Could your holiday souvenir get you a 5000 pound fine and a prison sentence?

Added 08/11/2011

Man riding elephant, Thailand

Just because they sell it at the airport, doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to bring it back into the UK.

Although whale meat is freely available for sale in souvenir packs at Iceland’s Keflavik airport, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a stern warning to UK travellers who may be tempted bring back some back as a souvenir.

The FCO said “Whale meat is available in Iceland, but tourists should be aware that its importation into the UK/EU is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Any importation of whale meat to the UK will result in seizure of goods, possibly a fine of up to £5000 and a custodial sentence”.Although this is perhaps an extreme example it does illustrate the point that when you travel abroad, particularly outside the EU, you shouldn’t just assume that you are allowed to bring anything you fancy back into the UK.

You should definitely 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 as described above.

Endangered species include:
Animals such as elephants, rhinos, whales, turtles, coral and many reptiles
Plants such as orchids, cacti and mahogany and ramin trees

So, before you buy one of the beautiful orchids on sales in Bangkok airport, think about whether you are allowed to bring it back into the country. The person selling it to you in Bangkok doesn’t know or care whether you are allowed to take plants into your destination country. That responsibility falls to you.

It’s not just products made from endangered species that you should be careful of, there are strict rules around other products particularly from outside the EU. Alcohol and tobacco are the obvious ones but also be aware that there are also the import of food and plant products are restricted. Although unlikely to lead to a prison sentence, the items would be confiscated and you could be prosecuted.

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.So long as items are for your own personal use, bringing products back from other EU countries is largely unrestricted.

Check the Home Office or Directgov websites for a detailed guide on which food and plants you can and can’t bring back to the UK.

News Archive

News Search