The holiday season is rapidly approaching and many people are making plans to visit friends and family across Europe. Before you set off with a suitcase full of gifts though, it’s important to check what you can and can’t bring into a country, including medication.
Although there are EU-wide rules on certain items - such as liquids in hand luggage - many European destinations have their own rules too and sometimes these can be quite complex.
To make things easier, here’s everything you need to know about travelling to Germany from the UK and other European countries this winter.
European Union rules
EU citizens travelling between countries should be aware that there are no limits on what you can take with you when travelling between EU countries, as long as the items are for personal use and not for resale.
However, personal use only extends so far and while each EU country has its own rules regarding maximum amounts for personal use, the guideline thresholds are:
- 800 cigarettes
- 400 cigarillos (cigars weighing maximum 3 grams each)
- 200 cigars
- 1 kg of tobacco
- 10 litres of spirits
- 20 litres of fortified wine
- 90 litres of wine (including a maximum of 60 litres of sparkling wines)
- 110 litres of beer
Travelling with food within the EU
You can take almost any food in your hold luggage when travelling between EU countries, though there may be specific restrictions in place to combat animal diseases - for example during the Foot & Mouth outbreak. You can find out about these here.
You can also carry meat and dairy products, as long as they’re for personal use. The same rule applies to fruit and vegetables which have been grown in an EU country, as long as they are disease and pest free.
Many European countries have specific rules too, but more on that below.
What can I pack in my suitcase when I go to Germany?
Plants and food
If you’re planning on bringing your family some food and drink this holiday season, then knowing the rules is essential.
There are some foods and plants that - for health and safety and biological reasons - you can’t bring into Germany.
If you’re travelling into Germany from a non-EU country, you are prohibited from bringing any of the following: most coniferous plants, some deciduous trees (sweet chestnut, oak, poplar from North America), fruit trees and medlars, potatoes, grapevines, citrus plants, loose soil and growing media, solanaceous (tomato family) plants and many grass species.
If you want to bring plants and seeds into Germany, you will need a phytosanitary certificate from your country of origin.
You can however, bring the following fruits without restriction from any country: pineapples, coconuts, durio, bananas and dates.
If you are travelling from a non-EU country you can also bring:
- up to two kg of baby food and special foods required for medical reasons, in unbroken packages.
- Foodstuffs such as cream toffees, chocolate, or biscuits that contain only small quantities of milk or cream.
- Up to two kg of honey
- Fish: (including fresh, cooked, or smoked fish, or certain crustaceans such as prawns or lobsters). The total weight must not exceed 20 kg.
- Up to 125 grams of sturgeon caviar in properly-labelled containers
Medicine and substances
It’s important that you bring the right amount of medication with you for the length of your stay, but it’s good to check what medicines are allowed into each country you visit.
All tourists to Germany are allowed to bring medicinal products that meet their personal needs during their stay. Personal need is regarded as a maximum of three months’ supply for the recommended dose of each medicine.
Travellers should also be aware that products that are freely available in their home country - such as vitamins and supplements - may be classed as medicines in Germany and therefore liable for the three month limit.
Counterfeit medications are prohibited in Germany, as are medications brought in for the purpose of doping in sport.
With debit and credit cards almost universal now, travelling with large amounts of cash and travellers’ cheques isn’t usually necessary.
If you’re bringing cash gifts for relatives though, here are the rules in Germany.
Travellers from EU countries
Tourists from other EU states must declare verbally at customs if they are bringing €10,000 or more into the country. This includes savings bonds, cheques and travellers’ cheques, shares and drafts.
Jewellery does not count as cash.
Travellers from non-EU countries
Tourists from non-EU countries must immediately declare in writing at customs if they are bringing €10,000 or more into the country.
If you are travelling with animal products, you may need a protected species document in order to bring them into Germany. This document exists to protect at-risk species and prevent illegal trade in materials such as ivory and animal skins.
Some of the items you will need a certificate for include:
- Ivory or elephant leather (for example ivory sculptures or carvings, elephant leather bags or elephant feet that have been converted into umbrella stands)
- Hunting trophies of protected species
- Exotic skins and fur coats
- All wild species of cat
- You can find a longer list of products here.
Unusual items you can bring into Germany
There are also a few quirkier - and mostly environmentally destructive - items that you can bring into Germany for personal use, these include:
- Up to three rain sticks made of cactus
- Up to four crocodile leather products
- Up to three shells of Queen conches
- Up to three shells of Giant clams
- Up to four dead seahorses
Though we don’t recommend giving your Grandmother dead sea creatures for Christmas.
Full information on Germany’s packing restrictions is here.