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What you need to think about when importing souvenirs

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Many Swiss travel abroad to foreign countries during the winter. Anyone wanting to bring an exotic souvenir back home as a memento is strongly advised to think about the applicable laws.

When the biting cold has taken hold in Switzerland, southern destinations with tropical climates are appealing. In tourist regions in particular, the souvenirs business is an important part of the local economy. Whether from sellers on a beach, at markets or in shops, the souvenirs on offer are tempting at every corner. In the euphoria of the holiday, it is quickly forgotten that the traveler bears responsibility for imported goods, and that breaches can involve serious sanctions. We’ll show you what you need to bear in mind when shopping in other countries.

I want to protect myself legally

The protection of endangered species is non-negotiable

Worldwide, over 33,000 species of plants and animals are subject to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The importing of these plants and animals as well as their products is largely banned or requires a special permit in exceptional cases. Unfortunately, local traders often care as little about these laws as they do about the problems that buyers can subsequently expect at Swiss customs. It is all the more important for you to seek information on these matters in advance from the relevant agencies: “Ignorance of the law is no defense.” You alone are responsible for the importing of your goods..

You should steer well clear of the following products to help species protection:

  • Protected plants (e.g. cacti, orchids) and woods (e.g. rosewood)
  • Tortoiseshell (musical instruments, masks, etc.)
  • Conch, giant clam
  • Certain types of coral (e.g. stony corals, blue and black corals)
  • Skins, leather products (belts, key rings etc.), furs (even small items) of protected species, mainly reptiles
  • More caviar than allowed (max. 125g per person)
  • Zoological preparations of protected species (butterflies, snakes, emperor scorpions, seahorses, crocodiles etc.)
  • Teeth, feathers, bones, hair and wool of protected animal species

New regulations covering the import of goods have been in force in Switzerland since July 1, 2014. Particular caution is called for when it comes to sensitive products such as imitations, food, plants and animals. It is worthwhile studying the actual laws in order to avoid unpleasant situations at customs and any criminal sanctions.

All information without guarantee.

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