Coming back from holiday instead of going to work can land you in jail! All you have to do is take with you a piece of the coral reef or a shell of a protected species.
In 2021. The National Revenue Administration (KAS) seized as many as 20.9 thousand CITES species. It is therefore worth taking KAS’s advice on the transport of goods. A shell from the beach, an original souvenir, a regional sausage… Sometimes, it only turns out at the border that we are transporting goods that in Poland carry a heavy fine or 3 to 5 years in prison. To avoid unpleasant surprises, it’s worth getting to know both Polish customs law and the regulations in the country you’re travelling to.
Schengen area: not all goods may be transported freely
In the Netherlands, you can legally buy cannabis, but for exporting it to most European countries you may end up in jail. Different Schengen countries have different laws. Bare it in mind when travelling in Europe. Different types of regulations apply to the transport of drugs, especially psychotropic drugs, epilepsy drugs, ADHD drugs and strong painkillers. Restrictive regulations are in force, for example, in Norway. Many substances that are commonly used in Poland, for example, cannot be bought there, or they require a prescription. We may take with us a certain number of medicines in their original packaging, but we must have a doctor’s certificate to prove that they are for our own use. Appropriate documents are also necessary when transporting antique items. More info about travelling in the Schengen area is available on granica.gov.pl.
You can carry 10 cigars in a car, and 50 on a ship and you must eat a cheese sandwich before the EU border
When crossing the external borders of the EU or the Schengen area, pay attention above all to the value of the gifts and souvenirs you are carrying and the quantity of the so-called excise goods (cigarettes, alcohol). These values vary depending on the means of transport. If you travel by land transport, declare the value of the goods you bring in above 300 euros, and if you enter the EU by air or sea – above 430 euros. Different limits also apply to tobacco and alcohol products. Also, declare larger amounts of cash at the border – the limit is €10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies.
Remember that we cannot bring food of animal origin to the EU territory: meat, cured meat products, dairy products. Such products may contain pathogens causing infectious diseases in animals. Therefore, at the border, you must dispose of them in a special container. An exception may be made for baby food and food which you use for health reasons. Food of non-animal origin can be brought into the EU without border sanitary control, but only for your own personal consumption. For plant products, you are only allowed to bring 5 types of fruit into the EU: bananas, coconuts, durians, pineapples and dates. Before travelling it is necessary to check what customs regulations apply in the country you are travelling to – e.g., on the embassy website. More information on granica.gov.pl
Smugglers “employ” tourists
In some countries, the penalty for drug smuggling is many years in prison or even the death penalty. In addition, criminals try to use tourists as their intermediaries, often completely unaware. How to protect yourself? First of all, do not accept any items for transport from strangers. It may turn out that “medicines for auntie” are drugs or other illegal goods. Remember to keep an eye on your luggage at all times so that no one can swap it or “drop” anything in it. Do not leave your luggage unattended as it may be considered suspicious. If the police get interested in your luggage, you may get another souvenir from your holiday – a fine.
Troublesome seashells and Asian medicines
In 2021, KAS seized 20.9 thousand CITES specimens – endangered species that are protected by the Washington Convention (CITES) including 1572 live animals, as well as 18,500 specimens of Asian medicine.
Tourists’ suitcases contain animal skins, ivory, coral, and shells, but also various types of medicine from traditional Asian medicine. Stuffed animals such as big cats or crocodiles are often among the seized souvenirs. Sometimes rare specimens such as porcupine spines, alligator teeth or hippopotamus teeth can be found. Buying such souvenirs of protected animals and plants not only results in their suffering and the extinction of entire species. It is also a criminal offence, punishable by a hefty fine, imprisonment of between three months and five years, and loss of the specimen.
There are tens of thousands of protected plant and animal species and it is virtually impossible to learn them. Before going abroad, check which troublesome souvenirs are worth paying special attention to. Information on this subject can be found on the website podatki.gov.pl and the websites of embassies of particular countries. However, it is best if you refrain from buying items made of animals.
Why not take shells or corals found on the beach?
Such souvenirs are fashionable. Tourists, even if they do not buy them, often try to tear off a piece of the reef. Imagine what happens when only one in ten tourists does this. Besides, the permission to carry such items automatically creates favourable conditions for the development of illegal trade. As a result, the reef in the Mediterranean Sea is already being devastated and protected animals are being fished for their fashionable shells.