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As I understand it, when entering the EU from outside, you can't combine your duty free limits on a single item. So, I believe, two people can't bring in a single 2l bottle of spirits for free, as the allowance is 1l per person, and that can't be combined.

However, if there are two of you, you're both allowed to bring your own 1l bottle of spirits (or other things within limits)

This is slightly different though, and applies to bags. Suppose you're outside the EU with a friend, and spot an interesting looking local drink. You each buy a bottle. However, you only have the one piece of checked luggage between you. You can't take the big bottles through airport security, so you pack both bottles carefully in your one piece of luggage, and check it in.

What happens on arrival though. Are you able to go through customs together, with the one bag, and if questioned say the bag is a joint one and point out who's bits are who's? Or does one person need to remove their bottle from the bag between baggage claim and customs, so that no one bag is over the limit?

  • As you are traveling with just one bag, it will be understood that you are traveling as a couple. While you would likely talk to the immigration officer separately, once you claim your bags you would approach the customs officer as a couple, with only one bag. Therefore to the customs officer it would be fairly obvious you jointly own the contents. – user13044 Sep 23 '15 at 2:46
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Limits are explicitly per person, as far as I've ever seen, not per bag.

The customs officials might challenge your assertion that you each own one bottle, based on the fact that they're in the same bag, but you ought to be able to rebut the challenge. For example, if you have separate receipts for the items (especially if they were purchased with bank cards, so you can prove who bought what), that would support your position. It also helps that you also have a good reason for packing your separately-owned bottles in a single bag.

You may be more likely to succeed if you declare the goods upfront, so your assertion that you each own one bottle does not appear to be an attempt to trick the customs officer.

The ultimate answer to the question perhaps depends on the attitude of the customs official and the legal climate of the country you are entering.

  • 1
    The answer correct, however, I never heard about trouble declaring which good is owned by which traveler. It just must be possible to distribute the goods to the persons of the travel group, so each is below the limit. One important point: Leave the customs together and ensure none is kept back by the customs when you go through the exit. May be, there are special cases, like a man bought a camera body and his wife bought him an objective as present. As both may have been sold as bundle, you should be able to show that they were bough separately. – sweber Sep 23 '15 at 7:55
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In all cases I have gone through customs after a flight, I had time between collecting the case and walking though the customs check.

So you will have time to get the bottle out of the case and stick it into your hand luggage or an extra bag.

  • I'm perfectly well aware that we can do, the question is if we need to? – Gagravarr Sep 22 '15 at 20:55
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    Why risk problems with customs when you can easily avoid them. – Willeke Sep 22 '15 at 21:16

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