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


[press release] public health must be at the heart of the eu regulation of e-cigarettes – european public health alliance

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As currently evidence on the health impacts of NCPs such as e cigarettes is lacking, we urge the Trialogue to adopt the precautionary principle to shape regulation of NCPs. “Without a robust regulatory framework in place in the EU, e cigarettes are now hanging in a legal limbo. It is essential that this emerging range of products is urgently regulated to safeguard people’s health“, said Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) “To achieve this, Brussels has to make sure that strict rules on advertising and sponsorship as well as market surveillance and monitoring are the corner stones of new legislation, whilst ensuring that the products are accessible to existing smokers“.

As the EPHA briefing states, lack of strict regulation of NCPs, or maintaining long transitional periods which is equivalent to maintaining the status quo, has the potential danger to drive market developments that are detrimental to public health.

Although high quality NCPs have the potential to help smokers who are not otherwise ready or able to quit smoking, NCPs must not become a gateway to cigarettes, especially for young people, and must not re normalise smoking. The future legal framework must ensure that accessibility to NCPs for existing smokers (4) is not hindered while ensuring that they are unappealing and inaccessible to minors.

Strict marketing limits similar to tobacco and medicine marketing rules are essential so that NCPs do not promote smoking behaviour either in a direct or indirect way, and appropriate measures put in place to allow a regulatory response to the future and fast development of this market “, said Cornel Radu Loghin of the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP).

We have long argued for harm reduction in tobacco policy and for radical reform of nicotine regulation to enable effective alternative nicotine products to replace smoking. Regulation is needed to ensure appropriate standards of quality and safety, and to protect against market abuse arising from unscrupulous commercial interests. We therefore support proportionate regulation that enables smokers to access affordable nicotine replacement products as easily as possible while ensuring purity, safety and responsible marketing,” stressed Professor John Britton CBE, Royal College of Physicans (RCP).

Given the relative short market presence of some NCPs, in particular e cigarettes, regulation on NCPs will be based on incomplete evidence on the long term health consequences of their use. “Appropriate monitoring and impact assessment mechanisms, including surveys and data on the health risks, benefits and unintended consequences of the use of NCPs, should be an essential part of the EU regulation on these products,” stressed Deborah Arnott of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). “The Commission must be empowered to adopt new legislation in order to maintain a high level of human health protection in this fast changing field” concluded Luk Joossens of the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL).

Notes to editors

(1) The future legislation of nicotine containing products (NCPs), including e cigarettes, is part of the ongoing discussion on the revision of Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).

(2) EPHA Briefing Regulation of Nicotine Containing Products (NCPs) including electronic cigarettes

(3) A briefing from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) on electronic cigarettes is available here. Further information on the use electronic cigarettes in the UK is available here

(4) The provision of information in including tobacco cessation services (quit lines) are crucial to sustained and successful efforts to quit smoking

Contact information

Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at javier or 32(0) 2 233 3876 (mobile 32(0) 484 919 156)