Holiday souvenirs: How to avoid problems at customs

Holiday souvenirs such as cigarettes and alcohol, but also animal products such as cheese and leather clothing can cause problems at customs. We show you what to look out for when travelling within and outside the EU.


The most important facts in a nutshell:

  • Customs distinguishes between travel within and outside the European Union when importing goods.
  • Products such as alcohol and tobacco are subject to certain maximum limits if you don’t want to pay taxes. Dairy and meat products can only be brought home from outside the EU at great expense.
  • Valuable items that you want to take with you should be declared to customs before you go on holiday.
  • With our printable cheat sheets, you’ll know what you can bring home when you travel.

Can the wine from the holiday country be taken home? What about cash, medicines and animal products? And when should you worry about expensive items such as high-quality photographic equipment or sports equipment before you go on holiday?


Travelling in EU member states:

If you travel through the countries of the European Union, there are few restrictions. Goods for your personal use can almost all be taken across borders. Behind this is the right to free movement, a fundamental right of EU citizens. German customs has summarised the 27 member states of the EU.


According to customs, exceptions apply to:

Alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco are classified by customs as “stimulants”. For private use, you may bring them back from your holiday without paying taxes.

  • There are quite high limits. You can find the exact guideline quantities for various luxury goods on If you are bringing more than 800 cigarettes or 10 litres of spirits, for example, you must declare this on arrival and may have to pay taxes.
  • There are no quantity limits for wine within the EU.
  • Of course, the goods must have been correctly taxed in the holiday country. If tobacco has not been taxed and has been produced in a country outside the EU, you may also be in trouble for tax evasion. The packaging should be marked with tax stamps and information on nicotine and tar content.

Medicines and narcotics

The boundaries between so-called medicinal products on the one hand and narcotics on the other are also defined by customs.

  • For medicines, you only have to comply with the rules of the country of travel when leaving the country. When returning to Germany, you are allowed to have a maximum of three months’ supply of each medicine with you.
  • Food supplements, high-dose vitamin preparations or purely herbal natural remedies can also fall under this maximum limit.
  • Counterfeit medicines, particularly dangerous substances and those frequently used in doping, as well as preparations that are subject to species protection (e.g. because endangered animal species are processed for them) are prohibited.
  • Stricter rules apply to narcotics, which, in addition to drugs, can also include medicines containing morphine, for example. With a doctor’s prescription, you are allowed to take them with you in reasonable quantities for your own use. You can find out which form of certificate you need and which rules apply to which countries in the EU from customs at the link above.

Cash money

If you are approached by customs officials, you must let them know if you are carrying amounts of more than 10,000 euros.

In addition to cash, this also includes so-called equivalent means of payment. For example, savings books, electronic money, some precious metals and precious stones. Jewellery, however, does not.

Exception: territories that belong to the EU but not to its customs area.

It sounds strange at first, but not every territory that is part of the EU also falls under its customs rules. Some islands, such as Helgoland in the North Sea, Aruba and the Canary Islands, have a special status.

For such territories, the complete customs rules of the EU do not apply, so there are sometimes different upper limits for the tax.

Exception: travel via a non-EU country such as Switzerland

Sometimes, for example, the journey leads from the EU country Italy through Switzerland. Of course, different rules may apply there as to what you are allowed to bring through the country.

If you enter Germany via a non-EU country, luxury foodstuffs remain tax-free if you can prove that the goods originate from free movement within the EU (e.g. with invoices/cash register receipts).


Travelling outside the EU

What you are allowed to take out of Germany and bring back from your holiday is basically the same as for travel within the EU. Some exceptions: Travel souvenirs may only be for the personal use or consumption of the traveller, for members of the traveller’s household or as a gift. The upper limits up to which you do not have to pay taxes have been summarised in detail by customs.

Alcohol and tobacco

Only travellers who are at least 17 years old are allowed to bring alcohol and tobacco into the EU.

  • Tobacco: The upper limit up to which you do not have to pay tax is 200 cigarettes. Instead, you can take 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250 grams of smoking tobacco. Or you can combine 100 cigarettes with 25 cigars, for example.
  • Alcohol: A distinction is made here between spirits with an alcohol content of more than 22% by volume (1 litre free) or 2 litres of alcohol and alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of no more than 22% by volume. Here, too, you can combine. In addition, you are allowed to take 4 litres of non-sparkling wines and 16 litres of beer.

Food products

The EU has quite strict rules against the import of animal products for private use. You can find them in detail at the German customs. One of the reasons for this is the danger of epidemics.

  • Strict rules apply above all to meat, milk and products made from it, such as cheese or sausages, which enter the EU privately. You must have such goods checked by veterinarians at special entry points. You also need health certificates and a valid accompanying document.
  • The measures are so onerous that you probably won’t want to bring such items.

Other goods purchased abroad

You discover an MP3 player on holiday, have bought a new camera or find a nice watch? You often have to declare such goods and pay duties when you return home. Purchases up to a total value of 700 euros are free.

The type and value of the goods are decisive for the amount of duty. You should therefore keep the purchase receipt of your travel souvenirs and present it at the check-in.

If you no longer have a receipt, the customs office will determine the value of the goods. This is done either on the basis of prices from comparable imports or – if not known – by estimating the value of your travel goods.

If the value of the dutiable goods per traveller does not exceed €700, the duties will be calculated using a flat rate of duty or set in detail according to the provisions of the relevant regulations.

Cash money

If you bring amounts of more than 10,000 euros out of or into the EU, you must declare this in writing to customs beforehand.

Savings bonds, cheques and shares are also covered by the regulation. Precious metals and precious stones, on the other hand, are treated as goods.

Protected animals and plants

Whether alive, stuffed or processed into goods: You are not allowed to bring species-protected animals and plants across the EU border.

This can apply, for example, to skin creams, medicines used in Asian medicine, animal souvenirs (e.g. skins) and exotic clothing (e.g. fur coats, leather belts and shoes). Cacti, orchids, corals, shells of mussels and snails may also be prohibited at customs.

  • “Export certificates”, which traders often offer, do not count. Only competent authorities of the holiday country may issue official permits.
  • Customs confiscates corresponding animals, plants and objects and can also impose a fine.
  • There is a separate website that provides information on protected species sorted by holiday country.

Valuable items in your luggage

Customs classify luggage as travel items (e.g. sports equipment, photographic equipment or clothing), goods for personal consumption (e.g. hair shampoo, cream) and gifts. You may take these items with you for private use and bring them back to Germany.

  • However, particularly high-value items can first make customs suspicious on the return journey. If you bring expensive photographic equipment, jewellery or sports equipment back to Germany, you will have to prove that you did not buy it outside the EU (e.g. with proof of purchase).
  • You can avoid misunderstandings by taking care of this before you travel. You can have the so-called “information sheet INF 3” issued by customs before your journey. Bring the goods with you to the customs office. Photos of jewellery or the serial number of technical equipment are also helpful.
  • If you are travelling by air, do this before you check in your luggage.
  • You should also find out about the import and export regulations of your holiday destination before you start your journey. You can obtain information from the customs authorities of the respective holiday country or the representations of the holiday country in Germany (embassy or consulate).

Fake brands and clothing

You may only bring counterfeit and pirated products across the border for your private use.

  • If customs suspects, for example because of the quantity, that you will resell them, there may be problems.
  • But the owners of trademark rights can also ask to intercept counterfeit goods in general. Then you can get rid of a single T-shirt at the border.


Relaxed parking and start your holiday

We will take care of parking your car in the car park reserved for you and take you to the airport with our shuttle bus. Your car will be parked safely and securely in one of our car parks during your journey. You can conveniently book the right parking space for your next flight from BER Airport at

We wish you a relaxing holiday!

Our recommendation:

With our all-round protection package, you are optimally covered for just €4.90, including a free extension for up to 24 hours if your return flight is delayed. You can also cancel free of charge up to the last minute. With a MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE!

You can find all the advantages here!





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