Custom import rules

Many Dutch people who have family or friends in South Africa are asked to bring a piece of real (old) Dutch cheese. However, officially you are not allowed to import meat and dairy products into South Africa. Experience shows, however, that vacuum-packed cheese in the baggage always arrives without problems. Do you want to take a piece of cheese with you? Then not in your hand luggage. You can also buy regular Gouda cheese in the supermarket in South Africa.

For the most up-to-date information, visit the website of the Tax Authorities.

What you can and cannot enter?


It is forbidden to import firearms or other weapons (such as knives, swords, boxing brackets, pepper spray etc) and ammunition. Also, you cannot import fake weapons and toy weapons that actually appear. Only with a special permit is it permitted to import weapons.

Protected animals and plant species

Many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction if trade is not curbed. To prevent extinction, rules have been established worldwide. It is forbidden to bring and import famous animal and plant species into the Netherlands. In the case of less endangered animal and plant species, you can enter them if a CITES document has been issued for this by the government concerned. You need an export permit from the country of origin or departure and an import permit from the country of destination. You must make a declaration to customs.

Examples of protected animal and plant species and products thereof are: exotic plants such as orchids and cacti, monkeys, snakes, varans and many other tropical animals, coral, shells, ivory etc. Also products made from the above goods are prohibited to import, for example, ornamental items made from coral or ivory, medicines that contain endangered plant species, or shoes / bags made from crocodile leather.

Counterfeit articles
It is forbidden to take counterfeit articles with you and import them into the Netherlands unless it concerns a very small quantity for your own use. If traders abroad offer branded articles for very low prices, you can almost always assume that it is counterfeit. Examples of counterfeit branded articles that are often sold are: bags, clothing, jewelry, perfume and DVDs. Here are some examples of the maximum amount you can take with you: 3 watches, 250 ml perfume, 3 DVDs / CDs, 3 other items (for example clothing).
Money and securities

Are you traveling from a non-EU country to the Netherlands or another EU country and taking cash (cash and securities such as shares, bonds and travelers’ checks) that are worth € 10,000 or more? Then you must make a declaration to the customs authorities in the country where you enter the EU. You must convert money and securities in foreign currencies into euros. You must also make a declaration if you are not the owner, but transport the cash for someone else.

Cultural goods

You may not always take cultural goods (such as art and antiques) to the Netherlands. In the past centuries many valuable objects such as art, antiques and antiquities have been removed from their original environment. Nationally and internationally, measures have been taken to combat this ’empty robbery’. If traders abroad offer you cultural goods for extremely low prices, you can almost always assume that this is illegal trade or counterfeit. Do you want to take cultural goods to the Netherlands? Then you often need an export permit from the government of the country of departure. Authorized antique dealers can often help you with this. Without that export license you cannot take the cultural goods with you and import them into the Netherlands.

Exemption from tax

Do you not take more goods than the maximum quantities? Then you do not have to pay taxes for those goods when you enter the Netherlands and the European Union (you will be exempt from tax). For products such as alcohol and tobacco, maximum quantities apply that you can import without tax (ie without a declaration to customs).

Tobacco and cigarettes
The maximum quantities of tobacco products that you can import without paying taxes are: 200 cigarettes (1 shoe) or 250 grams of smoking tobacco or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars. A proportional range of these products, for example 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars, is permitted. This exemption from tax only applies to persons of 17 years and older.

The maximum amounts of alcohol that you can import are as follows: 1 liter of spirits or 2 liters of sparkling wine or 2 liters of liqueur wine such as port / sherry. You can also get 4 liters of non-sparkling wine (so red, white or rose) and 16 liters of beer. A combination of the above is permitted such as half a liter of spirits and 1 liter of sparkling wine. This exemption from tax only applies to persons of 17 years and older.

Other goods

You do not have to pay tax on goods that you bought outside the EU, if the value does not exceed € 430. This amount also includes gifts. Alcohol and tobacco are not included in this amount. For example, if you buy a camera with a value of € 500, you must make a tax return for the entire amount. For example, if you have an item with a value of € 400 and an item with a value of € 50, you only have to pay tax on the item of € 50. Do you bring commercial items? Then you must always make a declaration.

If you exceed the numbers and amounts stated above, you must make a declaration to customs and pay tax.

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