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What Is The Alcohol Allowance for UK Travel? 

By  Enda

As of 2021, the alcohol allowance for UK travellers has changed under the new "Brexit arrangements." This new agreement came into UK law on the 31st December 2020, and applies to travel into and out of the United Kingdom.

Before we dive into the detail of that, a general rule still applies which we have explained just below.

Age Restriction

There is NO duty free allowance if you are under the age of 17. Once you are over 18 then the duty free allowances do apply.

Alcohol Allowance - Brexit Agreement

The general purpose of this article is to explain the alcohol allowance when travelling from the UK or flying into the UK.

The principle is that you can bring some goods from abroad without having to pay UK tax or ‘duty’, as long as they’re for your own use. This is commonly known as your ‘personal allowance’.

The amount of goods you can bring in without paying tax or duty on them depends on three main criteria:

  1. Where you are travelling from?
  2. If you are arriving into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
  3. If you are arriving into Northern Ireland (although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, different rules apply)

Your Obligations

Most people will be familiar with having to declare goods at customs. What that means is that you have a legal obligation to tell customs about any goods before crossing a UK border check. Those goods are of 2 types:

  1. Where you exceed any allowances
  2. Any banned or restricted items ( controlled drugs, offensive weapons, pepper spray, meat and dairy imports etc)

In the situation where you exceed an allowance, you will have to pay tax and duty on all those goods. Please note that should you break any of the above rules you may be fined or prosecuted.

Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in UK from a Non-EU Country

Travellers coming into Britain from any Non-EU Country can take without paying duty as follows:

  • 1 litre of Spirits or strong liquors (over 22% alcohol by volume [ABV]) OR,
  • 2 litres of fortified wine (port or sherry) or any other alcoholic beverage of less than 22% ABV

In addition you may also bring back:

  • 16 litres of beer, AND
  • 4 litres of still wine

You may combine these allowances, provided that you do not exceed your total alcohol allowance. As an example, you could bring back 1 litre of fortified wine (50% of your full allowance of 2 litres), and bring back half a litre of spirits (50% of the full allowance of 1 litre) to make up your 100% alcohol allowance. Please note, this is only an example and other combinations are also allowed.

Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in UK 

Travellers coming into Britain can take without paying duty as follows:

  • Beer - 42 litres
  • Wine (not sparkling) - 18 litres

You can also bring in either:

  • Spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol - 4 litres
  • Fortified wine such as a sherry or port, sparkling wine and any alcohol drink up to 22% alcohol - 9 litres
  • 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices

You can split this last allowance. As an example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).

Travelling to the EU from Great Britain

Travelers between the EU and Great Britain have duty-free allowances as a result of the Brexit deal struck between the EU bloc and the UK on 24 December 2020.

4 litres of still wine; and b. 16 litres of beer; and c. a total of 1 litre of spirits over 22 % vol. OR 1 litre of undenatured alcohol (ethyl alcohol) of 80% vol. (or over) OR 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine.

Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in Northern Ireland from any EU Country

If you are travelling to Northern Ireland from any EU country You can bring an unlimited amount of most goods directly into NI from the EU, As an example you can bring in any alcohol, tobacco, as long as they are for your own use and carried in your luggage. 

Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in Northern Ireland from Outside the EU

This includes the Canary Islands, the north of Cyprus, Gibraltar or the Channel Islands.

If you are travelling to Northern Ireland from anywhere outside the EU you can bring a certain amount of goods without having to pay tax or duty. You must transport those by yourself, use them for yourself or give them away as a gift.

You cannot combine allowances with other people to bring in more than your individual allowance.

The cigarette allowance is as follows:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco
  • 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices

You can split this allowance - so you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).

Travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

If you’re travelling from Great Britain (England, Wales or Scotland) to Northern Ireland, you do not need to declare your goods if all of the following apply:

  • You are a UK resident
  • The goods were bought in England, Scotland, Wales or the Isle of Man
  • You have already paid both VAT and excise duty (alcohol and tobacco only) on the goods

If you are travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (England, Wales or Scotland) you do not have to declare any goods.

Conclusion

Hopefully you are a little bit wiser about the various alcohol allowances for traveling to and from the UK. In summary, the allowance is

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco
  • 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices

You can split this allowance - so you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).

That includes the USA and Canada.

If arriving back in Northern Ireland we have explained above that a different allowance exists as Northern Ireland are still part of the single EU market.

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