Flying with Wine and Alcohol 101

A Guide to taking wine and alcohol on the airplane.

So here you are, drinking amazing wine in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Rioja, or another of the many European wine regions kissed by the terroir gods, and you are thinking how do I get some of this stuff back home? Maybe it's a bottle or two of Armagnac or another French digestif? Or perhaps you are in Belgium and have fallen in love with a selection of Belgian Trappist or Abbey beers?  Or you are eyeing some intoxicating Porto from Portugal, whiskey from Scotland, need we go on? Can I take wine or spirits on a plane these days? And if so, isn’t the limit only a bottle of two? What are the duties and taxes on alcohol?

 

There is a lot of confusion and misperceptions surrounding whether you can take wine and other types of alcohol onto a plane, especially when it comes to international travel. The purpose of this article is to clarify the facts and lay out the rules and regulations for taking wine and alcohol as baggage onto a plane. Please note that these rules do not apply to wine shipping, which in many cases carries a lot more restrictions.

In general when it comes to flying with alcohol you are bound by a few types of regulations:

  1. Those set by international transportation security bodies like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States, the European Commission, and other national governments
  2. Individual airline regulations, and
  3. Import laws set by individual countries (and sometimes individual States or Provinces within those countries) the alcohol will be entering into.

International transport security body regulations, such as those set by the TSA, the EU Commission, and other international governments:

Regulations for carry-on (cabin) baggage:

Wine and hard alcohol in your carry-on or cabin baggage is generally NOT allowed. This is because liquids in quantities larger than 100 ml (3.4 oz.) cannot be placed in your carry-on. An exception to the carry-on rule is made for wine and other spirits purchased in duty-free stores beyond security checkpoints. Under rules that took effect January 31, 2014, passengers traveling internationally into the United States, Canada and Europe with a connecting flight are permitted to carry liquids in excess of 100 ml (3.4 ounces) in their carry-on baggage, provided they were purchased in duty-free shops and placed in secure, tamper-evident bags (STEBs).

See: TSA Again Allows Large Bottles Of Liquids On Planes, With One Catch, Forbes Magazine, 2014/02/05

 

Regulations for checked (hold) baggage:

Wine and alcohol in checked (hold) baggage is accepted as under the following conditions:

  • Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol – no restrictions
  • Alcoholic beverages with alcohol content between 24% and 70% - 5L per person
  • Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol - prohibited
“While beverages with an alcohol content of greater than 70 percent are prohibited and those with an alcohol content between 24 and 70 percent are limited, there is no TSA-regulated quantity limit on beverages with less than 24 percent alcohol, such as wine. Airline-created checked baggage limits still apply, but passengers are free to use the entirety of their quota for wine transport.” USA TODAY Travel Tips: Air Travel With Wine Bottles 
"Please note, you can’t take alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol content (140 proof), including 95% grain alcohol and 150 proof rum, in your checked luggage. You may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask. Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations." TSA: Carrying Alcohols in Your Checked Baggage
"You can pack bottles of alcohol (including homemade wine and beer, and commercial products) in your checked baggage if: 1. The percentage of alcohol by volume is 70% (140 proof) or less. 2. The quantity does not exceed five litres per person for alcoholic beverages between 24% and 70% alcohol by volume. Alcoholic beverages containing 24% alcohol or less are not subject to limitations on quantities." Government of Canada: Transporting Alcohol

The EU Commission has similar rules. Wine and alcohol can be checked-in as long as limits are respected.  

 

Individual Airline Rules:

Individual airlines adhere to the regulations outlined by the international security bodies. In addition you must follow the checked-baggage weight limits outlined by each airline. For international travelers this is typically 23kg (50 lb) per checked baggage for economy class, and 32 kg for business class or if an overweight baggage fee is paid. Many US airlines allow multiple bags per person to be checked-in for no additional fee, while others charge typically $50 to $75 for a second piece of baggage.

Not all airlines have an explicit written policy on alcohol checking alcohol in your hold luggage, but the general rule is that it must be packaged to completely prevent breakage, which could damage other customers’ luggage and property. Some airlines require Styrofoam padded packs to be used.

It is advisable to check with your airline if any requirements exist.

See: Baggage Allowance Info 

Import Laws (Duty, Tariffs, and Quantity Limits):

Your final set of regulations of how much alcohol you can bring with you, comes by way of import laws set by the country you are entering. Many people confuse duty-free limits with absolute limits on bringing in alcohol into a given country. In general, most countries permit you to bring in alcohol over the duty-free limit, but you may (or may not) have to pay the associated duties and taxes, depending on how strict the country and its customs officers are. Duty-free and absolute limits vary by country and even individual State or Province within countries like Canada and the US.

 

Each country typically has a duty-free alcohol allowance, where the alcohol is not subject to any duties, tariffs, or taxes, and allows an additional quantity which is subject to duty and taxes. Please note that this duty and taxes may, but often is not actually collected.

 Please note that in almost all cases you must be of legal drinking age in the country you are bringing alcohol into.

 

United States

Although the language on the U.S Customs and Border Protection website doesn't at first glance make this 100% clear (See: U.S Customs and Border Protection - Bringing alcohol, including homemade wine to the U.S. for personal use), the United States has a very friendly laws towards bringing in wine for personal use if it's accompanied by the owner (this includes very low per bottle duties and taxes, which customs agents often don't bother to even collect). 

"Declare the alcohol you are transporting on your customs form and pay the appropriate duty to the customs officer, typically around $1 to $2 for wine and beer, while the amount for spirits varies by type, as of publication." USA TODAY Travel Tips: Packing Alcohol in Luggage & Customs
"The duties range on Liquor depending on the country of origin and alcohol content. However, even after paying the duty your savings are still substantial.
Here are a few Examples of how inexpensive the duties are at US Customs:
Wine $0.35 a 750ml Bottle
Beer $1.25 a case of 24
Liquor (1Litre) $2-$3 (on average)" 
Peace Bridge Duty Free Guide:How Much is duty on extra Liquor and beer at US Customs?

Canada

Canadian duties and taxes are assed based on the province one is landing into from abroad and can range significantly from province to province. Please note that this does not mean the province of final destination. For example if one lands in Ontario and has a connecting flight to the final destination of Alberta, duties and taxes will be assessed using Ontario regulations. Currently, Alberta has the lowest alcohol duties and taxes, while British Columbia has the highest. See the table below for the duties, and taxes for a given province or check out Canada Border Service Agency: Calculating the Provincial Sales Tax, Harmonized Sales Tax, Provincial Tobacco Tax, and Alcohol Markup

 

Australia

When bringing over 2.25L of alcohol, those entering Australia are subject to duty, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Wine Equalisation Tax (WET), which is equivalent to approximately 49% of the pre-VAT value of the goods. See: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Customs Tariff, Schedule 3, Chapter 22 - Beverages, spirits and vinegar

 

Brazil 

Brazil allows 24 bottles of alcohol (up to a litre each), with a maximum allowance of 12 bottles per category of alcohol (i.e. wine, beer, sprits), and up to a total value of $500 USD. See: Receita Federal: Travelling to Brazil FAQs

 

China 

When entering China there are no restrictions for beverages with an alcohol content below 12%. Above 12% alcohol levels, China allows 1.5 litres of alcohol duty-free. Alcohol quantities exceeding the duty-free limit is subject to duty of 50% of the pre-VAT value. See: China Customs Declarations

 

Hong Kong 

Wine, sparkling, and beer is not treated as an excise taxable product and an unlimited amount can be imported for personal use. If the imported spirits has more than 30% alcohol it is subject to a duty is 23 HKD per litre past the 1 litre duty-free limit. See: GovHK: Customs and Excise Department - Types and Duty Rates

 

Japan 

Japan allows up to 3 750 ml bottles per person duty-free. A simplified customs declaration program is offered past these duty-free limits with duties as follows: Wine, sparkling, and beer carries duties of 94yen per bottle (750ml), while spirits carries duties of 225-450yen per bottle (750ml). See: Japan Customs - Procedures of Passenger Clearance. It's worth keeping an eye out on the Japan-EU trade talks where Japan has proposed to eventually scrap customs duty on wine within the next 5 years. See: Nikkei Asian Review: Tokyo proposes scrapping customs duty on wine in 5 years

 

Mexico 

Mexico allows up to 6 litres of wine, sparkling, and beer duty-free. It allows up to 3 litres of liquor duty-free. Duties are 90% of the pre-VAT value of the alcohol past the duty-free limit. See: Declarations Entering Mexico

 

Norway 

Norway duty-free limits are as follows: Up to 3 litres for wine and sparkling, 5 litres for beer, and 1 litre for spirits. A simplified customs declaration program is offered past these duty-free limits, where you can bring up to 27 litres of wine and sparkling subject to a duty of NOK 45 / bottle, up to 27 litres of beer subject to a duty of NOK 20 / litre, and up to 4 litres of spirits subject to a duty of NOK 115-325 / litre. See: Norwegian Customs: Simplified customs declaration of alcohol and tobacco 

 

Singapore 

Singapore allows one of the following duty-free concessions for liquor products if:You have spent 48 hours or more outside Singapore immediately before arrival, and you have not arrived from Malaysia:

Option A: 1 litre of spirits + 1 litre of wine or sparkling + 1 litre of beer

Option B: 2 litres of wine or sparkling + 1 litre of beer

Option C: 1 litre of wine or sparkling + 2 litres of beer 

Quantities over the above-listed limits are allowed for personal consumption pending the payment of duty: For wine, sparkling, or spirits: S$88 per litre of alcohol; For beer S$76 per litre of alcohol. This means, as an example, that if you are bringing a bottle of red wine with a 14% alcohol level, the duty would be calculated as follows: S$88 x 0.750 ml x 0.14 = S$9.24 per bottle

 

South Africa 

South Africa allows consumable goods in accompanied baggage including wine and alcohol. Duty free allowances are 2 litres of wine and 1 litre of spirits. Once the these limits are exceeded, the goods are subject to the payment of customs duty and value-added tax (VAT) – including goods bought duty-free on aircraft or ships or in duty-free shops.
For goods of up to R20 000 in value (approximately 1800€), you have the option of paying customs duty at a flat rate of 20%. Flat-rated goods are also exempt from payment of VAT. This is valid only once per person per 30-day period and is most likely your better option. See: South Africa: traveller's customs guide

Switzerland

Switzerland allows allows up to 5 litres of wine, sparkling, and beer (beverages where alcohol content is below 18%), and 1 litre of spirits (where alcohol is above 18%) duty-free. Quantities above these limits may be subject to duties of 1.50 CHF per bottle on alcohol below 18% and 11.25 per bottle on alcohol above 18%. See: Meat, spirits, wine, tobacco, milk – new duty-free allowances and fees



Between two EU Countries

There are no limits on what private persons can buy and take with them when they travel between EU countries, as long as the products purchased are for personal use and not for resale. Duties and taxes are only charged if the alcohol exceeds the following: Wine & Sparkling - 90L, Beer - 110L, Spirits - 5L. See: Buying goods in another (EU) Member State

 

Below is a summary of alcohol limits and associated duties and taxes one can bring by airplane for different countries:

Country Alcohol Type Duty-Free Limit Duty & Tax Above Duty-Free Limit Total Limit
USA  Wine 1 Liter (34 o.z) $0.35-$2 / bottle none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 1 Liter (34 o.z) $1-$3 / bottle none as long as for personal use
Beer 1 Liter (34 o.z) $0.35-$1 / bottle none as long as for personal use
Spirits 1 Liter (34 o.z) $2-$3 / bottle 5 Liters
Canada
Alberta Wine 1.5 Litres $2.50 / bottle 45.45 Litres (60x750ml bottles)
Sparkling 1.5 Litres $3.75 / bottle

45.45 Litres (60x750ml bottles)

Beer 8.5 Litres $0.34 / Litre 45.45 Litres
Spirits 1.14 Litres $5.00 / Litre 5 Litres
BC Wine 1.5 Litres 85% min $1.83/bottle max $12.75/bottle 45 Litres (60x750ml bottles)
Sparkling 1.5 Litres 85% min $1.83/bottle max $12.75/bottle 45 Litre (60x750ml bottles)
Beer 8.5 Litres 55% min $1.13 / Litre 45 Litres (any type)
Spirits 1.14 Litres 150% min $13.19/Litre max $40/Litre 5 Litres
Ontario Wine 1.5 Litres 39.6% of pre-VAT value 45 Litres (60x750ml bottles)
Sparkling 1.5 Litres 39.6% of pre-VAT value 45 Litres (60x750ml bottles)
Beer 8.5 Litres $0.676 / Litre 45 Litres (any type)
Spirits 1.14 Litres 59.9% of pre-VAT value 5 Litres
Quebec Wine 1.5 Litres 66% of pre-VAT value 10.5 Litres (12x750ml bottles) without going through SAQ
Sparkling 1.5 Litres 72% of pre-VAT value 10.5 Litres (12x750ml bottles) without going through SAQ
Beer 8.5 Litres $0.40 / Litre 17.5 Litres without going through SAQ
Spirits 1.14 Litres 124% of pre-VAT value 5 Litres without going through SAQ
Australia Wine 2.25 Litres 49% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 2.25 Litres 49% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Beer 2.25 Litres 49% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Spirits 2.25 Litres 49% of pre-VAT value 5 Litres
Brazil Wine 12 Litres (16x750ml bottles), & up to $500USD pre-VAT value 50% of excess value above $500USD none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 12 Litres (16x750ml bottles), & up to $500USD pre-VAT value 50% of excess value above $500USD none as long as for personal use
Beer 12 Litres (& up to $500USD pre-VAT value) 50% of excess value above $500USD none as long as for personal use
Spirits 5 Litres (& up to $500USD pre-VAT value) 50% of excess value above $500USD 5 Litres
China Wine 1.5 Litres (2x750ml bottles), if above 12% alcohol 50% of pre-VAT value after duty-free limit none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 1.5 Litres (2x750ml bottles), if above 12% alcohol 50% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Beer unlimited, if below 12% alcohol none; part of your overall duty-free import limit none as long as for personal use
Spirits 1.5 Litres (if above 12% alcohol) 50% of pre-VAT value 5 Litres
Hong Kong Wine unlimited unlimited none as long as for personal use
Sparkling unlimited unlimited none as long as for personal use
Beer unlimited unlimited none as long as for personal use
Spirits 1 Litre (if above 30% alcohol) 23 HKD / litre 5 Litres
Japan Wine 2.25L (3x750ml bottles) 150yen per bottle (750ml) none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 2.25L (3x750ml bottles) 150yen per bottle (750ml) none as long as for personal use
Beer 2.25L 150yen per bottle (750ml) none as long as for personal use
Spirits 2.25L  225-450yen per bottle (750ml) 5 Litres
Norway Wine up to 3 Litres (4x750ml bottles), if not combined with other excise goods NOK 45 / bottle 27 Litres (36x750ml bottles), for simplified customs declaration
Sparkling up to 3 Litres (4x750ml bottles), if not combined with other excise goods NOK 45 / bottle 27 Litres (36x750ml bottles), for simplified customs declaration
Beer up to 5 Litres (if not combined with other excise goods) NOK 20 / litre 27 Litres (for simplified customs declaration)
Spirits 1 Litre NOK 115-325 / litre 4 Litres (for simplified customs declaration)
Mexico Wine 6 Litres (8x750ml bottles) 90% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 6 Litres (8x750ml bottles) 90% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Beer 6 Litres 90% of pre-VAT value none as long as for personal use
Spirits 3 Litres 90% of pre-VAT value 5 Litres
Singapore Wine 2 Litres (3x750ml bottles) S$88 per litre of % alcohol none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 2 Litres (3x750ml bottles) S$88 per litre of % alcohol none as long as for personal use
Beer 2 Litres S$76 per litre of % alcohol none as long as for personal use
Spirits 1 Litre S$88 per litre of % alcohol 5 Litres
South Africa Wine 2 Litres (3x750ml bottles) 20% of pre-VAT value 20000 ZAR (1800€)
Sparkling 2 Litres (3x750ml bottles) 20% of pre-VAT value 20000 ZAR (1800€)
Beer 2 Litres 20% of pre-VAT value 20000 ZAR (1800€)
Spirits 1 Litre 20% of pre-VAT value 5 Litres / 20000 ZAR (1800€)
Switzerland Wine 5 Litres (7x750ml bottles) 1.50 CHF / bottle none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 5 Litres (7x750ml bottles) 1.50 CHF / bottle none as long as for personal use
Beer 5 Litres 1.50 CHF / bottle none as long as for personal use
Spirits 1 Litre 15 CHF / Litre 5 Litres
Within EU Wine 90 Litres tax varies by EU country none as long as for personal use
Sparkling 90 Litres tax varies by EU country none as long as for personal use
Beer 110 Litres tax varies by EU country none as long as for personal use
Spirits 5 Litres tax varies by EU country 5 Litres

 

Important! Disclaimer:

All the info provided above is to the best of our knowledge. We do not take any responsibility for the accuracy and topicality of the info and rates. Please take it as guidance only. It is best to check with your airline and government's customs office for the latest regulations.

 

We'd love to hear about your personal experience with traveling with wine internationally. Also, please feel free to email us if you spot any factual mistakes in the above guide.

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