You may bring these goods duty-free from your vacation: all rules at a glance

Who doesn’t know this situation – you are packing for the return flight and suddenly you ask yourself if you are allowed to take all of the following back to Germany legally. If you want to be on the safe side, read this post. Here you can find out everything about the applicable customs regulations for your return trip to Germany – without any officialese. Whether you are coming back from non-EU countries or from the Schengen area: the appropriate customs regulations are right here.

Customs regulations for the return journey to Germany from an EU member state

As an EU citizen you have the right of free movement within the European Union. This includes, for example, "borderless travel". This means, among other things, that you can import goods for your own use from another EU country duty-free into Germany. However, this does not apply to all goods. For stimulants such as tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and coffee, maximum quantities have been set. These are necessary, among other things, because otherwise the criterion "own need" is difficult to define. Excise duty is uniform throughout the EU.

However, you may also bring more than the exemption limit. If you exceed the guideline values, the customs officials will assume that you are not only importing the goods for your own use. In this case you have to declare the goods at the German customs and pay duty on them.

Here is an overview of the permitted maximum quantities of stimulants within the EU

Cigarette pack

Tobacco products – standard quantities within the EU

  • 800 pieces of cigarettes
  • 400 pieces of cigarillos
  • 200 pieces of cigars
  • 1 kilogram of smoking tobacco

Alcoholic beverages -Limits within the EU

  • 10 liters of spirits (z.B. brandy, whisky, rum, vodka)
  • 10 liters of sweet drinks containing alcohol (alcopops)
  • 20 liters of intermediate products (z.B. Sherry, port wine and Marsala)
  • 60 liters of sparkling wine
  • 110 liters of beer

Important: This only applies to goods that have been properly taxed in your vacation country. So only for packaged coffee, beverages in sealed bottles and cigarette packets, etc. with tax band.

When importing items, there are a few more restrictions you should be aware of. A complete and up-to-date overview of all regulations, you can find on the site of the customs.

1) Regulations on medicines when returning from an EU country to Germany

If you have been on vacation in an EU country, you are allowed to bring medicines that cover your personal needs back to Germany. More precisely, it is about the amount of medicines sufficient for a period of 3 months. And more precisely: The dosage recommendation on the package is used as the basis for calculating the quantity for 3 months.

It does not matter if you brought the drugs from Germany or if you bought them in your vacation country. It is also not important whether the drugs are registered or approved in Germany. If you want to take advantage of the lower prices for medicines in some EU countries: To be on the safe side, stick to non-prescription medicines. In case of prescription drugs you might have to present a form from your family doctor.

Tip: Food supplements are often treated like medicines by customs – so only bring enough of each type to cover your needs for 3 months.

Absolute NO-GO is the import of:

  • food supplements with ingredients that fall under the doping law
  • so-called "plagiarism" – counterfeit medicines
  • Preparations with ingredients that fall under the law on the protection of endangered species

If you are unlucky, you will be charged for it. And then the principle applies: "Ignorance is no excuse". So take a close look at what medicines you take with you on your return trip to Germany – and if in doubt, better leave them in their country of origin.

EU customs regulations for medicines that fall under the narcotics law

If you have to take medication because of chronic pain, which falls under the narcotics law, you should declare this immediately at the German customs on your return journey. Depending on whether you have been on vacation in a Schengen country or in another EU country, the officials will then ask you to provide various certificates. Your doctor is familiar with each of the regulations: Notify him when you plan a trip.

2) How much cash or cash equivalents can I bring from EU countries to Germany??

… your rich aunt in Spain has died. After her funeral, the notary tells you that you will inherit one third of the contents of her piggy bank under the mattress. The stocking is emptied, the contents divided and suddenly you have a vast amount of cash in your pocket. Are you allowed to take "just like that" to Germany now?

tourist tax

The following applies here: When entering Germany from other EU countries, cash and other means of payment – so-called cash – must be displayed verbally when questioned by customs officials. You are obliged to declare the type and value of your cash on request. You must also provide information about the origin and the purpose of use in Germany. Cash with a value of more than 10.000 € you should declare in writing without being asked.

What exactly does "cash" or "equivalent means of payment" mean??

  • valid banknotes and coins
  • invalid banknotes and coins that you can exchange
  • Shares
  • Checks
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Change
  • Savings books
  • Precious metals or stones
  • electronic means of payment

3) antiques and works of art: customs regulations on cultural goods

Maybe in your vacation country the owner of a store will tell you that he has the original bangle you are looking at. "Antika, Antika…" Leave it alone! You can assume to 98% that the offered antique is a fake. And that would be the lesser evil. If you bring antiques or art objects to Germany without declaring them, you are liable to prosecution. If you are caught with illegal "cultural property" when leaving your vacation country, you can even expect a prison sentence.

You like your antique souvenir so much that you are willing to go to the authorities to take it home legally? First of all, you need a proper receipt for the purchase of your antique, showing the tax. Since it is forbidden to sell real antiques, it might be difficult to do so. Afterwards you have to find out where to get an export license for antiques in your vacation country.

If you actually get an export license for a real antique, you have to declare its import to Germany at the border. The import permit will be issued only if the country of origin has granted permission to export.

Why it is all so complicated? Many countries have lost valuable testimonies of their culture during wars or through art theft. The UNESCO Convention of 1970 is intended to prevent the illegal trade in art objects and antiques.

Customs regulations for the return journey to Germany from a non-EU country

If you come home from your vacation in a country outside the European Union, the customs regulations are much stricter. This already starts with the guideline values for duty-free import of luxury foodstuffs. Travelers over 17 years of age are allowed to bring the following stimulants duty-free when re-entering Germany from a non-EU country:

tobacco products, if the importer is at least 17 years old:

  • 200 cigarettes or
  • 100 cigarillos or
  • 50 cigars or
  • 250 grams of smoking tobacco or
  • a proportional compilation of these goods

Alcohol and alcoholic beverages if the importer is at least 17 years old:

  • 1 liter of spirits with an alcohol content of more than 22 percent by volume or undenatured ethyl alcohol with an alcohol content of 80 percent by volume or more or
  • 2 liters of alcohol and alcoholic beverages with a maximum alcohol content of 22% by volume

or a proportionate assortment of these goods and

  • 4 liters of non-sparkling wine and
  • 16 liters of beer
  • Medicines the quantity corresponding to the personal needs of the traveler

How many other goods am I allowed to bring with me when returning from a non-EU country?

If you are traveling by air or sea to a country outside the European Union, you are allowed to bring goods with a total value of 475 € per person to Germany. For travel by bus, train or motor vehicle, the allowance is €300. For travelers younger than 16 years, the limit is 175 € worth of goods.

Attention: The duty-free value of goods also applies to the luxury foodstuffs listed in the table below. So it applies to the total value of luxury food and other goods.

If you want to avoid that a customs officer on your re-entry to Germany believes that you have bought your new laptop on vacation? This is very simple. When you leave the country, go to the customs office and show them the valuables you want to take with you. You will then receive a so-called "Namlichkeitsbescheinigung" without any problems. It confirms that the listed (same) goods were already in your possession before you left the country.

1) What kind of goods I am not allowed to bring from a vacation country outside the EU?

Everything you have read about the regulations on antiques and other cultural goods when traveling within the EU, of course also applies to travel outside the EU. The regulations exist for all member countries of UNESCO. Additional regulations have been issued for Syria and Iraq.

Transit ban airport

Here is a list of things you are not allowed to bring to Germany:

  • Antiques
  • fireworks not suitable for children
  • Knives with a blade longer than 8.5 cm
  • Knives with a double-edged blade
  • Souvenirs made of ivory or elephant skin
  • Fur coats and skins of exotic animals and wild cats
  • Products derived from monkeys (z.B. Bushmeat)
  • Stuffed birds
  • Products made of caiman or snake skin
  • products from tortoise shell and sea turtles
  • orchids, tillandsias and cacti
  • Products from/and shells of mussels and snails
  • Potatoes
  • Vines and leaves
  • Soil or planting substrate

Some items on the list may seem strange to you. Knives ok, species protection too – but why are you not allowed to bring potatoes from non-EU countries to Germany, for example? The riddle’s solution: the last 3 items on the list are about not importing plant diseases.

2) Goods you are only allowed to bring to Germany from non-EU countries in a restricted way

For animal health reasons, the import of products of animal origin from non-EU countries into Germany is subject to severe restrictions. You may, however, bring the products below into Germany in the quantities indicated:

  • up to 2 kg of baby food in unopened original packaging
  • up to 2 kg of special medical food in unopened original packaging
  • up to 2 kg of honey or other animal products except dairy products, eggs and meat
  • up to 2 kg of food with low milk content like z.B. chocolate
  • up to 20 kg of fish or seafood

Sturgeon caviar may only be brought to Germany in quantities of 125 grams per person for reasons of species protection.

You are allowed to bring the following souvenirs home from a non-EU country in the specified quantities as an exception:

  • up to 4 products made of crocodile skin
  • up to 3 shells of giant clams
  • up to 4 dried seahorses
  • up to 3 shells of fencer snail
  • up to 3 rain sticks of cactus
  • up to 1 kg of wood chips from eagle wood
  • up to 2 sets of beads or prayer beads or
  • up to 2 pearl necklaces or bracelets

3) Brand and product piracy

Who does not know the cheap fake brand articles? In many countries, cheap products are often sold on markets, which are decorated with one of the renowned labels in an unmistakable place. If the brand name of the great outfit is misspelled, the piece becomes a must-have. Still in addition such pseudo-branded articles are gladly seen Mitbringsel.

So you wonder if you are allowed to bring these counterfeits to Germany. It is hard to believe – but if you only bring articles in a quantity that clearly indicates private use, you will get away with it at the German customs. Of course you have to take into account the total allowed value of your imported goods. As long as you do not want to sell them, the possession of some fakes is completely legal.

4) How much cash or cash equivalents can I bring to Germany from non-EU countries?

Your rich aunt in America has died… Ok, let’s leave it at that. If you really need to bring cash on your return trip from Dubai in the amount of 10.If you have € 000 or more left over, you must declare it in writing to the responsible customs office when you enter Germany. But to be honest: Who after a shopping tour in the Emirates still 10.000 € in his pocket, probably travels by private jet and has staff to take care of the annoying customs formalities.

Nevertheless good to know: The regulations regarding means of payment when re-entering Germany from a non-EU country are the same as when entering Germany from an EU country. In section 2 – "How much cash or cash equivalents can I take with me from EU countries to Germany??" – you will find a detailed description of the currently valid regulations. In addition, there is a list of all means of payment, which are considered as cash or equivalent means of payment.

By the way: At the German customs, jewelry made of precious metals and/or gemstones do not fall into the category of "cash and equivalent means of payment". In Dubai and other metropolises of the Arab Emirates, gold jewelry is sold at a price per kilo. If your rich aunt has died in Dubai and you have a little more than 9.If you have left €999 in cash, you can invest up to €475 in gold jewelry for convenience. This means that you can simply walk past customs and only have to disclose your finances at the request of the officials.

5) Regulations on medicines when entering Germany from a non-EU country

Travel pharmacy

By and large, the same regulations apply when re-entering Germany from a country outside the European Union as in paragraph 1: "Regulations on medicines when returning to Germany from an EU country".

However, if you need to take medication that falls under the narcotics law, you may need to provide more certificates and attestations than you would within the EU. Before traveling to countries outside the EU, be sure to consult your doctor. Depending on the vacation country, there are special rules for the return journey to Germany for drugs that fall under the narcotics law.

Regulations for importing textiles from a country outside the EU

For some countries outside the EU there are import restrictions on certain textiles. Nevertheless, no German customs officer would throw you in jail for bringing 2 T-shirts and a leather jacket from a country that is currently subject to a trade embargo.

No one expects you as a vacationer to have all the international trade regulations in mind. In the worst case, your goods could be confiscated or you would have to pay customs for them. But if you don’t want to spend your vacations in North-Korea this year, you can leave this section aside. At the moment there are no import restrictions for textiles from the German side – except for certain goods from North Korea.

Areas with special regulations: Canary Islands, Mount Athos and Co.

Some areas are part of the territory of an EU state, but not part of the customs territory of the EU. The same regulations apply as for the return from a non-EU country. Only the taxation in case of exceeding is different.

  • Busingen
  • Helgoland
  • the Faroe Islands
  • Greenland
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon , New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Saint-Barthelemy
  • Livigno and Campione d’Italia and the part of Lake Lugano between Ponte Tresa and Porto Ceresio that belongs to Italy
  • Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten
  • Ceuta and Melilla and
  • the northern (Turkish) part of Cyprus, where the government of Cyprus does not exercise any real control
  • Gibraltar

Hand luggage

As of July 2018. All information without guarantee. More accurate& you can get current information on the customs page.

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