Things that are transported in one’s personal luggage are exempt from import duties up to a certain value. This also applies to souvenirs. However, quantity and value limits must be observed. At a value of 300 euros (430 euros for air or sea travel; different limits apply to tobacco/alcohol/etc.; persons younger than 15 years 175 euros), the traveler’s allowance is reached quickly.
What has to be done upon leaving or entering the EU when carrying one’s own camera equipment or computer?
When transporting valuable personal items, it is recommended to keep a record proving the origin of the goods to avoid possible import duties upon return.
Prior to departure, the customs office should issue an identification document in compliance with the procedure for returned goods. This identification document may be issued by any customs office (If the value of the goods does not exceed 3000 euros, the document can be issued directly at the border. Please make sure to allow sufficient time!). For this purpose, the items in question must be presented and should be described in sufficient detail so as to enable problem-free identification upon return: Photos and specifications of the models or serial numbers of electronic devices are helpful.
Proof of purchase can be presented as an alternative to the abovementioned identification document if the receipt adequately describes the item and shows that it was purchased in the home country (or in the EU). However, an identification document is a much more certain option.
The Chamber of Commerce recomments the use of a ATA Carnet when temporarily using professional equipment (e.g. photography equipment) abroad.
Visual artists often opt to transport their works in their hand luggage? What is the procedure in such a case?
In the case of works that are taken to a country outside the EU to be sold, it is technically correct to declare them upon import and to pay import duties (import VAT and customs duties, if applicable).
If the plan is to return these works to their country of origin, documents should be kept that demonstrate that they are one's own works: A list of the works and their values, an explanation of the reason for the temporary export, an invitation letter from the gallery or the organizer, etc. are helpful. The safest way to transport such objects is to follow the procedure for returned goods (as described above).
If a rental car is to be used for transport, it should be noted that some car rental companies have entry restrictions for certain countries.
In its Conditions of Entry, AVIS, for example, points out that “due to an increased accident and theft risk for certain brands/types,” certain countries are off-limits. These countries include Turkey, Greece, Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, etc. Entry restrictions may also apply to the UK, Ireland, and Italy, for example, when using Europcar.
Different traffic laws apply in different countries; you should be aware of this before travelling in the EU by car. The network of European Consumer Centres has published information brochures for individual EU states in which the most important things are listed that drivers should know: speed limits, special traffic rules, toll roads, parking information, etc.
On January 1, 2005, the federal government introduced a truck toll for heavy-duty commercial vehicles (over 12 tons admissible total weight) on German highways. Fees are based on the route, number of axles, and emission class of the vehicle. For this purpose, a system has been established that combines satellite positioning and mobile communications technology, so stops at toll booths on the highway are avoided and drivers only pay for their individual use. This system is operated by Toll Collect. Registration is possible via the Internet.
The EU ministers of transport are seeking to establish a uniform toll system for trucks. So far, the member states are free to select their preferred technology but the systems have to be compatible.
The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (German language only) and the Toll Collect website offer comprehensive information about truck tolls.
Germany does not charge car tolls. However, other European countries have been levying tolls and congestion charges on cars for some time now.
In Germany, trucks over 7.5 tons admissible total weight and all trucks and cars with trailers are subject to a driving ban from midnight to 10 p.m. on Sundays and on legal holidays.
Legal holidays differ in the various federal states. If a day is not a legal holiday Germany-wide, the ban is limited to the states in which it is a holiday: Transit is thus not possible unless the route is subject to a blanket exception.
Likewise, a driving ban applies to certain routes on all Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the period from July 1 to August 31. The Federal Office for Goods Transport provides further information about the German truck driving ban (German language). Bans also exist in other EU countries. Further information can be found here (in German language).
Since March 1, 2007, a regulation has been in force in Germany that allows federal states and cities to set up so-called environmental zones. Within these zones, measures may be established that aim at improving air quality, for example, limiting harmful particulate emissions. This includes traffic restrictions.
Such zones are marked by signs. Motor vehicles require a so-called pollution badge that allows them to enter these zones: Vehicles with 3-way catalytic converters or particulate filters may enter the environmental zone, provided a clearly visible pollution badge is attached to the windshield. The environmental zone is off-limits to all other vehicles.
Entering the zone without a pollution badge is subject to a fine of 40 euros (German citizens will also get a point in Flensburg). Even vehicles from abroad require a German pollution badge, which can be obtained on the Internet.
Environmental zones also exist or are being planned in other EU countries. The concepts and rules differ greatly and cannot be generalized.
In Germany, cultural assets are protected by the Act to Protect German Cultural Property against Removal (KultgSchG). These assets include works of art and other cultural property, such as library materials, archives, archival collections, estates, and collections of letters. The assets in question are listed in the ‘registers of cultural objects of national importance’, which is maintained by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM). Export of such assets requires a permit granted by the BKM.
Additional information can be found at Kulturgutschutz Deutschland (German only).
Customs offices often stipulate a limited period for pick-up of shipments (7 days in Germany, for example). The support of local cooperation partners is therefore essential so the items are picked up in time and are not returned to the sender.
Please note that when sending goods abroad the Certificate of Shipment must state what to do in case that the item is undeliverable. It already happened that a sender abroad declared ‘treat as abandoned’, which is – speaking about artworks or design objects – out of discussion.
In the event that the goods remain at the customs office (or confusion persists), it is sometimes possible to resolve the matter by email and to have the shipment forwarded. The customs office usually covers the cost.
The organization of a transport is associated with some administrative burden. One must not expect special treatment by the customs authorities for the transport of works of art, design objects or sensitive equipment etc. One should expect that the items will be treated like goods and that their value must be translated into measurable units, especially since the customs staff is often not specially trained for dealing with cultural assets. The same holds true for the chambers of industry and commerce (IHK) that handle the Carnet procedure for temporary use of goods abroad: Especially smaller offices that do not cooperate with cultural institutions or artists and creatives on a daily basis are sometimes rather dismissive. One should not be discouraged by this, but rather describe the current concern and remain polite.
Dealing with customs offices at home and abroad requires a certain sensitivity, and it is usually not very helpful to meet the bureaucratic requirements with anger or to insist on being right. Usually, the “opponent” has more power.
Unfortunately, objects are frequently held for an unnecessarily long time at customs offices abroad, thus causing problems with one’s schedule, resulting in additional costs, or even endangering the planned event. In such cases, it is useful to keep additional documents or other things that may simplify the process – how far one can and wants to go is at one’s sole discretion. A good preparation and a cooperative attitude towards customs personnel are important in any case.
In the event that customs clearance is unnecessarily delayed, the local cooperation partner should absolutely be included. In addition, contacting the local German embassy, the Goethe Institute, or the office of the chamber of commerce abroad (AHK) can be helpful.