Cigarettes and tobacco, France, about 25% cheaper, 
Spirits France, about 25% cheaper than UK supermarkets
Wine France, about 33% cheaper than UK supermarkets
Beer, France, about 60% cheaper than UK supermarkets

Portsmouth - Cherbourg ferry foot passenger £18 high season (2004 check in desk prices) but watch out for special offers, I think the ferries just want 'bums on boats', most of their profits are from heavy goods and onboard drinks and cigarettes sales, at Portsmouth there is a P&O travel  centre (50 yards before the check in building) offering cheap fares (how cheap? well I was gob smacked!)

Taking a car is also popular (with others), but to pay for itself you must: go with an empty tank, filling it in France almost pays for the journey. I only go for tobacco, and £700 - 800 can still be hand carried. Wine buffs can make wonderful savings, but require a car, and if you have a car with you, you might as well stock up on spirits and beer as well....

The economics are easy, buy 2 cartons of fags to cover the expenses, anything else is 'profit', so what are the snags? I can only speak for the P&O Portsmouth-Cherburg run, but...
Start 07:45 arrive Cherbourg 11:30, 7 hours in town, depart 20:00 arrive Portsmouth 22:30. it's a very long day!

Exchanging money
'No Commission' bureau de change - lose 5% changing to Euros (buy €1.43, sell €1.58 = 10% difference)
Visa Card payment - not popular in cigarette shops 
French 'hole in the wall' ATMs, tested on 25 May 2004 :- 
€300 withdrawal with Abbey switch card cost £201.21 (certainly one of the cheaper banks)
€300 withdrawal with HSBC switch card cost £209.91 (4.3% dearer than Abbey)
Note: bring 2 or 3 cards to be able to buy in adequate quantities
..or be lazy, buy on the ship, in sterling, about 50p per carton dearer

You can bring as much tobacco and alcohol as you like from the EC (Duty Paid), as long as it is for your own use, 
(this includes gifts - i.e. cigarettes for the wife..., but not for resale or exchange!)
The snag is, how do you prove it? I think the customs argument is that 10 different brands of booze and 10 different brands of fags probably are not only for you and the old lady. I stick to one brand of tobacco and one brand of cigarettes
(and keep your receipts, to prove it's duty paid, otherwise customs can be a pain in the posterior!)
See Customs & Excise note http://www.hmce.gov.uk/public/noticetrav/trav-to-UK-from-EU.htm

Note: people 'lucky' enough to travel on BA lose out, flying via European hubs (Amsterdam, Paris, etc.) allows me to stock up with about £400 of cigarettes and tobacco, saving over £100 each time I come home on leave.


23 Nov 06 EU alcohol ruling cheers traders Retailers have expressed relief at a European court ruling against allowing consumers to buy drinks and cigarettes online at lower duties from abroad.
13 Nov 03 Customs 'unfair' to day-trippers The UK's Customs and Excise takes an over-zealous attitude to people bringing back booze from the continent, according to the European Commission.
28 Jun 06 'Booze cruise' legal battle over The European Commission has called off its legal battle against UK limits on the importation of cheap booze.
20 Oct 04 Hoverspeed seeks £50m in damages Cross-Channel operator Hoverspeed has made a £50m damages claim against Customs & Excise accusing its staff of "heavy-handed" searching of passengers.
13 Aug 02 Customs deny defying High Court Customs officials have rejected accusations of ignoring a court ruling about the way they search cross-Channel shoppers.
05 Nov 02 Heavy-handed' customs in court appeal Customs and Excise launches an appeal today against a High Court ruling which said its officers are too heavy handed with booze cruisers.


Ferry operators and bookings (EXPATS.org.uk)
Boozecruise.com Day trips, shopping in Calais, and Cherbourg, ferry crossings

HM Customs and Excise



Flights average less than £100 each way (Budget flights are generally £50 -£70 if booked online a week in advance on the cheapest days)
'Pension' (hostel) £15.00?? per person per night (in Malaga)
Malaga airport to town - Bus, or train :=  €2.00 each way
Round trip cost = £230.00

Recent / current Spanish tobacco prices (Updated whenever I can)

The setting:
I'm moving to Spain, drove a hi-top van with furniture to Spain, returned with empty van, carrying a holdall full of rolling tobacco for my son.
At Portsmouth I'm pulled over for questioning, nice customs man asks if I'm carrying anything I shouldn't, I volunteer that I'm carrying a bag of rolling tobacco
Interview for 2 hours -
My first question, why have I been stopped, customs man unable to answer, (this is unlawful, they must have a valid reason) but I don't push the point.
Customs questions:
Who is it for? My son
Is it to be sold? no it's a gift
Why 10 cartons? I'm metric
Have I been stopped before? Yes, frequently at Southampton airport, even cautioned once for exceeding the advisory limit. (Note, there is nothing wrong with this, EU law does not have limits) customs man apologises for not being able to check computer info - they don't have one
When was I last stopped? 6 months ago
Lots of silly questions, then repeated to make a statement, 2nd customs man invited to sit in, I assume as a witness to the statement. (With hindsight, I should have insisted on including that customs unable to say why I'm stopped)
Allowed to go on my way with my tobacco.
Jaw aching from maintaining a forced smile for 2 hours
Wasted 2 hours of customs time, I like to think that while they are wasting time with me that others are allowed to proceed without hassle.
I wonder if customs would be better employed looking for drug smugglers, but assume that as government doesn't loose revenue on drugs, it is better for its employees to hassle legitimate people lawfully skirting the UK's excessive tobacco and drinks duties....

Posted June2006