Rules and regulations

Swiss customs regulations for alcohol, meat and tobacco

INFORMATION
|
Be aware: the customs office sets limits on shopping across the border. Source: iStock / mhGrafix

Up to five litres of wine and beer as well as 250 cigarettes: when importing food, alcohol and tobacco into Switzerland, certain customs regulations apply. Other products are duty-free. Read on to learn about duty-free allowances and what to watch out for.

Shopping tourism in neighbouring Germany, France and Italy is booming. The prices of many products are significantly lower there. Every year, Swiss shoppers spend roughly 10 billion francs across the border.

However, shopping without borders does have its limits. Depending on the product and quantity, customs duties must be paid upon crossing the border back into Switzerland if you exceed the duty-free allowance – even if the value of the goods falls lower than the 300 franc limit for value added tax.

Goods with a value of over 300 francs are subject to VAT

Do not confuse value added tax with customs duties. Separate from customs duties, value added tax of 8% is applied to the total value of all imports over 300 francs. However, Swiss residents can reclaim the foreign VAT they have paid. In Germany, for example, this is 19%. For most foods, a reduced rate of 7% applies.

Duty-free allowances and duty payable if allowance is exceeded

Goods Duty-free allowance (per person per day) Customs duties 

Meat (fresh and processed)


Exceptions:

  • Game
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans
  • Molluscs
  • Other aquatic invertebrates
  • Bone marrow
  • Bones for stock
  • Dog and cat food in individual packets marked as animal feed
Total 1 kg
Please note: the import of animal products from non-EU countries and Norway is prohibited.

Up to 10 kg: CHF 17/kg


More than 10 kg: CHF 23/kg

Butter and cream (fat content at least 15%)
Total 1 kg/litre
Please note: the import of animal products from non-EU countries and Norway is prohibited.
CHF 16 per kg/litre
Oils, fats, margarine (for human consumption)
Total 5 kg/litre
CHF 2 per kg/litre
Alcoholic beverages up to 18% alcohol content

Note: drinks with an alcohol content of 0.5% or lower are not considered alcoholic beverages.

Total of 5 litres
Please note: you must be at least 17 years of age.

CHF 2/litre
Alcoholic beverages over 18% alcohol content

Total of 1 litre
Please note: you must be at least 17 years of age.

CHF 15/litre
Cigarettes/cigars

Total of 250 units
Please note: you must be at least 17 years of age.

CHF 0.25/unit
Other tobacco products

Total of 250g (or a proportional selection of these products)

Please note: you must be at least 17 years of age.

CHF 0.10/gram

Source: Federal Customs Administration

Duty-free imports into Switzerland

The following products may be imported into Switzerland without paying customs duty:

  • Dairy products (except for butter and cream, see table)
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Cereal products
  • Potato products
  • Cut flowers

No customs officer at the border: what should I do? 

Do you have something to declare, but there is no border guard in sight? You’re not allowed to simply pass through. There are declaration boxes at every customs station. Complete one of the forms and send it to the customs directorate along with the receipt. You will then receive an invoice by post at home.

Beware of mobile customs officers

Mobile customs officers carry out inspections up to several kilometres from the border, as well as at Zurich Main Station. If you are caught with goods in dutiable amounts without a declaration form, you are liable to prosecution. You are not allowed to enter through the “green” border if you are carrying declarable goods either.