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Travel Between EU and UK then Back Again - Customs, Duties, etc...

Our trip is drawing near and we will be starting in Amsterdam, then traveling to Paris, then London, then Brussels and back to Amsterdam.

Along the way I expect we'll be buying some amount of stuff to bring back home with us. For example, in Paris I'll want to pick up some rillettes de canard and maybe jams and stuff. Since I won't be traveling back through France I'll have no choice but to take this into the UK.

As we tote this stuff across borders (thinking most from EU to UK and then back), are we going to get hit with import restrictions and duties and stuff? I know for example that a tourist entering the US has a much lower duty-free import allowance than a citizen has.

Thanks!

Posted by
6652 posts

What stuff and where will you buy it? You need to be more specific.

But yes, this might cause some problems. I'm not familiar with UK rules but you are not allowed to bring any meat products from outside the EU to an EU country. I don't know if it's possible if you can prove that you originally bought it in an EU country though.

Posted by
15 posts

I really won't know what I'll buy until I see it :-)

I do know I want those duck rillettes though. It's basically a duck pate that's commercially "canned" (typically in a glass jar). I suppose I could buy them in Paris and then mail them to the hotel in Amsterdam for my trip back to the US.

It's all very confusing. For example, I can't bring "meat" back to the US but duck and seafood is not considered meat for those purposes. The prohibition basically covers beef and pork.

Posted by
5450 posts

I’m no expert but if this is for personal consumption, then import taxes are irrelevant. If you run a restaurant and will be schlepping boxes of the stuff with you, then that’s a different story. Also, in the EU, you self declare your items by choosing a red door rather than the “no items to declare” green door. Maybe just walk through the green door with basically everyone, as it seems your items are of a small quantity for personal use?

Posted by
15 posts

Okay. So it looks like travel from France to UK is going to be fine but a possible problem traveling back to Belgium. Unless I can somehow get away with it because the duck will clearly show on its label that it was produced in France.

I might just be able to buy it in Belgium and save myself a bunch of potential headache.

Posted by
6696 posts

I am in risk of breaching Guideline 7 about encouraging unlawful activity, but most if not all Eurostar trains from London to Belgium stop at Lille, France. Just making the observation, for you to draw your own conclusions.

To give a level story the possibility of course is that it gets taken off you during the security/border checks at London St Pancras before boarding the Eurostar to Belgium (assuming you are taking the train, not flying).

If flying with it in your carry on that could be a different question again, one for the better brains than mine here.

Posted by
15 posts

To give a level story the possibility of course is that it gets taken
off you during the security/border checks at London St Pancras before
boarding the Eurostar to Belgium (assuming you are taking the train,
not flying).

@isn31c

So does one clear EU customs in London on the way out?

Posted by
7711 posts

The brutal truth is that your bags are not x-rayed or checked going either way. Add to that, regardless of whatever regulations you are looking at, canned, jarred, dried, or anything other than fresh meats and fruits are not a concern.

You should be fine going back and forth. Returning to the US might be more of a concern, but not much.

Posted by
15672 posts

Unless I can somehow get away with it because the duck will clearly show on its label that it was produced in France.

It doesn't matter where it was produced. It matters where you bought it.

It's a tricky situation. There is no love lost right now between the UK and EU immigration and customs. Even if you walk through the green door you can get stopped. If they find the food items and you have not declared them (check with UK rules to see if you need to) you could get fined.

The same goes for the EU. If the items are allowed to be brought into the EU, keep the receipts you get from France to prove that you bought them in the EU. They won't just take your word for it.

Chances are no one is going to bother you but you need to be prepared if they do.

Returning to the US, declare ALL food items. If not, it can mean losing the items and a hefty fine. Even if the food is allowed. But if you follow the rules, the worst that can happen is the food is confiscated if not allowed. If allowed, they'll send you on your way. Even if the item is allowed, you must declare it.

Posted by
15 posts

It doesn't matter where it was produced. It matters where you bought
it.

That's exactly what I was getting at. Taking it from Paris to the UK is no problem. My thinking was that upon re-entry to France (on way to Belgium), if I'm essentially repatriating a French product purchased in France just a few days earlier (with receipts) then they might not give me too much crap over it even though I'm literally bringing it in from the UK, which isn't allowed.

As for the return to US I totally understand and will declare everything.

Posted by
5687 posts

The brutal truth is that your bags are not x-rayed or checked going either way.

If you are taking the Eurostar, your bag will be scanned. If you are flying, your bag will be scanned. However, this is for security purposes.

Posted by
1413 posts

Before Brexit, you only had to deal with getting in and out the Schengen zone when traveling between France/Belgium and the UK.
Since the UK has left the EU, you now have to deal with getting out and in the EU and the restrictions that come with that as well. Your bags will be x-rayed in London for security purposes. And Custom officials can carry out checks too, even when you go thru the nothing to declare channel.

I find that stuff like rillette, foie gras etc is all readily available in supermarkets in Belgium. I personally wouldn’t risk buying it in Paris and then taking it out and back into the EU. There are plenty of stories of people who had their meat products confiscated in London or Dover by EU officials.

Posted by
6696 posts

In answer to your question, really Dutch Traveller has answered that. Yes, if you travel by Eurostar, you enter the EU at King's Cross, then walk straight off the train at Brussels. That was what I was hinting at- that anyone joining the train at Lille is effectively a domestic passenger.

My worry is that the rules are not so tightly worded to cover a case like these rillettes. My feeling is that it would depend on the individual customs officer, what their mood was that day etc. It could end up with secondary screening, delaying you with the potential to end badly.

The same way as at an airport a marginal item can be viewed in different ways on different days by an individual security officer,

I don't think anyone here will have a definitive answer. It is going to be a risk. Even if you declare them in the red channel it again may differ on the day whether it is confiscated or have to pay import duties. As Dutch traveller confirms that you can buy the products in the Benelux countries I don't really think it's worth the risk of buying in France.

Posted by
15672 posts

A small side note.....if any American plans to travel overseas with any items of value, and then return to the US with them....

you can go to a Customs office with the item and the purchase receipt and fill out a form to keep with it. (It's stamped by Customs.) This will show the Customs officer that those items were purchased in the U.S. and not outside and susceptible to customs duties. This is especially good if you plan to bring jewelry.

Lastly, if you buy anything overseas of value....keep the receipt. If not, and US customs feels that the item is dutiable, they will decide the value and it's usually not in your favor.

Posted by
1413 posts

“As Dutch traveller confirms that you can buy the products in the Benelux countries I don't really think it's worth the risk of buying in France.”

I’m sorry, but that’s not what I wrote. I wrote you can buy these things in supermarkets in Belgium. I didn’t say anything about the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Belgians and Dutch people have different preferences when it comes to food etc.
While you could probably indeed get rillette, foie gras in supermarkets in Luxembourg, you most definitely won’t find it in supermarkets in the Netherlands. It is sold in the Netherlands, but only in specialist shops or shops that exclusively sell to restaurants.
My suggestion therefore is to buy these sort of items in Belgium.

Posted by
15 posts

My suggestion therefore is to buy these sort of items in Belgium.

That's what I'll do! Amsterdam is for licorice!

Posted by
1175 posts

You are not allowed to take meat products from the U.K. into the EU so the your items could be confiscated. Personally I’d not bother.

Posted by
15 posts

Just as an update, we’re back in the U.S. after a really great 17 day trip.

While we went through passport control taking the Eurostar from Paris to London and then from London to Brussels, we did not encounter customs except a couple of officers in Brussels who just seemed to be scouting the crowd visually from the side (no dogs).

I ended up buying my duck rillettes in Bruges.

Coming into the U.S., same story. Passport control asked about food (I’d declared food generally (you can’t specify items in the declaration)) and told him, “Butt ton of licorice, some chocolate, a bottle of cologne, no beef or pork but some commercially processed duck spread in sealed jars. No alcohol or tobacco.” This was before I claimed our only checked bag.

He waved us through and never had to actually see a customs officer after getting bag.

On another note: nobody ever checked our Eurail passes for the trains where we had reservations (the 4 Eurostars). They just needed to see the Eurostar reservation QR code, which is NOT attached to a eurail pass. Just an observation. We did have Eurail passes.

Easy peasy.