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Sand from Normandy beaches - US, German, Italian, UK customs?

I am visiting the Normandy beaches this weekend and plan to bring back some sand from the beaches in a jar. My problem is that I am flying from Scotland to Germany in a couple of weeks (taking a ferry from FR to UK), and then flying from Italy to London before heading back to the US. What should I do so that I'll have the best chances of keeping the sand? I don't know about the German or UK customs procedure and I would be very upset if the sand were to be confiscated. Should I put it in my carry-on or checked baggage? Should I mail it home? Are the German, Italian and UK customs procedures lax enough for me to keep the sand? ANY help would be greatly appreciated! My grandfather fought on D-Day and I want to take some sand back for my father to keep.

Posted by
9110 posts

Of course there are. And guess who would get hammered? With all the tact I can muster: What part of illegal don't you exactly understand? You also might want to take a gander at the community guidelines: 'Do not help people break laws. Speaking of the existence of law breaking is OK. Sharing how to circumvent visa restrictions, scam hotels, or perform other illegal acts is prohibited.' If you want to do something, do it openly and straight-forwardly: hold the jug up to the customs dude and explain what it is. It might go through, it might be tossed in the trash, but you, dear person, will remain pure of heart and free of fire and brimstone in the hereafter.

Posted by
893 posts

I can't answer your exact question, but can tell you that we took tiny jars (single use jelly jars) and mailed them back to the US to my father and brother-in-law without any issues. Honestly, I think as long as you keep it to a small quanity, there shouldn't be any issue.

Posted by
9110 posts

Sand is dirt. Dirt can carry agricultural pathogens. You can declare it and possibly (probably) loose it. Sneaking it in is illegal. Stones are a different story. The high-tide line at Omaha is nothing but rounded stones of a size that you could easily stick three or four in a pants pocket and they wouldn't weigh a half-pound. Get a few, fess up to what you're doing, and you'll probably be fine.

Posted by
7 posts

Are there chances that the mailed sand would be screened and/or intercepted and not delivered? Sorry, I'm a little worried about this, haha.

Posted by
8975 posts

Yes the possibility exists. All international mail entering the U.S. passes through US Customs. I can't predict if they will actually spot it, but bringing soils across the border is against the law, and it's always best to comply.

Posted by
8185 posts

We've taken about 1-2 cups of sand from Omaha Beach several times. We put ours in a zip-loc sandwich bag and put it in our checked luggage. Never had a problem. I wouldn't put it in a jar, it adds weight and could break.

Posted by
9110 posts

.....and from the same source: 'All these items must be de clared upon arrival to the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, on the arrival declaration form' ........ and from an earlier post "If you want to do something, do it openly and straight-forwardly: hold the jug up to the customs dude and explain what it is.' The illegal act is failure to de clare, i.e., sneaking in, mailing in, etc. .... and from MS's post: 'but bringing soils across the border is against the law' (italics added) ....and from CBP: 'Importation of soil into the United States from foreign sources . . . is restricted' 'please research before you type' ..... Amen, or maybe speak from knowledge? 'I am sure a small zipper bag full wouldn't cause you to be jailed.' . . . .That's just an opinion, right, not something researched ?

Posted by
8975 posts

Back in the 90s I visited Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia. A person I was traveling with collected some sand and pebbles from the beach and placed it in an ice bucket from the motel. When we crossed the US Border in Maine, the Customs officer spotted it in the back seat, asked us where we got it from, told us to hand it over and he promptly disposed of it. There are lots of overlapping/contradictory rules and regulations, so it basically comes down to the discretion of the officer, and what issues the agency is focusing on that week. Question 11d on the Customs landing form ( http://tinyurl.com/5w8d3w) specifically ask if one is transporting soil. It's always best to be truthful when answering. If you tell the truth the worst that can happen is they throw it away. If you pull a fast one and they spot it will get fined and it will also be confiscated. Best to tow the line.

Posted by
6445 posts

Hi. I guess I may be confessing here to many illegal acts, but I've got to say it. Many years ago my daughter began collecting sand from every beach she (or I) had been to. When I started travelling internationally I began bringing back sand from all the beaches I've been to. Always it's been a small amount (probably about 1/4 cup) in a zip lock baggie in my carry-on bag. Most of my trips have been post 9/11 so that didn't have any effect on it. I've brought back sand from at least 20 beaches from Sweden to New Zealand and carried them on flights between countries with no consequences. I have never declared the sand and it's never been questioned. If it had been, I would have turned it over, but it never was. Now I feel guilty. I know the declaration form asks if you are bringing in soil or have been on a farm or ranch, etc. I guess I just never thought of the sand as soil, but I suppose you are right. This is just my own personal experience, I am not advocating breaking the law, or "sneaking" it in.

Posted by
2965 posts

Nancy, you should NOT feel guilty, and Cody, don't worry too much. Sand is not "soil", the kind of organisms that can harm ecosystems back home will generally not be present in a small amount of clean, dry, sand free of any plants or roots. Take a small amount - in a ziploc baggie, maybe? And declare it. You will probably be fine, as thousands if not hundreds of thousands of travelers do the same thing every year. The moral judgments here are pretty silly.

Posted by
9110 posts

We're beating this thing to death, but there's a fine line twixt sand and soil based on the amount of organic matter (eg. sand, sandy loam, loam). Even 'pure' sand such as finely ground granite can harbor invisible cooties. We've also kind of mixed up the requirements of CBP and the DoA, although one inspector does both, usually. The Pensacola beaches are as fine and white as sugar - - no rocks, just ground up shells, which are chemicaly reactive. Some of our waters have a horrible bacteria that will eat a baseball-sized hole in your leg in just a few days - - when I go in to get a ding repaired the first thing the quack asks me was if I did it on the boat - - and she'll keep asking until she's sure I'm not fibbing. We used to use oyster shells for driveways to prevent erosion, now you can't because of some kind of health issue that the minders have decided is a threat to humanity. New Zealand has a program that requires you to clorox and then dry anything (fish line, boots, boat, bathing suit) that's been in one inland body of water before you put it in another. There are sands in Indonesia that you don't dare walk on. A few years back there was a concern about some kind of bacteria affecting shellfish on one side or the other of the English Channel and the beaches were closed everwhere it was. Examples can go on for seven evers.

Posted by
9110 posts

I'm fairly cavalier about the customs declaration - - the usual entry is 'junk < $200'. But, I'm darn carful to list anything, regardless of value, in which they might conceivably have an interest: three liters of wine, a quart of olive oil, tinned pate, small stones. Everything I've bought, even a stupid t-shirt, goes in a bag that's on the top layer of my luggage. If I have any doubt about something I step aside and point it out. The only thing that's ever resulted in a discussion was reindeer sausage - - apparently it's okay from Norway, but not from Sweden - - don't ask how the animals know where the border is.

Posted by
31 posts

Cody, I think you should be fine. Like Michael already posted from CBP.GOV small amounts are generally acceptable. I am in the same position as you as I will be travelling to France next year and hope to bring some sand back as my grandfather fought there. I tend to go a little overboard in my quest to be cautious and it might ease your mind if you write or email Customs and Border Protection and get a direct answer from them. You can email them at https://help.cbp.gov/app/ask/noIntercept/1 or can write to them at: USDA, APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine 4700 River Road, Unit 136
Riverdale, MD 20737-1236, Attention: Permit Unit May end up being a little extra work/ excessive but if it means a lot to you to be able to bring some home it might give you a little peace of mind. Maybe if you print out the reply and leave it in your suitcase with the sand when you are coming back... I'm not positive about the other countries. In England I did forget to check some water I bought as a souvenier in Bath and they did let me squeak by with that... Good luck!

Posted by
2193 posts

I really don't think Cody is trying to intentionally break laws, but I may have accidentally brought back a small cactus from Toronto last summer. Since I was crossing the Peace Bridge at Buffalo where I have suffered undue interrogation at the hands of the U.S. Stasi there more than once, I don't really feel too badly about it. Plus, that cactus probably came from here originally anyway...can cactus even grow in Canada? Oh, and it's entirely possible I have never checked the box about hiking across prairies/cow pastures in Switzerland or being near livestock in Austria on those landing cards, even though I may have touched a goat accidentally...I can't really remember. :) What if the sand got "stuck" to your swimsuit or got in your beach shoes that are now stowed in your bag (carry-on or checked)? I'm sure it would be an accident, of course. I'm only speaking of the existence of this happening...I mean, who hasn't been to the beach and ended up with sand everywhere?

Posted by
8975 posts

You guys can joke all you want about fudging the truth to US Customs, but I personally know a guy (a former employer-New York State Senator) who lied when filling out the landing card about carrying lots of cash on his person. They caught him, they prosecuted him, made him a felon, threw him out of the senate, thrown out of the Bar, lost his teaching job at a law school, several months in jail....and basically ruined his life to this day. Had he simply checked "yes" instead of "no" none of this would have happened. An extreme example, but telling the truth will set you free!

Posted by
6445 posts

Not to sound flippant but there's a big difference between a small baggie of sand and a large amount of cash (must have been over 10,000 to cause a problem).

Posted by
7 posts

No, I am not trying to break laws with bad intentions...I just want the sand to give to my father and some to commemorate my visit - it would be very special. I just returned to England from my trip to Normandy (which was amazing by the way) with one sandwich bag of sand from Omaha Beach and one identical with sand from Utah Beach. I also got a few stones from Omaha just in case. I will do whatever has the best chance of me keeping the sand. Whether it's declaring it and showing them the sand or not saying anything, whether I put it in my carry-on or checked baggage (which I still don't know the best choice for this). I just want to keep the sand if at all possible, because it would me so much to me.

Posted by
11450 posts

For goodness sake, smuggling what is probaly dirty money as opposed to a pill jar of sand,, yup thats the same, geesh. I have brought home pill jars of sand from Mexico and Hawaii, and never declared them. They are not soil. They will never be in contact with soil ( but remain in small jars at home). If one is truly concerned ,, boil a big pot of water and throw the sand in,, stir and boil for 20 minutes. Strain and dry. Keep sand in a jar or whatever and do not throw in your garden,, should be fine then right? I am not encouraging anyone to break the law,, just informing them that I guess I have ,, and will continue to do so. Get over it.

Posted by
8975 posts

Suck it up, I never said money and sand was the same. The point was that certain items have to be de cl ar ed. Sand is soil, soil must be de cl ar ed, failure to do so will result in a fine if caught. The rules of this message board expressly prohibits giving out advice to circumvent US laws and regulations. If the OP has made up her mind that she will smuggle the stuff in no matter what, what was the point of the question in the first place? I encourage the webmaster to delete the offending posts.

Posted by
45 posts

While not encouraging anything either way, I will share a personal experience. I have brought sand back into the United States several times. It was about 1/4cup each time in a ziploc bag in the bottom of my luggage. I give it to my grandma, who collects sand from all over the world, so on my customs form, I have always considered it included in my "gifts" listing. I don't consider it soil, and it is most definitely a gift. I've never had any trouble.

Posted by
6445 posts

I still don't think they worry about sand from a beach "11. Are you bringing in: d. soil or have you visited a farm/ranch/pasture outside the United States? " Since they link the term soil with the farmland stuff, I don't think it's meant to include beach sand, otherwise it would say so. Also, I found this answer to a question on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website: "Stones/Pebbles/Sand are generally acceptable in small quantities as long as the item does not present a threat to American agriculture and the harvesting of the item was not detrimental to the any species and/or the environment." When in doubt - go to the horse's mouth. By the way, I don't think anybody here is ecouraging anybody to break any laws. We're just trying to keep the OP from feeling guilty about such a simple thing as bringing home some sand from a beach as a souvenir. Lots of people do it and based on the info above, it looks like it's okay - no laws broken.