Duty-free or savings-free?
July 29, 2008 6:53 PM   Subscribe

What's the truth behind duty-free shops? Are they always a bad deal? Or is there some stuff that's good to buy, and other stuff you should always avoid?
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Compare prices with local prices. Sometimes they're better, and sometimes they're worse. They sell the same prepackaged goods as everywhere.
posted by Electrius at 7:01 PM on July 29, 2008

It depends on the country. If the country has heavy tariffs and duty, then there is more opportunity for that cost savings to offset ridiculous airport prices (which presumably result from ridiculous rent cost for the store premises at the airport).

Generally it seems that you can make significant savings on liquor, but in most countries most other goods don't have such a huge sin tax on them, so with the premium for buying anything in an airport, you might end up paying more.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:02 PM on July 29, 2008

Alcohol and Tobacco are a good deal if you are entering a high tax country. I've never seen any other goods cheaper than I could buy them elsewhere tax included, and that includes when I lived in the UK with 17% VAT.
posted by bystander at 7:03 PM on July 29, 2008

Note also that many countries offer a tax refund service for tourists if you complete some paperwork and save receipts. This is often able to be processed at the airport on your departure, but can be time consuming and a hassle.
posted by bystander at 7:04 PM on July 29, 2008

I live in a country with a flat sales tax (12.5%) except for liquor and tobacco, which both have quite steep excise charges. I have never noticed anything I considered a "deal" at a duty free store that wasn't spirits or tobacco. Even there the price of my preferred spirits (single malt whisky) aren't a lot cheaper than from a local retailer - maybe 10 or 15%.

In my mind duty free stores are there so you can pick up a last minute bottle of scotch as a gift. Scotch is the present that's acceptable everywhere alcohol is legal.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:24 PM on July 29, 2008

living in canada for a little while, i would periodically return to the states for a visit. i would always stop at the duty free store on the way back and pick up some booze, because it was quite a bit cheaper (i'd say 30-40%) than in ontario. it wasn't much of a savings over normal liquor-store prices in the us, though.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 7:32 PM on July 29, 2008

The duty-free shops in Moldova and Romania were more expensive than in the local countries. The one in Vienna-Schwechat airport has cheap(er) parfums and eaux de toilette.
posted by vkxmai at 7:49 PM on July 29, 2008

I travel a lot so I've seen duty-free shops all over, but I also hate shopping so I generally am only in there when I know about some serious savings. In the west, my experience, you're not saving more than a few bucks on things like perfumes and electronics, maybe a couple more on alcohol/tobacco/etc..

Here in Africa, however, duty free is the only place that you can get alcohol / tobacco labels widely available in the west at anything even approaching a western price. Outside the airports the stuff is just exorbitant, for the most part.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:16 AM on July 30, 2008

If you are going anywhere outside the EU / North America, smokes will be much cheaper out in the street.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:00 AM on July 30, 2008

I can't speak for the concept of duty-free in general, but I can say that whenever I go back home to Puerto Rico, I always buy rum at the airport's duty-free shops. Invariably, it's less expensive by a few dollars.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2008

Seconding the Puerto Rican airport duty-free awesomeness - I have seriously considered buying a cheap ticket to PR just to stock up on booze; you could definitely make your money back if you buy 10 bottles of premium/top-shelf liquor.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:35 AM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: I found a useful post on this over at FlyerTalk: Duty free best finds
posted by smackfu at 6:48 PM on September 21, 2008

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