I have been traveling From Australia to Fiji, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam over the past 2 and a half months and I have many souvenirs that I have gotten over the borders with, with no hassle.

They include: -(personally filled) little bottles of sand, from every beach i've visited. -stones (my mom want a stone from each place)

And I have a bunch of other stuff that I know I'm allowed to have.

And also, since Cambodia I've bought little bottles of whiskey (about 150 ml) with a cobra snake inside the bottle.

On most declaration forms I have filled out, it says "Do you have any Soil, mineral samples, or Earth"… I wrote no, because I honestly don't know if sand counts as any of that AND because a pilot once told me that should be okay…

But I do know that most of the forms ask if I have any plant or animal matter. Which the snake in the sealed bottle would count as that.

SO the question is, should I even attempt to get through customs into Sweden with that stuff and just say no on the declaration would I be in a lot of trouble OR if I do mark it on the declaration, will they confiscate it?

  • 5
    You seem to be going about it all wrong. How do you know what's allowed if you need to ask? How can you honestly say that you didn't know sand could be a problem when you are concerned about what happens if you get caught and tell us you are “playing dumb”. All this sounds like euphemisms for plain old lying as you do realize you are at the very least bending the rules. Note that “any soil, mineral samples or earth” sounds deliberately broad and almost certainly covers sand.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 11:19
  • 3
    Well, comments are for comments, not answers but my problem is not so much that your question would make no sense at all, it's rather than you seem to engage in wishful thinking. The answer, provided below, is easy: Declare anything that could be an issue. If you are even merely thinking that it could be an issue, then you can't pretend afterwards that you didn't suspect it could be an issue, it's quite simple. You do realize that asking about doing something illegal is not allowed on this site?
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 11:37
  • 4
    But I already told you that! Namely: List it all on the form or get rid of the sand, rocks and bottled snake. You can't have it both ways. Either you are so sure that it's OK that you wouldn't even think to ask or you are doing something illegal, namely failing to disclose something that could be forbidden in the hope of getting away with it. You desperately want to think there is a grey area where you could pretend sand is not soil, ask about it on a forum and still pretend you didn't know better. My point is precisely that you shouldn't think about it that way.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 11:43
  • Plus, I am not a native English speaker but can you even “get caught” doing something that's not somehow forbidden? How is that not asking about doing something illegal?
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


Generally speaking, if in doubt, you are supposed to declare the goods and ask customs officers, not assume it's OK until you get caught. Customs officers are not likely to look for pretexts to ignore the rules.

Unless you are absolutely sure it's OK to import sand and bottled snakes in the EU, then you need to put it on any declaration form you have to fill in and go through the red lane. Customs officers will then decide if it's allowed or not. It does not mean mean everything will be confiscated but pretending you have nothing to declare because you are not sure is definitely not an excuse if you do get caught.

Note that if you chose to omit something, figuring out how the rules apply to your case is your responsibility. Even merely walking through the green lane with an item that's forbidden could be treated as a false declaration.

  • 5
    To add to this, it's not allowed to import soil from outside of Europe. Sand is not soil, but you cannot be sure that customs agents will immediately know that.
    – DUman
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 12:41

You risk significant penalties if you fail to declare items which you clearly know that you have in your baggage and which might even just possibly be covered by the rules.

You clearly know you have the snakes and the sand, so you'd have no defence there.

Sand MIGHT be deemed to be soil on a bad day in poor light by a customs officer with a hangover - and if so what YOU have decided becomes irrelevant. Chances are they can irradiate or otherwise deal with the sand samples if they care. It's reasonably possible that they will not care about them, but letting them decide is the safest option.

The snakes CLEARLY fail the "animal matter" test. "But it's sealed" may as well be "But it's blue" or "But it's pretty". ie Yes, And ?
Animal matter is animal matter and they will make subsequent decisions. The two main issues are probably disease and protected species.

  • If there is a prospect that the snakes are protected there will be lists available that will let you check.

  • Being sealed and being intended for another final destination MAY make the difference re animal matter issues - but they will insist on being the ones who decide.

Once customs decide that you have lied or hidden something they become very attentive.
Try hard not to let this happen.

I have found that a policy of maximum declaration of possibly suspect items works well. While this may increase your customs processing time it ensures you do not have to undergo a total baggage search, or worse, once they discover the Cobras.

Did you pack your ownbags ?

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  • The snake wine is actually legal to bring. asiansnakewine.com/…
    – Jake
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 2:37
  • Interesting. The Cobra is a fake - They say: The snake which look like "Cobra" in Snake wine in fact is "rat snake" (Coelognathus) that has its neck flattened back to look like a cobra. You can tell this from the shape of the head, the two lines on the side of the head, and the lack of markings on the "hood". Furthermore, the "Trimeresurus gramineus" is in fact Ahaetulla (green vine snakes), so all snakes found in Snake wine come from farm. If they were Trimeresurus gramineus then the process would be illegal as they only occur in southern India, and India prohibits the export of wildlife Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:40
  • I assumed that the two Cobras seen in the photo had been defanged. Can't go killing the tourists ! I crouched down low about 1 metre+ out in front of the large Cobra. Wow! It struck at an amazing speed. And the old man was faster! He grabbed it by the "neck" part way towards me. Amazing. Cobra on camera lens, or me! would have been interesting. At least. Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:43

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