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CHRISTMAS

Christmas travel between Germany and the UK: What am I allowed in my suitcase?

This is the first Christmas since Brexit officially came into force, so if you're travelling between Germany and the UK and want to take some festive goodies with you, here's what you should know about the new rules and what you can - and can't - pack.

Santa comes out for a short break after arriving at the Christmas Post Office in Brandenburg.
Santa comes out for a short break after arriving at the Christmas Post Office in Brandenburg on November 11th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Soeren Stache

If you’re heading home to spend Christmas with family or they’re coming out to stay with you, be aware of the rules regarding food and drink, and what you can and can’t bring in and out of Britain and the EU.

Some rules have changed recently, following Brexit, so read our guide below to make sure you aren’t caught out at customs.

READ MORE: What you need to know about sending Christmas parcels between Germany and the UK

Travelling to the UK from Germany

For those travelling to the UK from Germany, the rules are relatively lax as many border checks are yet to be introduced.

Note, if you’re spending Christmas in Northern Ireland there are different rules on food and animal products. Find them here.

The following products have no restrictions, regardless of where they are produced, so you can safely bring your Lebkuchen and delicious German Brot with you – 

  • bread

  • cakes (without fresh cream)

  • biscuits

  • chocolate and confectionery, but not those made with unprocessed dairy ingredients

  • pasta and noodles, but not if mixed or filled with meat or meat products

  • packaged soup, stocks and flavourings

  • processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material

  • food supplements containing small amounts of an animal product, such as fish oil capsules

Delicious Lebkuchen at a Christmas market stall in Nuremberg.
Delicious Lebkuchen at a Christmas market stall in Nuremberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Meat, fish and animal products

If you have friends and family putting in their orders on for Bratwurst (well, you never know) know that the rules on bringing meat, dairy, fish and other animal products into the UK are relatively relaxed.

You can bring in meat, fish, dairy and other animal products as long as they’re from the EU.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel between Germany and the UK

Alcohol allowance

For those of us who want to surprise our family with Glühwein or lovely German beers, you can – but there are some limits on how much booze you can bring to the UK from Germany (and the EU more generally).

How much you can take depends on the type of alcohol. 

Limits:

  • beer – 42 litres

  • still wine – 18 litres (or 24 standard size bottles)

  • spirits and other liquors over 22 percent alcohol – 4 litres (or 6 standard-sized bottles)

  • sparkling wine, fortified wine (port, sherry etc) and other alcoholic drinks up to 22 percent alcohol (not including beer or still wine) – 9 litres (or 12 standard sized botles)

It’s worth knowing that you can split your allowance, for example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits.

The allowance is per person, so if you’re travelling in a car with two people over the age of 18, you can bring back double the amounts listed above.

Two people cheer with Glühwein at a Christmas market. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Travelling into Germany from the UK

While British borders are not yet checking many things, the rules on food and drink are much tougher when entering the EU from the UK.

The key thing to know is that is you if you arrive in the EU from a non-EU country, you cannot bring any meat or dairy products with you – that means no Wensleydale, no Cornish Brie, and no British bacon to enjoy over Christmas or New Year (sob).  

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products technically come under these rules, so even boxes of chocolates are now banned (because of the milk).

Similarly, if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to bring you over some sweets, cakes, or other home comforts, be aware that the ban includes all products that contain any meat or dairy as an ingredient – which includes things like chocolate, fudge, custard and sweets (because of the gelatine.)

Even classics like Christmas pudding and Mince Pies are banned because they contain suet (unless you find a vegan pudding), so if you’re planning on a British-style feast you will need to source your foodstuffs in Germany  – there are plenty of British supermarkets if you need the goods although they are pricey due to import costs. 

You are allowed to bring a small quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, some egg products, and honey from the UK into Germany or other EU countries.

Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed: eviscerated fresh fish products (gutted, with all the organs removed), and processed fishery products are allowed up to 20 kg or 1 fish, so you can enjoy some Scottish smoked salmon in Germany over Christmas if you want.

A good rule of thumb is to look for the vegan labelling on anything that you wish to bring over, although this does not extend to fresh fruit and veg. Be aware also that cut flowers and plants are covered by the ban, so that may affect any gifts you bring.

In good news, tea bags – longed for by Brits the world over – are allowed. Marmite, which is vegan, is also OK but Bovril, which contains beef stock, is not.

Booze

Bringing British wine to Germany is allowed, while limited amounts of British ales and spirits are also OK.

Travellers arriving in the EU from Britain can, according to the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), bring the following quantities of alcohol:

  • 4 litres of still wine (6 bottles)
  • 16 litres of beer
  • 1 litre of spirits, or 2 litres of sparkling or fortified wine

If you’re travelling with children, note that powdered infant milk, infant food and specifically required medical foods are allowed up to a maximum 2kg. The same goes for pet foods. 

It is worth noting that these strict EU rules also apply to sending products by post, so if you were hoping to get around the newly applicable legislation by having someone send you a delivery of mince pies, they will probably be intercepted and confiscated by the German postal service.  

With reporting by Conor Faulkner

Member comments

  1. Ah yes, more of “ the sunny uplands” the Leave campaign promised Britain would experience once out of the EU!!

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TRAVEL NEWS

Who benefits from Germany’s €9 public transport ticket offer?

With Germany set to roll out the €9 monthly transport ticket soon, we looked at how it could benefit you (or not) - whether you're a car owner, tourist or a day tripper.

Who benefits from Germany's €9 public transport ticket offer?

For just €9 a month, passengers will be able to travel by bus, train and tram on local and regional transport throughout Germany over summer.

The ticket, which is in place for three months from June, is an unprecedented attempt to relieve German residents financially amid spiralling inflation, and to convince car owners to switch to more climate-friendly choices.

This Thursday, the Bundestag (German federal parliament) will make a final decision on the financing aspect to it, and on Friday it will go to the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block €9 ticket

Supporters see a great opportunity for more climate-friendly transport, while critics fear a flash in the pan and warn that overcrowded buses and trains are more likely to scare off potential new users. Of course, people with less disposable income will be helped most by this offer. But which other groups will actually benefit from the €9 ticket?

Long-term public transport customers (ÖPNV-Stammkunden)

If you have a subscription – known as an Abo in Germany – for local transport with a monthly or annual ticket, the ticket is a huge boost. That’s because you will only be charged €9 for the months of June, July and August or you’ll receive a refund or credit note. Many transport associations even hope to gain permanent subscription customers with the the lure of three low-cost months.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

Car commuters (Auto-Pendler)

In a survey by Germany’s KfW, three quarters of households that use a car said they would consider switching regularly to buses and trains. So those who are well served by public transport, and who have suitable bus and rail connections to work, may well decide to make the switch because of the cheap offer. This will especially benefit people in large and medium-sized towns. 

If this is you, you’ll definitely save cash by leaving your car at home and taking public transport. The €9 monthly ticket costs less than 50 cents per working day. You won’t get back and forth by car to your destination that cheaply, even if the cut on fuel tax comes as planned.

READ ALSO: How many people will use the €9 ticket?

People driving to and from Cologne.

People driving to and from Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

Day trippers (Ausflügler)

For many day trips and weekends away, and even for some longer holidays in Germany, it can be worth buying a car. But the €9 ticket does hold the promise of offering excursions throughout the country, as long as you use regional trains since long-distance trains – like the high speed ICE – are not included. 

The Local has even gathered some of the best trips possible with the ticket, and tourism is expected to see a big boost. However, at the start and end of long weekends, such as the upcoming Whitsun (June 5th and 6th) and Corpus Christi (June 16th) in some states, the passenger association Pro Bahn expects chaos on trains heading for the coast and mountains. So perhaps choose your times to travel wisely. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Residents in villages and small towns (Dorfbewohner)

As some Local readers have pointed out, the low-cost ticket for public transport is not so much use if buses – or even trains – rarely stop at the place you live. This is the case in many villages across Germany. According to calculations by the railway subsidiary Loki, many rural stops don’t even have an hourly service. 

Drivers can save on fuel and parking fees with a €9 ticket, but you need the transport connections to be able to benefit from it. Otherwise you’ll have to shell out more on taxis on top of the public transport cost. 

Cyclists (Radfahrer)

First thing first, the €9 ticket does not include a bike ticket, so you’ll have to buy one if you want to board a train with your bicycle. However, even if you buy a ticket for your bike to carry alongside your €9 ticket, the quality of your trip will very much depend on the day and time of travel, as well as the route you’re going on.

It often gets cramped on trains for passengers with bicycles, plus the number of bike parking spaces is limited. If it gets too crowded, train staff can decide not to let any more people with bikes on – even if you already have a ticket.

Trains are expected to be very busy during summer because of the low-cost ticket offer. Some operators are asking people not to take bikes on board. Berlin and Brandenburg operator VBB, for instance, urged all passengers to refrain from taking bikes with them during the campaign period and recommends travelling outside of rush hours. 

A cyclist enjoys a break in Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate.

A cyclist enjoys a break in Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Tourists (Touristen)

A group that will definitely benefit form this ticket is people visiting Germany. The ticket costs €9 per calendar month (so €27 in total). But a single day ticket in Munich costs €8.20 normally (and even more depending on the zone). In Berlin, a single day ticket costs €8.80. So even if you’re staying in Germany for two days, if you plan to be on public transport, you’ll get a good deal. 

READ ALSO: What tourists to Germany need to know about reduced-price public transport

Families (Familien)

According to Deutsche Bahn, 6-to 14-year-olds need their own €9 ticket or another ticket; as free transport is excluded from the cheaper transport offer.

Children under six do, however, generally travel free of charge. If you have a lot of children and only want to make a one-off trip, you may be better off with a normal ticket; it includes free travel for children up to the age of 14. For this one, it’s best to check on the local public transport provider’s options before you commit to the €9 ticket. 

Long-distance travellers and commuters (Fernreisende und Fernpendler)

As we mentioned above, the €9 ticket is not valid for long-distance travel, whether on ICE, Intercity and Eurocity, or the night trains of different providers, or on Flixtrain or Flixbus.

The DB long-distance ticket also includes the so-called City Ticket in 130 German cities: free travel to the station and on to the destination by public transport. So if you have this ticket, the €9 ticket is probably not needed.

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