Knowing the customs regulations and rules on duty-free imports into Ireland is important in order to avoid delays and hefty fees when entering the country. You have probably been dreaming of your Irish getaway for months, so the last thing you want is to start your vacation with a revenue officer asking you uncomfortable questions about what items you are bringing into the country.
The best way to avoid any issues is to know the Irish customs regulations before you even pack your suitcase and only bring into Ireland the amount that is duty-free and legal. That means knowing many cigarettes, bottles of wine, or “gifts” (the catch-all phrase for costly small items, including jewelry and similar) get the all-clear.
Generally speaking, Irish customs regulations are very easy to grasp so clearing customs will be easy if you are playing by the rules. But just what are the rules? Here is an overview of Irish customs regulations that apply to all travelers.
General Customs Information for Ireland
After you have gone through passport control and then collected your luggage at baggage claim, you will come upon the customs area before exiting into the public part of the airport. 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. All travelers coming to Ireland from outside of the EU must use either the red or the green channel (and the color coding will be clear when you are there in person).
If you have goods over the limits defined below, you must pass through the red channel, declare the goods, and answer all questions. If the goods are you carrying are within the limits (see below), then you may use the green channel.
Keep in mind that spot checks are still possible in the green and the blue channels, 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 who is carrying them (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 because Ireland is not as conservative as it once was. Mainstream adult entertainment, contraceptives, and “marital aid” devices are legally sold in Ireland and thus allowed).
- 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).
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 are cheaper in most other countries in the world than in Ireland. Due to the taxes on alcohol in Ireland, you will likely find it cheaper (but less fun) to bring some of your own from outside the country. However, 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. The above regulations apply to leisure and business travelers.
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. Assuming you are coming from the EU, a bag full of booze and cigarettes in reasonable quantities and plain sight does not even raise a custom officer'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 wine at the 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. That means, if you bought the cheap East European cigarettes a German or Austrian market (an illegal trade in itself), they do not magically qualify as German or Austrian cigarettes for import purposes. The country of origin is what matters here.
How to Handle Customs in Style
The best way to get through Irish customs is to 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.