An Overview of Irish Customs Regulations

What Can You Bring into Ireland?

Duty Free! The lure is strong, but what can you legally bring into Ireland? Don't get caught out
© Bernd Biege 2017

Customs regulations and the question of duty-free imports into Ireland can be important – if only to avoid delays and hefty fees when entering the country. Because the last thing you want on an Irish vacation is to starts off with a revenue officer asking you uncomfortable questions. So be prepared:

Know what goods you can bring into Ireland - duty-free and legal? How many cigarettes, bottles of wine, or “gifts” (the catch-all phrase for costly small items, including jewelry and similar)?

Generally speaking, Irish customs regulations are very easy to grasp. And when you have to clear customs upon arrival in Ireland, this should thus be an easy feat, if you are playing by the rules. But just what are the rules? Here is an overview of Irish customs regulations that pertain to the traveler.

General Customs Information for Ireland

Be aware that customs within the European Union (EU) generally use three channels - the blue channel is for travels within the EU only, and should never be used if your flight originated outside the EU. That leaves the green and red channels for travelers coming in on transatlantic flights, or those from the Emirates. They must use the red channel, and will be questioned, if carrying any goods to declare. If they are within the limits (see below), they may use the green channel. But spot checks are still possible here (as in the blue channel, where customs are very good at spotting suspicious luggage tags).

Note that your nationality does not come into the equation - customs are only concerned with the movements of goods between countries, not by whom they are moved (with the exception of minors, who for instance have no allowance for alcohol and tobacco).

Beware of Banned Goods!

Take note that certain goods are totally banned from import into Ireland, under all circumstances, these are:

  • Dangerous drugs,
  • indecent or obscene goods (a question of definition, porn of the mainstream variety, contraceptives, and “marital aid” devices are legally sold in Ireland, after all),
  • plants or bulbs,
  • live or dead animals,
  • poultry, birds, or eggs,
  • hay or straw (even when used as packaging material), and
  • meat, dairy, and meat or dairy products (unless produced within the EU and identified by an EU health mark, and in quantities for personal consumption only).

Note that chewing tobacco is also banned in the Republic of Ireland, but not in Northern Ireland.

Only Import Under License!

For importing the following, you will need to obtain a license (well before you travel), and follow certain regulations upon entry:

  • Domestic cats and dogs (pets),
  • firearms and ammunition,
  • fireworks and explosives.

A full list with detailed explanations on how to get licenses will be found on the customs websites:

Importing Duty-Free Goods Into Ireland

Duty-free does not necessarily mean cheap (it really pays to do some research here, if you have the time), but generally speaking cigarettes will be less expensive everywhere else in the world than in Ireland, often alcohol as well.

But there are strictly enforced allowances for importing duty-free goods into Ireland (and other EU countries, should you make a stop-over in, for instance, Frankfurt or Paris). The maximum quantities that can be imported without incurring duties and taxes are:

  • 200 cigarettes or
  • 100 cigarillos or
  • 50 cigars or
  • 250 grams of tobacco (all per adult);
  • 1 liter of spirits (e.g. whiskey, gin or vodka) or
  • 2 liters of intermediate products (e.g. sparkling or fortified wine, port, sherry),
  • 4 liters of still wine,
  • 16 liters of beer (all per adult);
  • goods (mainly gifts, or anything you won’t take back home with you) to the maximum value of € 430 per adult and
  • € 215 per child under 15 years.

Please note that allowances for flight crews are much lower. Just in case nobody told you in training.

Importing Cheap Goods From Other EU Countries Into Ireland

If you are buying goods in other EU countries, all relevant dues and taxes should already be paid in-country - hence according to the “free movement of goods” that is part of the EU treaties, you can bring your stuff across the border without problems.

And it works a treat, a car full with booze and cigarettes in reasonable quantities and plain sight does not even raise a custom offocer’s eyebrow. But only if you shop within reason, and for “personal use”. To have a guideline for travelers, the following quantities are generally accepted to be for your personal use (as an adult):

  • Cigarettes - 800.
  • cigarillos - 400.
  • cigars - 200,
  • smoking tobacco - 1 kg,
  • spirits like whiskey, vodka, or gin - 10 liters,
  • intermediate Products like sherry, port, or similar - 20 liters
  • wine - 90 liters, but a maximum of 60 liters may be sparkling wine,
  • beer - 110 liters.

Note that there is no distinction between brands and/or quality - 60 liters of sparkling wine may be Dom Pérignon’s finest vintage, or the cheapest plonk you grabbed in a German discount supermarket.

However, a distinction is being made as to the origin of cigarettes - a maximum of 300 cigarettes purchased in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, or Romania may be imported. County of origin is determined by the tax stamp on the pack itself … thus cheap East European cigarettes bought at a German or Austrian market (an illegal trade in itself) do not magically qualify as German or Austrian cigarettes for import purposes.

How to Handle Customs in Style

Generally speaking you should be friendly, answer any questions truthfully, and if in doubt ask an officer for assistance. Paying taxes is always cheaper than getting caught smuggling. Though this low-key approach might not be for everyone: Oscar Wilde was once asked by US Customs whether he had anything to declare. "Nothing but my genius," quipped the Irish author.