If you are travelling to the UK from the European Union (EU), you can bring in an unlimited amount of most goods for your own use without paying tax or duty, but certain rules apply.

On this page

  • Arrivals from EU Countries
  • Customs checks when coming from the EU
  • Declaring goods to customs
  • Banned and restricted goods
  • Getting more help and advice
  • More useful links

Arrivals from EU countries

When arriving into the UK from an EU country you can bring in an unlimited amount of most goods.

For excise goods such as alcohol and tobacco, there are no restrictions. However you must meet the conditions below

  • You transport the goods yourself.
  • The goods are for your own use or as a gift. If the person you give the goods to pays you in any way including reimbursing you for any expenses or payment in kind then it’s not a gift and the goods may be seized.
  • The goods are duty and tax paid in the EU country where they were acquired.

If you don’t meet these conditions, the goods and any vehicle that transported them, may be seized.

You can read more about Excise Duty in the guide ‘Customs Duty, Excise Duty and Import VAT introduction’. You’ll find a link to this in the More useful links section below.

Motor fuel

As well as the fuel in your vehicle’s standard tank, you can bring in reserve fuel for that vehicle without paying any Excise Duty on it. The fuel must be in an appropriate container.

Read about which countries are in the EU in Travelling to the UK (Opens new window)


Customs checks when coming from the EU

If a customs official from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) thinks you may be bringing in excise goods such as alcohol and tobacco from the EU for commercial use perhaps to sell to other people or simply for reimbursement they may ask you questions and make checks. You may be asked about

  • the type and quantity of goods you’ve bought
  • why you bought them
  • how you paid for them
  • how often you travel
  • how much you normally smoke or drink

Although there are no limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring in from EU countries, customs officials are more likely to ask you questions if you have more than the following

Goods brought to the UK from the European Union

Until 30 September 2011

From 1 October 2011











3 kilograms

1 kilogram


110 litres

110 litres


90 litres

90 litres


10 litres

10 litres

Fortified wine (for example port or sherry)

20 litres

20 litres

If the UKBA is satisfied that the goods are for a commercial purpose it may seize them and any vehicle used to transport them, and may not return them to you. You can find out more in the guide ‘What to do if your goods are seized by customs’ under ‘More useful links’.

Find out about tax and duty on commercial imports (Opens new window)


Declaring goods to customs

You must declare to customs any goods from EU countries if you think they may be banned or restricted goods.

To do this you should use the red channel or the red point phone.

Note that if you are bringing back goods for commercial purposes, the rules are different.

Going through customs


Banned and restricted goods

There are some goods, such as offensive weapons and illegal drugs that you can’t bring into the UK no matter where you’re travelling from. Other goods, like firearms, are restricted.

Some food and plant products may be restricted if they

  • are not free from pests and diseases
  • are not for your own use
  • were not grown in the EU

Read more about banned or restricted goods


Getting more help and advice

If you need more information about bringing in goods to the UK from the EU, you can contact the VAT, Customs and Excise Helpline by following the link below.

Contact details for the VAT, Customs and Excise Helpline


More useful links

Travelling to the UK (Opens new window)

Customs Duty, Excise Duty and Import VAT introduction

Tax and duty on goods brought to the UK from outside the EU

What to do if you have something seized by Customs


No ban on refillable e-cigarettes, for now

What makes marlboro cigarettes different than other cigarette brands?

MEPs, under pressure from manufacturers and users of e cigarettes, had refused to accept an EU ban on refillable cartridges. But member states are concerned the cartridges are unsafe and had been demanding an EU ban. They are generally worried about the possibility of unknown long term health effects from these new products.

The issue of how to regulate e cigarettes had become so contentious that it threatened to derail the overall reform of EU tobacco rules (see box) in the final weeks of negotiations. Removing e cigarettes entirely from the proposal was being entertained as a solution.

That would have pleased e cigarette enthusiasts, who argue that the product has no place in the legislation because it contains no tobacco.

But a compromise was agreed yesterday which would permit the sale of refillable cartridges no larger than 2 millilitres, while empowering member states to ban specific types of cartridges where justified by safety concerns. If three member states were to adopt a ban on a specific cartridge, the European Commission could unilaterally impose an EU level ban, without approval by Parliament or member states. Manufacturers and users still fear that this could allow bans through the back door on all refillable e cigarettes.

Medicine debate

The conflict over whether e cigarettes should be regulated as general products, preferred by MEPs, or as medicines, preferred by member states, was also resolved with a compromise. EU law will regulate them as general products, but member states may classify them as pharmaceuticals if they wish. A manufacturer can also choose to have its e cigarette authorised as a pharmaceutical. E cigarettes will be limited to a maximum permitted nicotine concentration level per cigarette of 20 mg/ml, roughly equivalent to the amount of nicotine in one pack of regular cigarettes.

The full parliament is expected to vote on the deal in March, followed by a final rubber stamp from health ministers.

The new tobacco products directive

All characterising flavours will be banned, though the menthol flavour will be given a four year derogation until 2020.

Graphic pictorial health warnings covering 65% of the front and back of cigarette packs will be required. Member states can go further and ban branding if they wish.

An EU wide tracking and tracing system will be set up to combat illicit trade of tobacco products. Cross border internet sales will be banned.