Caution must be exercised when choosing and purchasing travel souvenirs and gifts: many animal and plant species are subject to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or are protected by national legislation. The exporting and importing of live specimens or products of such species is either prohibited entirely or requires a permit.
Souvenir tips for stress-free trips
Be careful when importing souvenirs. There are certain factors that need to be considered before importing products of animal or plant origin and handicrafts into Switzerland.
Travellers are often unaware that a souvenir may contain a product derived from a protected species. It makes no difference whether the product was found in the wild – such as corals on the beach or feathers in the forest – or was purchased. Strict regulations apply to foodstuffs and live animals, too.
Importing any living plant matter (plants, fruits, vegetables, tubers, scions, roots, cut flowers, seeds etc.) into Switzerland from outside the EU has been prohibited since 1 January 2020, unless the importer has an appropriate plant health certificate. This also applies to private travellers. A certificate of this kind is therefore also required, for example, for orchids that are bought at airports.
To avoid any problems at customs on your return to Switzerland, please find out about the specific import regulations that apply before you travel at www.blv.admin.ch or via the Swiss customs authorities’ app. In addition, find out in the WWF Souvenir Guide (in French) which souvenirs you can buy without hesitation and which ones you should avoid.
FSVO-Brochure: Souvenir tips for stress-free trips
Tourists are often not aware that a souvenir may contain an animal or plant product that comes from a protected species. It makes no difference whether the products in question have been bought or found on the beach (e.g. corals or conches) or in the forest (e.g. feathers).
Import and export of souvenirs
In tourist travel, the authorization, declaration and inspection requirements are waived for the following products:
- up to 125 g caviar per person (not cumulative, e.g. 1 package of 250 g for two persons is not permitted);
- 2 Crocodile leather products according to CITES Appendix II;
- 3 shells of conches (Queen Conch, Strombus gigas);
- 3 kg shells of the giant clam (Tridacna spp.) per person (not cumulative, e.g. 1 giant clam of 4 kg for two persons = not permitted);
- 4 pcs. seahorses (Hippocampus spp.);
- 3 pcs. rain sticks made from cactus stems, (Trichocereus = Echinopsis spp., Eulychnia spp.);
- Agarwood (Aquilaria spp.):
- 1 kg wood shavings or chips,
- 24 ml oil,
- 2 sets of wooden beads or prayer chains, or
- 2 necklaces or bracelets.
All other souvenirs (e.g. made of ivory, coral or turtle shell, cacti and orchids) are either completely prohibited or require a permit.
Caution must be exercised when choosing a souvenir. Dealers of such goods rarely draw the attention of travellers to the requirement for a permit. Specimens from protected species will be rejected by Customs if the required documents are not produced. If these documents cannot be furnished later, the goods will be confiscated. If the specimens were not declared when crossing the border, criminal proceedings may also be initiated.
Travel souvenirs from animal or plant products do not necessarily require a permit. If you are unsure, it is advisable to contact the responsible authorities of the country to be visited or the FSVO to avoid problems later on at Customs. With few exceptions, live protected and unprotected animals always require at least an import permit.
What souvenirs to take home?
Consult the WWF souvenir guide (in French) to save hassle and expense on the return journey. In the individual categories, the souvenirs are color-coded as "prohibited", "with permit" and "no permit". The WWF has drawn up the lists together with the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO). Each year, tourists bring many animal and plant products or even live souvenirs into Switzerland, although importing them is either forbidden or only permitted with valid documents. In doing so, they are helping to drive certain species to the edge of extinction.
Last modification 30.05.2023