As an EU citizen you can do as much shopping as you want in all EU countries. Check the guide levels for tobacco and alcohol, VAT rates, rules on endangered species, meat and dairy products and what the EU is doing to protect consumers.
There are no limits on what you can buy and take with you when you travel between EU countries, as long as it is for personal use and not for resale. Taxes (VAT and excise duties) are included in the price you pay and no further payment of tax can be due in any other EU country.
To determine whether tobacco and alcohol are for personal use, each country can set guide levels. If you carry a larger quantity of these goods, you may be questioned to check that you have no commercial intent. The guide levels may not be lower than:
When you shop in another EU country, VAT and excise are included in the price you pay and, since these vary from country to country, you may want to take advantage of some interesting price differences.
'Duty-free' shopping, which you might see advertised in airport shops for example, does not exist when you travel between EU countries because the entire EU is one single market and you can instead profit from the freedom to buy whatever you want and take advantage of the diversity of choice, taste, taxes and prices.
The table below shows the standard and reduced rates of VAT applied in the EU as at 1 July 2011. A more comprehensive list of VAT rates and the goods and services to which they are applied is also available.
|Country||Reduced rate of VAT||Standard rate of VAT|
If you buy a new car, defined as one with less than 6 000 km on the clock or within six months of registration, you must pay VAT when registering it in your country of residence at the rate of VAT applied there. Some countries apply a tax on registration in addition to VAT. A Certificate of Conformity which must now be given by the manufacturer to the purchaser makes registration formalities much easier when buying a new car in any EU country.
The Commission produces an annual report on car prices in the EU where you can compare the prices in different countries of about 90 best-selling models of 26 different brands of car.
The movement of endangered species of animals or plants, or products derived from them such as leather goods or medicines, is strictly controlled. You may need a certificate to travel with some species in the EU so check with the CITES authority (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in your country.
More information on the implementation of CITES.
If you enter the EU from outside, you can bring with you goods free of VAT and excise duties for personal use within the limits set out below. The same applies if you come from the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar or other territories where EU rules on VAT and excise do not apply.
There is a higher or lower limit depending on the country you are visiting if you are coming from outside the EU. If an EU country decides to apply the lower limits, it may choose to apply them only to land and sea travellers (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia) or to all travellers (Estonia and Romania).
|Higher limit||Lower limit|
|200 cigarettes or||40 cigarettes or|
|100 cigarillos or||20 cigarillos or|
|50 cigars or||10 cigars or|
|250 g tobacco||50 g tobacco|
Up to a value of €300 per traveller or €430 for travellers by air and sea is allowed. Some EU countries apply a lower limit of €150 for travellers under 15.
Visitors from outside the EU are entitled to a VAT refund on goods they have bought during their stay in the EU if the goods are shown to customs on departure within three months of their purchase together with the VAT refund documents. These are normally prepared by the seller although, as the scheme is voluntary, not all merchants participate. Some countries set a minimum value of purchases to qualify for a refund.
There are no general restrictions on carrying any of these products if you are travelling within the EU since all EU countries have to respect strict common veterinary standards. The same applies if you are travelling from Andorra, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino or Switzerland. However, some restrictions may apply under specific circumstances, such as localised animal disease outbreaks.
If you are arriving in the EU from other countries not mentioned above, you cannot bring with you any meat, milk or their products without official veterinary documentation. This is to prevent introducing any serious animal diseases into the EU. You are, however, allowed to bring in powdered infant milk, infant food and foods required for medical reasons under certain conditions. You may also bring in limited quantities, for personal consumption, of other animal products including fishery products, snails and honey. Travellers arriving from Croatia, the Faeroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland may bring small quantities of meat and dairy products for personal consumption.
Shopping hours vary from country to country and from region to region. In big cities or tourist areas, shops often remain open later and may be open on Sundays. In more remote regions, shops may be shut for a lunch hour or for one weekday and some countries have a longer siesta closing time in the middle of the day. In a number of countries shops are closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
As a consumer, you are protected by basic laws no matter where you are in the EU:
European Consumer Centres give practical information on consumer rights as well as advice and assistance with cross-border complaints or disputes. There are centres in all 27 EU countries and in Iceland and Norway.