Find out where to get the cheapest duty free items in the world.
Think you’re always bagging a bargain when you shop in duty free at the airport? Think again!
You would be naive to think that you’re always going to save cash if you shop in duty free. Prices can fluctuate, almost doubling in some duty free shops! Skyscanner sent out some agents on a secret mission to price check some of your most desired duty free items in three continents to find out which store is really the cheapest.
Learn how to bag a bargain with our helpful guide, or scroll to our comparison of prices, and find out which is the best airport to stock up on the booze and sweet treats while abroad – including London, Dubai and Moscow
How does duty free work?
The essence of duty free shopping is rather self-explanatory: they sell products without duty (local import tax). For example, buying goods in a duty free shop in Barcelona Airport means that you avoid paying the duty tax that Spain places on imported goods, normally included as part of a product’s list price. In addition to this, duty free shops in airports are also tax-free. This means that you don’t have to pay VAT (Value Added Tax) which would normally be included in the price of goods sold in the European Union. This could mean a saving of between 5% and 25% depending on the country, which is great news if you’re panic-buying last-minute presents on the way back from holiday – or just can’t resist a good deal! Governments want to make sure that goods sold without charging import duty leave the country, hence why duty free is found in airports, sea ports and at border control. It is however, important to note that there are exceptions. In Malaysia and Argentina, for example, duty free shops are located not only in the departure lounges but also in the arrival lounges after border control. The Philippines have taken it one step further and have a duty free shopping centre situated just a mile away from the airport in Manila. The largest duty free networks include: World Duty Free , Dufry , Gebr. Heinemann , DFS , Flemingo .
Why do prices vary in duty free stores?
Legal trade tax is much cheaper at duty free shops compared with the high street. But duty free retailers are not exempt from all taxes, but only on parts – income tax is charged on top of employee wages for example. Secondly, the reduction in the overall tax rate of say 15% does not necessarily lead to lower prices for the same goods. There are several reasons for this. “The prices depend on two factors: geography and currency exchange rate”, explains the president of Generation Research. In addition, if the seller is simply wanting to earn more, they can take advantage of the monopoly position available to them – interestingly, sales in Dubai airport’s duty free are approaching an impressive $2billion a year.
Where is the cheapest duty free store?
The cheapest airport for duty free is entirely dependent on the product that you’re hoping to buy. If you’re after a 1L bottle of Martini Bianco then the cheapest option would be to buy it from Berlin airport, where it is a staggering 51% cheaper than in Amsterdam airport. It’s always a good idea if you have a particular product in mind, such as a bottle of perfume, to research its price in the various airports that you will be flying through. If you were in Dubai and flying back to Berlin, a little online research would reveal that you can pick up a bottle of My Burberry 90ml Eau de Toilette for 25% less in Berlin than in Dubai’s airport. The only thing that we have found to be the exception in duty free shopping is souvenirs. In most cases, they are more expensive at the airport, even without paying tax, than most souvenir shops in the city of departure – so it pays to pick up some novelty tea towels and tacky fridge magnets before you head for home!
Compare prices of goods in duty free shops from America to Japan
We have compiled a list of common goods – cigarettes, alcohol, sweets and perfumes – likely to be found in any duty free shop. Colleagues were asked to take photos of duty free prices while they were travelling abroad and this was teamed with data that has come from the airport duty free websites. All prices displayed here have been converted from the local currency into euros, using the exchange rate on the day of comparison. NOTE: at time of publication exchange rates were 1.43 euros to the pound.
We compared the prices of Martine Bianco 1L and Jack Daniels Black Label 1L.
We compared the prices of cartons of Marlboro Gold cigarettes.
We found out how much My Burberry Eau de Toilette 90ml costs.
We compared the prices of 350g boxes of Fererro Rocher chocolates and, of course, the unofficial symbol of all duty free shops, the 400g bar of Toblerone chocolate.
It can be seen that Amsterdam, Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv are the most expensive airports when it comes to duty free for the products we have researched. Our results also suggest that possibly Berlin the cheapest airport for duty free shopping.
Official sites duty free shops
We have put together some links for you to make it even more simple to research duty free prices before you jet off.
London, Edinburgh, and two dozen UK airports – worlddutyfree.com
New York, Washington, Miami and 11 other US airports – dutyfreeexpress.com
Budapest, Bratislava, Sydney and three dozen airports in Austria, Germany, Italy and Norway – heinemann-dutyfree.com
Amsterdam – schiphol.nl
Athens – dutyfreeshops.gr
Delhi – delhidutyfree.co.in
Dubai – dubaidutyfree.com
Dublin – theloop.ie
Copenhagen – shop.cph.dk
Montevideo – dutyfree.com.uy
Seoul – lottedfs.com
Singapore – ishopchangi.com
Tel Aviv – dutyfree.co.il
Tokyo – duty-free-japan.jp .
These sites are not only helpful to compare prices, but can also save you time. – many shops offer a great pre-order service, where you can choose what you want to buy online a few days before your departure and simply pick up your purchases on the way through the airport.
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*Published May 2015. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability”