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 HM Customs and Excise. It's not as complicated as you may think-when making your way towards customs you will be faced with three exits:
Blue Channel – use this exit if you are travelling from a country within the EU with no banned or restricted goods
Green Channel – Use this exit if you are travelling from a country outside of the EU with goods that do not go over your allowance and are not 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.
Travelling within the European Union
If you are coming back into the UK from a European country you are allowed to bring an unlimited amount of most goods back with you, as long as they are for your own use. 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
As long as the alcohol and tobacco that you are bringing back into the UK is for your own use there are no limits. However if an officer suspects that you might be planning on selling the goods you may have to go through certain checks and asked very specific questions for example:
- The type and quantity of the goods that you have bought back
- Why you have bought them
- How much you usually smoke or drink
As a guide, you are more likely to be questioned if you are bringing back more than:
- 3,200 cigarettes
- 22 Cigars
- 3kg tobacco
- 110 litres of beer
- 90 litres of wine
- 10 litres of spirits
A more detailed breakdown is available from the Home Office
Food and plants
Bringing food (such as meat, fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables) or plants to the UK for your own use is allowed, as long as they are free from pests or diseases and have been grown in the EU.
Travelling from outside the European Union
If you are returning back to the UK from a country outside of the EU the rules are very different. As before any goods that you bring back with you must be for your own use or gifts. If you are under the age of 17 years you will not be allowed to have any alcohol and tobacco allowances.
Alcohol & Tobacco
You are allowed to bring the following into the UK from outside the EU without paying duty and/or tax:
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22% volume
- 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that is less than 22% volume
You are allowed to combine your alcohol allowances, for example, if you buy 1 litre of fortified wine you can also bring in half a litre of spirits. You are not allowed to go over your total alcohol allowance.
In addition to the above you may also bring back both of the following:
- 16 litres of beer
- 4 litres of still wine
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 outside the EU. 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.
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)
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
- Never bring banned goods into the UK
- Never carry anything into the UK for someone else
- Never smuggle an animal into the UK