What Not to Bring Back From the Netherlands

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Shopping in another country is always a ton of fun, especially in a country with as many amazing souvenirs as the Netherlands. However, before going on a shopping spree, travelers should know which products from the Netherlands can be taken back to their home country and which won't make it past the customs check. Food, alcohol, and flowers are some of the most popular souvenirs that tourists want to bring back to the United States, and while they are allowed, there are strict import restrictions on these items.

Food Products

Good news: Most of the Dutch food and ingredients that visitors come to know and love on their trip are allowed to be imported into the United States. This includes baked items like the iconic stroopwafels (syrup wafers); sweets, like the classic Dutch drop (licorice), and chocolate; peanut butter, or pindakaas; coffee, from the rare and exotic kopi luwak to favorite Dutch supermarket brands; and even cheese. Cheese must be vacuum-packed to make it through customs, a service that most cheese shops offer for international visitors. Unpasteurized or raw milk cheeses are prohibited, but the popular cheese varieties in the Netherlands—like Gouda and Edam—are fine.

Fresh produce can be brought but to do requires a lot of hassle. First, before you buy, check the database of approved items by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and filter for the Netherlands. There you can double-check which ports of entry allow that item, what parts of the item you're allowed to import, and if you'll need an import permit. Once you've done all that, and brought your produce on the plane, it will need to be declared and inspected. It's a lengthy process and often isn't worth the trouble.


Travelers ages 21 and over are allowed to import up to one liter of alcohol into America, free of duty and taxes. This doesn't take into account the alcohol content of the drinks; for the purposes of U.S. Customs, wine, beer, liquor, and typical Dutch spirits such as jenever, kruidenbitters, and advocaat all count the same toward the one-liter limitation. Anyone who wishes to import more than one liter can do so but duty and taxes will be levied on these items. Some states impose stricter limits than the federal one-liter limitation and some require a special license. Be sure to check the laws of the state that you'll be landing in.

Absinthe can be brought into the U.S. as long as several conditions are met. The liquor must be thujone-free (less than 10 ppm of thujone), not have "absinthe" in the name or written on the bottle, and there can't be any imagery suggestion hallucinogenic effects.

Tobacco and Marijuana

If you want to import tobacco, a maximum of 200 cigarettes (one carton) or 100 cigars can be brought into the U.S. free of duty and taxes. However, Cuban cigars are still under embargo and therefore prohibited. Similarly, marijuana may be popular (and legal) in Amsterdam, but it is definitely not allowed to be imported to the United States, even to states that have legalized the drug.


Pre-approved flowers are allowed into the U.S. but under strict conditions. Flowers must include a sticker that reads, "To the Plant Protection Service of the United States and Canada," as well as the botanical name of the flower and the date of issuance. If you see a flower or bulbs without a valid sticker don't buy them, the flowers will not clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Sticker aside, all plants (along with any fruits, vegetables, or animal byproducts) must be declared at customs and inspected before you're clear. If you're hoping to grow more flowers (through propagation) you will need to get a foreign phytosanitary certificate in advance.