What does duty free mean? “Duty” is the tax you pay for bringing a product across international borders. If you buy something “duty free” it means that you’re not paying taxes on it in the country where you purchased the item.
Ideally, when you buy something such as wine in a foreign country and bring it to your country, you may have to pay tax on the item twice; in the foreign country as well as in your home country.
So does Duty Free actually save you money? What about the actual Duty Free price? Sometimes the savings is in the tax-free element and not necessarily in the actual purchase price. Actually the duty free prices vary widely, depending on the country and airport.
If you’re keen about saving your money through shopping at duty free, you can research products you want to buy and compare the prices from airport to airport and also separately compare it to the price you’d pay outside the airport.
Typically, liquor and tobacco products are the best deals because they are usually subject to the highest taxes. What you have to remember is that this doesn’t mean that the price of the alcohol is lower at the duty-free shop than it is at your local supermarket.
You may occasionally enjoy good deals depending on the countries you’re traveling from and to.
Here are some tips on buying alcohol duty free at the airport.
1. Good timing
Buying alcohol at the start of a multi-shop journey may get your items confiscated by officials in countries that have carry-on alcohol restrictions.
Unless you want your items tossed, consider whether you will have access to your checked luggage or if you’re transferring through an airport and going through security again where your alcohol will become a problem.
But also waiting until your return trip through the airport may limit your selection depending on your departure area.
However, if the departure and arrival gates of the airport are in the same space, keep an eye on available options as you deplane so as to know whether to shop elsewhere before your return flight.
2. Avoid Generic Brands
There’s a whole world of other options to consider when travelling rather than sticking to your usual alcoholic beverages.
You will discover that mass-produced bottles are way cheaper at your local liquor store where the seller avoids airport markups.
Check the availability of items online before you shop so you don’t end up paying premium for something you can easily find locally.
3. Look at your Location
This means thinking beyond the airport and looking at the area’s specialties. This will help you avoid bringing a mediocre product to areas where the local product is far superior.
Alternatively, if you’re flying to a remote area or where alcohol is prohibitively expensive, you may consider buying on your way.
It is important to note that duty free alcohol often comes specially bottled to suit customs allowances for example in one liter sizes. So when shopping don’t compare the size to your local liquor store since they’re allowed to sell larger sizes.
Destination defines the quality of selection. Big wine producing countries showcase a greater variety of their own wines for example Italy, France and New Zealand. Countries such as Jamaica, Caribbean and Barbados are popularly known for rum. Don’t shy away from asking what’s on sale just in case the signs aren’t displayed clearly.
In contrast to spirits, wines are distributed on a much smaller scale. This means that you may not necessarily find the same labels from shop to shop. Ensure you benchmark prices to compare value before purchasing.
Beware of countries that do not allow alcohol purchased either on board or dropped off at the gate, to be kept in carry-on luggage. It could be confiscated because of cabin restrictions. Instead, pack the bottles in your checked luggage after reclaiming them and before customs inspection.
A good tip is to buy the hard to find wine and spirits from the countries of their origin and everything else just buy on a case-by-case basis.