Travelling abroad this summer? Make sure to remember Belgium’s strict custom rules, or one could risk sacrificing souvenirs and gifts bought from abroad. “An informed traveller is worth two!” authorities note.
The General Administration of Customs and Excise (AAD&A) has warned that, after two years of reduced international travel during the pandemic, many travellers may be hazy on the rules. In a press statement on 30 June, Belgian customs authorities offered an insight into the checks that its officers will be conducting, particularly from Brussels’ Zaventem airport.
“If you intend to spoil yourself, friends or family with souvenirs upon your return, it’s possible, but there are different rules attached to it,” the statement warns.
Travellers must be familiar with the rules surrounding carrying cash, alcoholic goods, tobacco, and other items from abroad, and especially from outside the European Union, as rules can vary from country to country.
Passengers travelling to or from a country outside the EU must declare amounts exceeding 10,000 or equivalent. Each EU country will decide independently how much alcohol and tobacco can be brought into the country.
When arriving into Belgium from outside the EU, travellers can bring 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco. Travellers may also bring 4 litres of wine, 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits over 22% alcohol content, or 2 litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22% in volume.
Some types of souvenirs cannot be brought into Belgium. Items that damage the environment, such as products made of ivory or coral, are likely to be seized at the border. Cheap counterfeit goods, which are often tempting to purchase while abroad, will also be seized in Belgium. It is illegal to import meat, fish, or dairy products from outside the EU to Belgium.
When travelling with pets, holidaymakers should ensure that they have documents for their animals, as they could risk being quarantined.
It should also be recalled that since the United Kingdom left the European Union, new rules apply to goods, money, and duty-free goods coming from the country. These apply to both air travel and passengers arriving on the Eurostar.
Customs officials on alert
Belgium customs officials are also actively looking to prosecute smugglers and those who wish to bring drugs and other goods into the country.
“Our customs officers are not only responsible for the economic interests of our country, but also for the safety of our citizens,” the customs service explained. “For this we have, among other things, dog teams that look for cash and drugs. When entering our territory, they can always subject travellers to checks.”
According to the customs authorities, between January and May, 130,000 passengers were searched at Zaventem airport, with over 1,000 offenders being stopped. The majority of cases (252) related to the non-declaration of large amounts of cash.
- Three-year prison sentences for Brussels Airport drug smugglers
- Toys and games make up 50% of all counterfeit goods seized by Belgian Customs
23 cases of attempts to smuggle counterfeited goods were also stopped at the airport. Customs officials say that these types of goods are more dangerous than they seem.
“It is important to realise that the price of these goods cannot compensate for the danger they pose. Just think of burns from perfumes or teddy bears that do not follow our strict European rules in terms of quality and safety for children,” the AAD&A states.
At airports across Belgium, federal customs authorities hire 212 staff. The customs service says it is their duty to check each passenger and to protect the safety of the Belgian economy.