Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Duty free

How ‘free’ is Duty-Free?

“A bottle of Chanel Allure eau de toilette spray sells for the equivalent of US$102 in Lisbon versus US$147 in Melbourne. That same item goes for US$93 in Heathrow — impressive compared to what you would pay in Australia, but not so much when you consider that Sephora sells it for only $90 in U.S. stores and online.” Source

Chhavi Doonga figures out the real deal.

As if to reward you for the long queues at Immigration and Security, there’s Duty-Free. Gleaming chocolate boxes beckon. Perfumes lead you by the nose. Wine bottles seduce you with come-hither price tags.

Should you go?

Well, you’d have to be a Baba-something to be able to resist the lure of of a delightful offer soaked in tax free alcohol. But before you fall into temptation, there are things you need to know about duty free shopping. You are put under the illusion that you are getting something for nothing, but remember you’re only avoiding taxes.




In fact, most of the times the products are not tax ‘free.’ The shops only reduce the imposed import tax. So, it’s important to find out how much tax is on what kind of product and in which country. reveals that the international airports of New Zealand offer the world’s best duty-free bargains on wine, thanks to relatively cheap dollar and abundant local produce. Everyone’s duty-free favourite Dubai really does offer amazing prices on gold. At Singapore’s Changi airport, you can buy electronics, watches and cameras at upto 30% less than their retail prices.


Team Travel Secrets has discovered that in most South Asian countries, chocolates, tobacco and alcohol are often cheaper in city outlets than at the airport.

In an interview to CNN, Yngve Bia, president of the duty-free research company Generation Research,says that price depend on two things: geography and currency exchange rates.

Here’s a comparison of different product prices in duty free shops of Europe to give you an idea:


Namit Vashishta, 24, works with a multinational company and travels abroad 10 months a year. He says, “I have a huge collection of good-quality perfumes, thanks to duty free shopping. If you know your currency rates, then duty free shopping can be really profitable for you.”

Yash sood, 26, a former employee of the Delhi Airport Duty free department says “People often worry that duty-free products are inferior quality, but that is not true. The tax in these shops is not removed, it’s only reduced.”

The 3 Commandments of Duty-Free Shopping

1. Know your limits:

Warning: Your duty-free might not remain so once you get home! There are limits your home country imposes on purchases abroad. For example for United States, it’s usually $400-$800. Buying beyond that sum would result in a duty charge.


In Europe, there’s a bonus perk: Duty-free shops in airports and ports are ‘tax-free shops,’ too, which means you are spared the value added tax (or V.A.T., a type of sales tax) that would otherwise be included in the price of goods sold elsewhere in the European Union.  Again, you need to know if the VAT free price is cheaper than what you get back home.

2. Don’t Impulse-Buy:

While this tip applies to any kind of shopping, it is especially important in duty-free because the price changes with each place. You don’t want to buy something and later realise you get it cheaper at home! For example, Hong Kong International’s DFS Galleria, a duty-free shopping area, sells the Armani Obo Bag for $450 (HK$3,500). But it’s on sale at Armani’s website for just$285.


Wait till your trip ends to shop for duty-free. This will keep your baggage light, help you calculate how much you can spare, and allow you time to compare prices across a few cities.

3. Identify Your Buy Before You Fly

Want electronics? Don’t buy them in Australia—they are much cheaper in Asia and the US. Craving a cosmetics fix? The Caribbean has tax havens that can save you between 30 to 50% on topline company products. Consider taking a cruise there. Looking for luxury pewter? Kuala Lumpur Airport—eyes closed! Valuable information like this is sprinkled all over the Internet. Just click ‘Best duty-free deals on cosmetics/electronics/whatever else’ and Go!


Everyone likes to come back home with a bag full of goodies, but remember, your bag of memories needs to be chunkier!

So, grab the cheese and avoid the trap.

Happy shopping!




What hidden expenses should I watch out for when travelling?

  • Duty Free Shops: Not paying taxes can be a boon, but travellers often ignore the elevated  prices of  common buys like chocolates and jewellery; sometimes making them a lot more expensive than regular shops. So steer clear of these shops unless  you are fond of enhancing your alcohol and cigarette collection. Image
  • Early is Cheap: Don’t be lulled by the assumption that the earlier you book your flight, the better deals you get. The Airlines Reporting Corporation came to a conclusion last year that tickets are cheapest 6 weeks before the actual  flight. Around this time, airlines try to max out their reservations to avoid any un-booked seats. Of course, you risk unavailability by the time you reach that 6 week mark!  Read more at
  • Say no to Travel Agencies: We know online bookings can be ‘out in the open’, but  travel agents have multiple contacts and deals with hotels and airlines likewise…which, believe it or now, can benefit you. Don’t miss out on a sweet package before weighing your options! Image

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