Top tips to make sure you get through UK Customs

Which exit should I use?

When you arrive back to the airport after a great holiday and have collected your luggage you'll make your way towards customs, there you will be faced will two exits:

Green Channel - Use this exit if you don't have any goods that go over your allowance, are 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.

Bringing goods into the UK

You can bring goods into the UK from abroad without paying tax so long as they are for your own use or gifts. They must also fall into the allowances below.  Anything over and above your allowance must be declared and tax paid.  

You cannot combine allowances with other people to bring in more than your individual allowance. 

If you are under the age of 17 years you will not be allowed to have any alcohol and tobacco allowances.

Alcohol & Tobacco

You can bring in both:

  • beer - 42 litres
  • wine (not sparkling) - 18 litres

You can also bring in either:

  • spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol - 4 litres


  • fortified wine (for example port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol - 9 litres

You can split this last allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

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. The majority of fruits, vegetables, seeds and bulbs are subject to weight or quantity restrictions. Check the government website for a detailed guide on which food and plants you can and can't bring back to the UK.

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:

Items to avoid (where international trade is prohibited):

  • Animals such as elephants, rhinos, whales, turtles, coral and many reptiles
  • Plants such as orchids, cacti and mahogany and ramin trees
  • 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)
  • Bushmeat

Banned goods

Regardless of where you are travelling from, some goods are not allowed to be brought in the to UK.

Some 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)

Others require a license or permit:

  • Firearms, explosives and ammunition
  • Samurai Swords
  • Live animals
  • Endangered animals or plants
  • Certain radio transmitters
  • Rough diamonds

Don't forget:

  • Never bring banned goods into the UK
  • Never carry anything into the UK for someone else
  • Never smuggle an animal into the UK
  • Check the UK Government website for the latest information

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