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Travel between Switzerland and the UK: What am I allowed in my suitcase?

Airline staff in masks walk past an international arrivals sign at Heathrow Airport
Flying to the UK from Switzerland - or heading back in the other direction? Here's what you can bring. Photo TOLGA AKMEN / AFP
This is the first Christmas since Brexit officially came into force. While Switzerland is not in the EU, it does make a difference to travellers heading to or from the UK. Here's what you need to know about the new rules and what you can - and cannot - pack.

Although Switzerland is not in the European Union, the alpine nation is grouped with the EU by the UK when it comes to the rules for importing food and drink (along with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Faroe Islands and Greenland). 

Meat, fish and animal products

The rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed.

The key factor in considering what you can bring into the UK is ‘personal use’. There are no set limits on this, which means the allowance is relatively generous – but if you bring in a pallet with 400 kilos of rare blood tongue sausage, people might start asking questions. 

READ MORE: Three things to know about Switzerland’s protected ‘blood tongue sausage’

You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from Switzerland, the EU or the other countries on the UK’s list (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Faroe Islands and Greenland). 

What about booze? 

Whether you want to bring in some of Switzerland’s finest beers, wines and schnapps as a gift for your family or friends – or simply to help you get through Christmas dinner – you can, but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring to the UK from Switzerland. 

How much you can take depends on the type of alcohol, although the upper limits are pretty generous, as you can see below. 

Limits:

  • beer – 42 litres
  • still wine – 18 litres (or 24 standard size bottles)
  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres (or 6 standard-sized bottles)
  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres (or 12 standard sized bottles)

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits. 

EXPLAINED: Who can enter Switzerland right now and what are the rules?

The allowance is per person, so if you’re travelling in a car with two people over the age of 18, you can bring back double the amounts listed above.

What can I bring to Switzerland from the UK? 

As illustrated above, there are relatively few restrictions when heading to the UK – but it’s the trip back where Brexit really starts to bite. 

As the UK is now considered a ‘third’ country rather than a member of the EU, Switzerland puts in place relatively strict restrictions on what can be brought in. 

First things first, you can only import things for personal use. From there, you’ve got a limit of CHF300 (£240) – if it’s above that, you need to pay VAT. 

This does not include things that you use regularly, i.e. if you bring your iPhone in that you use regularly, you will not need to pay VAT on it. 

Ready to eat food and drink for the day of travel is also allowed. 

The importation of any form of meat is banned, while dairy products are heavily restricted. 

You are allowed to bring in baked goods like biscuits, while chocolate and sweets are an exception to the dairy rule. 

Egg or fish products are allowed, provided less than half of the food product itself consists of fish or egg. 

You can bring in baby milk powder up to 2 kilograms, along with meat extracts and concentrates (like soup stocks). 

READ MORE: What are the Covid rules for Switzerland’s Christmas markets?

Please check out the following link for rules related to the specific amount of imports. 

What about booze? 

As long as you don’t exceed CHF300 (£240), you can bring in whatever type of booze you like to Switzerland from the UK, although there are some limits on particular categories.

You are allowed a maximum of one litre of booze over 18 percent alcohol by volume. 

You can bring in five litres of alcohol under 18 percent. 

If you want to bring in some fine British tobacco, you are allowed 250 units of cigarettes, cigars or other tobacco products.  

More information about the specific types of alcohol products is available at the following link. 

A comprehensive list of what you can and cannot bring into Switzerland is available at the following link.


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