Travel tips: Will that souvenir result in a prison sentence?

By , November 9, 2011 9:45 am
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Just because they sell it at the airport, doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to bring it home.

Our latest travel tip is prompted by a warning issued by the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Office (FCO) recently:  Although whale meat is freely available for sale in souvenir packs at Iceland’s Keflavik airport, you shouldn’t be tempted to bring some home.

The FCO said “Whale meat is available in Iceland, but tourists should be aware that its importation into the UK/EU is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Any importation of whale meat to the UK will result in seizure of goods, possibly a fine of up to £5000 and a custodial sentence”.

When you travel overseas, especially outside of the EU, you need to be careful when buying souvenirs and bringing your purchases home. Do not assume that you can bring anything you like back into the country.

As illustrated above it is illegal to bring back souvenirs made from endangered species, which are not just limited to animal products. Some plants, such as orchids are also on the endangered species list and therefore it is illegal to bring them back into the UK.

There may be amazing orchids on sale in Bangkok airport, but if you buy one it is likely to be confiscated when you arrive back home and you could get fined.  Don’t just assume that because they are selling it to departing tourists at the airport that it is legal for you to bring it home.

Other than things on the endangered species list other items you need to be careful of are alcohol and tabacco, dairy or meat products and plant products.

Generally speaking, if items are for your own personal use, you can bring back anything you like from within the EU, it is when you have travelled to countries outside of the EU that you need to be more aware of the rules.

You are prohibited from bringing in any meat or dairy products from most countries outside the EU, and the majority of fruits, vegetables, seeds and bulbs are subject to weight or quantity restrictions. Some plants and plant products (including potatoes) and loose soil may not be brought into the UK unless you have obtained the relevant licence.

In short, if you’ve been to a country outside of the EU it’s best to steer clear of any food or plant products and limit yourself to one litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes.

Check the Home Office or Directgov websites for a detailed guide on which food and plants you can and can’t bring back to the UK.

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