How to Travel Through Customs With Olive Oil: A Survival Guide

At times, you may feel like James Bond on a top secret mission: to successfully transport the crown jewel of the Mediterranean diet. Here are a few tips to ensure the safe arrival of that Liquid Gold.

Dec. 8, 2016
By Courtney Slusser

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Traveling through cus­toms is dif­fi­cult enough. Why com­pound the effort to squeeze a mas­sive rolling suit­case through a secu­rity belt with the lin­ger­ing pos­si­bil­ity of pre­cious cargo get­ting banged up, tum­bled open or, even worse, con­fis­cated?

At times, you may feel like James Bond on a top secret mis­sion: to suc­cess­fully trans­port the crown jewel of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil. Here are a few tips to ensure the safe arrival of that Liquid Gold.

While Traveling

Keep your receipts. This will help later when pro­vid­ing a detailed account of pur­chases for cus­toms of all goods pur­chased abroad. Furthermore, proof of pur­chase from a ven­dor will sup­port your claim that your use of olive oil is for per­sonal use only.

Before the Airport

Each coun­try has its own rules upon re-entry, so it is help­ful to review the cus­toms web­site of your final des­ti­na­tion before embark­ing on your jour­ney home.

  • United States: Condiments, vine­gars, oils, pack­aged spices, honey, cof­fee and tea are admis­si­ble.”
  • United Kingdom: You can bring any fruit, veg­eta­bles, meat, dairy or other ani­mal prod­ucts (eg fish, eggs and honey) into the UK if you’re trav­el­ing from a coun­try within the EU.”

Some coun­tries in the EU des­ig­nate admis­si­ble items upon entry based on EU clas­si­fi­ca­tion. Review this list of coun­tries within the EU to deter­mine whether you are enter­ing a third-party coun­try or from within the EU.

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On each cus­toms web­site, there exists a list of pro­hib­ited items, which include things not to bring into a for­eign coun­try. As a rule of thumb, the top items men­tioned on these lists almost always include agri­cul­ture, wildlife, med­ical spec­i­mens, ille­gal nar­cotics and firearms.

Since olive oil is clas­si­fied as a condi­ment derived from a veg­etable, it does not fall into any of these major inad­mis­si­ble cat­e­gories; there­fore, it is a safe assump­tion that the trans­porta­tion of olive oil for per­sonal use and pri­vate con­sump­tion is accepted in your coun­try. On a cur­sory look at seven cus­toms web­sites, not one men­tioned for­bid­ding the per­sonal import of olive oil.

Carefully pack­ing olive oil in order to secure the liq­uid is essen­tial, as changes in alti­tude and tem­per­a­ture shifts may affect the con­di­tion of the bot­tle, tin or box. Some trav­el­ers sug­gest secur­ing bot­tles with bub­ble wrap. Others highly sug­gest adding an addi­tional pro­tec­tive layer by wrap­ping each bot­tle in a plas­tic bag to pre­vent arti­cles of cloth­ing from any hap­haz­ard spills dur­ing the flight. Protective plas­tic bags are offered at some Greek air­ports.

At the Airport

After declar­ing your item(s) with cus­toms in the most detailed man­ner pos­si­ble, be sure to secure them as care­fully as pos­si­ble. Forms should be avail­able at your depar­ture city and may even be found online.

Pack your olive oils in your checked bags, as secu­rity reg­u­la­tions in most places strictly limit the vol­ume of liq­uid you can carry on.

On Arrival

After sur­viv­ing the twists and turns of air­port geog­ra­phy and passed through cus­toms, you are ready to sashay away to your flight’s bag­gage claim carousel where your prized EVOO treats await. As you head toward the exit in many air­ports (Boston, for exam­ple) another check of your lug­gage might be con­ducted by cus­toms offi­cers. Have your paper­work handy and don’t fib about what you have in your lug­gage. Honesty is always the best pol­icy, and cus­toms offi­cers are not known, under­stand­ably, for their sense of humor.


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