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Updated : 18/09/2017

Alcohol, tobacco, cash and excise duties

Alcohol and tobacco limits within the EU

As a private individual, there are no limits on what you can buy and take with you when travelling between EU countries as long as the products purchased are for your own use and not for resale. Taxes (VAT and excise) are included in the price of the product in the country where you bought it, so no further payments are due in any other EU country.

However, to determine if the products you have bought are for your own use, EU customs authorities can look at several different elements such as, if you own or work for a commercial business, how the goods are packaged and transported etc. They will also look at the quantity of products you are travelling with.

Be aware that each EU country can decide on a maximum amount of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages that you can bring into the country. These maximum amounts must be at least:

  • 800 cigarettes
  • 400 cigarillos (cigars weighing maximum 3 grams each)
  • 200 cigars
  • 1 kg of tobacco
  • 10 litres of spirits
  • 20 litres of fortified wine
  • 90 litres of wine (including a maximum of 60 litres of sparkling wines)
  • 110 litres of beer

Different limits for cigarettes

Some EU countries limit the number of cigarettes you can bring with you from other EU countries if these countries do not charge the minimum level of excise duty. However, this limit cannot be lower than 300 cigarettes. Before you leave, check with the customs authorities in the country you are travelling to.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden currently apply a lower limit for travellers from Bulgaria, Hungary and Lithuania.

Carrying quantities above the limits

If customs authorities suspect that you are carrying goods which are not for your own use, or are intended for resale, you may be asked to prove that they are (by producing proof of purchase etc.). If you cannot provide sufficient evidence, you might be asked to pay duties or your products could be confiscated.

Stricter rules apply to travellers under 17 years old. These can vary from country to country, so check before you travel.

Carrying cash

If you plan to enter or leave the EU with EUR 10 000 euros or more in cash (or the equivalent in other currencies) you must declare it to the customs authorities. Failure to do so could result in your cash being retained by the customs authorities, and you may receive a fine. Be aware that the customs authorities may carry out individual checks as well as checks on your baggage and/or vehicle.

If you want to travel between EU countries with EUR 10 000 euros or more in cash (or the equivalent in other currencies), you must check with the customs authorities in the countries you are leaving, entering and passing through whether you must declare it.

VAT and excise duties when entering the EU

If you enter the EU from a non-EU country, you can bring goods free of VAT and excise duties with you within the limits set out below and if they are not for resale. The same rules apply if you come from the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar or other territories where EU rules on VAT and excise do not apply.

Alcoholic drinks

You can bring in:

  • 4 litres of still wine and
  • 16 litres of beer

You can also bring:

  • a total of 1 litre of spirits over 22 % vol. or 1 litre of undenatured alcohol (ethyl alcohol) of 80% vol. (or over) or 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine

Each of these amounts represents 100% of the total of this last allowance which you can split. For example, you can bring a half a litre of spirits and 1 litre of fortified wine - both represent half of this allowance.

Tobacco products

There is a higher or lower limit depending on the EU country you are visiting. If an EU country applies the lower limits, it can either 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
100 cigarillos or
50 cigars or
250 g tobacco

40 cigarettes or
20 cigarillos or
10 cigars or
50 g tobacco

You may combine any of these tobacco products but you must not exceed the total limit. For example, 50 cigarillos + 25 cigars = total allowance.

If you are under 17 years old you are not entitled to a duty free allowance for tobacco or alcohol.

Other goods including perfume

You may carry other goods up to a value of EUR 300 per traveller or EUR 430 for travellers by air and sea. Some EU countries apply a lower limit of EUR 150 for travellers under 15.

Fuel

You can carry 10 litres (maximum) in a portable container, in addition to the fuel contained in your fuel tank. This rule applies to any type of motorised vehicle.

Excise duties when leaving the EU

If you are travelling to a destination outside the EU (and certain areas within the EU such as the Canary Islands) you can buy goods free of duty and tax in so-called "tax-free shops" in airports and ports. You should however bear in mind that these goods may be subject to duty free and tax free allowances in your non-EU country of destination.

Transiting in the EU via Switzerland or another non-EU country

If you travel from one EU country to another EU country via Switzerland Swiss customs rules apply.

If you carry quantities of alcohol or tobacco above the thresholds allowed in Switzerland, you must declare them when you enter Switzerland and when you re-enter the EU. In Switzerland you may be requested to provide a financial guarantee which you will get back when you leave the country with the goods.

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