However you arrive in the UK, by plane, Eurostar, ferry, or coach, you have to abide by the UK Customs and Visa regulations. Like other countries in the EU (European Union), the UK has a two-tier customs system: one for goods bought duty free and one for goods bought in another EU country where taxes and duties have already been paid.
Duty-free1 December 2008 brought the first change to the Duty Free Allowances in 15 years. The changes have been brought in by the EU to cover all member states with the intention to make duty free laws more in line with the needs of the traveling public.
Duty-free sales to those traveling from one EU country to another were abolished in July 1999. For goods purchased at airports or on ferries outside the EU, you are allowed to import:
- tobacco products: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. From 1 December 2008, while allowances remain the same, you can make up your duty free allowance from a mixture of tobacco products.
- Alcohol: 4 litres of still wine plus 1 litres of spirits over 22% or another 2 litres of wine (sparkling or otherwise). From 1 December, you can now make up your alcohol allowance from a mix and match of alcohol products.
- perfume and eu de toilette - no restrictions from 1 December 2008
- new allowance of 16 litres of beer
- and other duty-free goods such as electrical products and souvenirs to the value of £300 (was £145 before)
Tax and Duty Paid
Although you can no longer bring in duty free goods from another EU country, you can bring in duty-paid goods that cost less than you would pay for the same items in your destination country. The items are supposed to be for individual consumption but a thriving business has developed, with many Londoners making day trips to France to load up their cars with cheap alcohol and cigarettes.
If you purchase from a normal retail outlet on the continent, customs uses the following maximum quantities as a guide to distinguish personal imports from those on a commercial scale:
- 800 cigarettes
- 200 cigars
- 1kg of tobacco
- 10L of spirits
- 20L of fortified wine
- 90L of wine (of which not more than 60L is sparkling)
- 110L of beer
Banned GoodsThis is a list of goods banned for importing into the country:
- unlicensed drugs (e.g. heroin, morphine, cocaine, cannabis, etc)
- offensive weapons (e.g. flick knives, knuckledusters, swords, etc)
- indecent and obscene material featuring children (e.g. books, magazines, films, etc)
- pornographic material - other than that which depicts consensual sexual activity between adults, that can legally be purchased in the UK
- counterfeit and pirated goods and goods that infringe patents (e.g. watches, CDs, etc)
- meat, milk and other animal products.
At present, citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA are given, at their point of arrival, 'leave to enter' the UK for up to six months but are prohibited from working unless they secure a work permit.
If you are a citizen of the EU, you do not need a visa to enter the country and may live and work here freely for as long as you like.
Visa regulations are always subject to change, so it is essential to check the latest details before leaving home. Have a look at UK Border Agency.