arts equipment)
  • Indecent and obscene material (such as books, magazines, films)

Banned goods that require the relevant license or permit:

  • Firearms, explosives and ammunition
  • Samurai Swords
  • Live animals
  • Endangered animals or plants
  • Certain radio transmitters
  • Rough diamonds

Remember

  • Never bring banned goods into the UK
  • Never carry anything into the UK for someone else
  • Never smuggle an animal into the UK
  • Check the UK Government website for the latest information