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Holidays in Europe: how much alcohol and tobacco can you bring in your suitcase?

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It is possible to bring tobacco and alcohol back to France but in limited quantities (©Adobe Stock/Illustration)

Because alcohol and tobacco are often cheaper in some European countriestravelers are tempted to bring it back in their suitcases and sometimes in large quantities.

But beware, not everything is allowed. It exists a limit above which penalties may fall. We take stock.

For alcohol

Limoncello from Italy, Sangria from Spain… As a souvenir or for personal consumption, it is not uncommon to bring back alcohol in your luggage when returning to France.

However, certain conditions must be respected if you do not want to be caught by customs. Thus, it is imperative to be of legal age and to respect the authorized quantities per person subject to the following limits:

  • Spirits (whisky, gin, vodka, liqueurs): 10 liters per person;
  • Intermediate products (port, vermouth, etc.): 20 liters per person;
  • Wine: 90 liters per person;
  • Beer: 110 liters per person.

These quotas apply both if the trip is made by personal transport such as car or bicycle, as well as by public transport (plane, train, boat).

Also, these quantities can be combined, as explained on the Service-public.fr website:

You can bring back 10 liters of whiskey + 20 liters of port + 90 liters of wine + 110 liters of beer. Or 10 liters of whiskey + 20 liters of port + 60 liters of sparkling wine (champagne or crémant) + 30 liters of wine + 110 liters of beer.

Service-public.fr

For tobacco

Again, quantities are limited. They have even been revised downwards via an amendment to the amending finance law published on July 31, 2020. Before this new legislation, it was possible to bring back 800 cigarettes, the equivalent of four cartridges.

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Here are the current limits:

  • 200 cigarettes (one carton);
  • 100 cigarillos;
  • 50 cigars;
  • 250 grams of smoking tobacco.

The situation changes if the tobacco comes from‘Andorra, in accordance with the EC/Andorra agreement of June 28, 1990. It is therefore possible to bring back from this country: 300 cigarettes or 150 cigarillos or 75 cigars or 400 grams of smoking tobacco.

Like alcohol, these quantities are cumulative.

And outside the European Union?

If you are returning from a country outside the European Union, or from an overseas territory, the Canary Islands or the Channel Islands, the threshold is the same for tobacco but not for alcohol. In fact, it is possible to bring back a maximum of: 4 liters of wine, 16 liters of beer, 1 liter of spirits and 2 liters of alcohol less than or equal to 22 degrees (port, Madeira, vermouth).

What happens if the quantities are exceeded?

If you exceed the authorized quantities, penalties may apply. To know, a fine of 750 eurosconfiscation of the proceeds and a penalty of jail up to one year.

It is also possible that the traveler has consumption rights to pay. It’s about a tax which relates to a quantity. The traveler will therefore have to pay these taxes according to the number of cigarettes or bottles of alcohol that exceed the authorized limit. These taxes are defined according to a specific scale.

Any last advice? Keep your receipt, as you may be asked for it during customs checks.

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