SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

SECOND HOMES

Second-home owners: What can you bring to your French property?

If you live in the UK and own property in France, the post-Brexit rules affect what items you can bring with you to your French home, and how you transport them. Here is the breakdown.

Second-home owners: What can you bring to your French property?
Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP

In contrast to tourists who usually just throw a few things into a suitcase, Brits who own property in France are often accustomed to loading up the car – sometimes even a van or trailer – when they visit France.

But, from food to plants, DIY equipment or furniture, post-Brexit rules now affect what you can bring with you from the UK when you visit France. 

These rules apply to anyone travelling from outside the EU to France, although US, Canadian and Australian second-home owners are  constrained further by airline rules so tend not to bring the kitchen sink with them when they travel.

Food

It’s not unusual for second-home owners to bring food with them, either delicacies from their home country unavailable in France, or just some basic items so that you don’t have to go shopping the second that you arrive.

But EU sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules make bringing in food from outside the Bloc a complicated exercise.

We’ve got a full breakdown of the food rules here – but it covers fruit and vegetables, plus anything that contains animal products. That obviously covers sausages, bacon and ham sandwiches, but also anything that contains any animal products such as chocolate (milk), Bovril (meat extract) or certain jelly sweets (gelatine).

A good rule of thumb is to stick to packaged items that are certified as vegan.

Pet food is also covered, although there are some exemptions for medical reasons, and baby milk is allowed if you’re travelling with a small child.

READ ALSO Marmite, tea bags and pork pies – what can you bring into France?

Household items

Talking of stocking up the house, if you want to bring household items like toilet roll or cleaning products with you then that’s fine.

Drugs 

Bringing medication with you is generally okay, with a few exceptions.

Over-the-counter medications such as painkillers or cold and flu remedies are fine.

If it’s prescription medication it’s best to have the prescription with you as well, just in case you encounter a particularly zealous customs officer.

Some medications are not allowed in the EU even with a prescription – that doesn’t really cover anything that would be prescribed in the UK but certain types of heavy-duty painkiller that are prescribed in the US are banned in Europe, so check in advance if you’re bringing in prescription medication.

Recreational drugs (with the exception of alcohol and tobacco, see below) are illegal in France, even cannabis (surprising as that may seem if you have walked down the street in a French city) so don’t try to bring any with you, even if you’re travelling from a state where it is legal.

Medical cannabis products are a bit of a complicated area in France – after several U-turns and court cases products containing CBD – a cannabis derivative without the psychoactive compounds – can be used in France.

DIY equipment

Buying a French property as a renovation project has long been a popular pastime, especially with Brits, as it’s both a less expensive option and gives you a nice project.

If you’ve spent time in French DIY stores you will notice that many items – from paint to tools to bathroom and kitchen units – are considerably more expensive in France, so over the years it has become common for Brits doing a renovation project to buy many of the items they need in the UK and bring them over to their French property.

However, this has become more complicated since Brexit.

It’s not that bringing over DIY items is no longer allowed, but that there is a limit to the value of items that you can bring before you have to start paying import duties.

That limit is €430, so if you’re bringing over large items like a bath, basin and toilet, you’re likely to go over that limit.

You need to both keep the value of each individual car load low, and also keep receipts for when you are bringing over larger items.

If you really want to bring over something of a higher value then you can – but you will need to have a complete inventory of items, and be prepared to pay customs duties on them.

If you’re bringing over tools and materials for professional purposes you will need different paperwork known as a carnet – this doesn’t apply to second-home owners, but if you’re travelling in a van with a large amount of tools it would be a good idea to have some paperwork showing that you own your French property, so that if necessary you can prove this this is a private trip, not part of your work.

Furniture 

If you’re bringing over furniture, the same rule applies – no outright ban but a limit on the value of items.

There is an exemption to customs duties on furniture for people who are moving to France – full details here.

Plants 

It’s not just stuff for the indoors, if you have a garden at your French property you might like to bring over shrubs, seedlings or cuttings from your garden at home.

Unfortunately plants comes under the same sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules as food – and many things are simply banned altogether.

Bringing in dead items like logs would be OK, but anything living like plants, bulbs, seedlings or cuttings is banned as it can damage the local ecosystem – full details here.

Clothes/shoes/books  

If you want to stock up on English language books for your French friends or bring over your favourite fashion brands there is nothing to stop you, as long as you don’t hit the €430 limit.

Cars/vehicles 

Bringing a non-EU registered car with you for short breaks is no problem, although obviously check that your insurance covers you while you are in France. In most cases you can drive on the licence of your home country and don’t need an international driver’s permit.

If, however, you want to bring over a non-EU registered car and leave it at your French address, that’s more complicated – full details here.

Broadly the same rules applies to other vehicles including motorbikes – if the vehicle is just visiting then it’s fine.

Bikes, even electric ones, don’t require any kind of registration so you can bring those with you without issue.

Booze/cigarettes

The ‘booze cruise’ is more traditionally done the other way, with drivers coming over to France to stock up with wine.

However if you want to bring with you sherry, Drambuie or Boddingtons beer – all of which are hard to find in France – to drink during your stay then you can, within certain limits

  • Non-sparkling wine – 4 litres (6 standard sized bottles)
  • Beer – 16 litres
  • Other drinks containing more than 22% alcohol – 1 litres
  • Other containing less than 22% alcohol – 2 litres

This allowance is per person, so if you’re in a car containing two adults, you can double that.

The same applies to tobacco products – not banned but quantity limits apply.

  • Cigarettes/cigarillos – 200
  • Cigars – 50
  • Tobacco – 250g

The tobacco allowance is again per person, but unlike the alcohol allowance it’s either cigarettes or cigars or tobacco, not all three.

Are these really checked?

The short answer to this is that it varies. Some passengers report never having anything checked, others have reported being checked every time while the most common scenario seems to be having one thing checked but not everything.

If you’re driving a van or a heavily-laden car you’re more likely to be pulled over for a check but from feedback from readers of The Local there doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern on when and where searches are carried out.

Because of the pandemic, volumes of traffic have been low since the end of the Brexit transition period, so it may be that things change once travel patterns return to normal.

If you’re a regular traveller it’s likely that your experiences will vary over time, but be aware that if you are carrying banned items you face the possibility of having them confiscated or – in the case of customs duties – facing a bill for unpaid duties.

Being pulled over for a search and billed will also delay your journey. 

Be aware that since Brexit travellers from the UK also face restrictions on passports, paperwork, pets and more – full details here

Member comments

  1. This is the second time I’ve read that DIY supplies for renovating a property in France are much more expensive than in the UK, and that is why Brits take them over to France. This surprised me because in my experience the French do much more building themselves than other EU countries and there are a lot of large, well stocked diy shops. I did a quick check on the uk site Screwfix and compared the prices (of toilet packs) to a French one, LeRoy Merlin, not to choose the cheapest one. LeRoy Merlin had more choice and a large range of prices, with lower prices for comparable products.
    I think it is the language barrier and that people load up the car at home, so that they can get to work here immediately and don’t have to spend a worrisome day shopping.
    It is the same with Dutch people with a second home here. They load up their van in the Netherlands with basic building materials like wood and plasterboard that are actually much cheaper here. In fact,this is so wellknown that many small building enterprises from the Netherlands and Belgium that drive to Lille and fill up their van here at the Bricodepot or similar.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TOURISM

What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields. 

SHOW COMMENTS