Are airport duty-free shops really cheaper?

  • I guess this one will be hard to answer because prices vary from airport to airport, but...every time I travel friends tell me not to forget to "bring something from the free shop".

    On a general basis it would be advisable to wait for the free shop to buy things you are willing to buy?

    Is the price difference really worth the risk of not finding what you are looking for at the airport? or is it just a marketing stunt to get more sales?

    I've just asked a related question after reading this one: **How to buy duty free other than at the airport?**

    Things to watch out for: • airports charge some of the highest rent for retails space anywhere - this can make the prices of items higher without duty at the airport than with duty at a normal shop • some airports mark prices in a major currency and charge high exchange rates to convert from the local currency (Mexico City airport used to sell in pesos but went to USD and all the prices went up) • products are cheaper in the country they're from than in countries that had to import them - so which airport you buy at can make a big difference • some products are not made where you think!

    also: airport shops usually tend to stock high price brands you may not normally purchase if you were to buy the type of item. E.g. a shop selling watches may sell Armani, Cartier, brands like that, when you're used to buying Seiko or Omega that cost 10% on a bad day.

  • BrendanMcK

    BrendanMcK Correct answer

    8 years ago

    It depends on the item. Alcoholic spirits (whiskey etc) and tobacco are the usual items to get, since they typically are the most heavily taxed items, so can be considerably cheaper at Duty Free than in either country. Usually you'll be able to get all of the major name-brand items, and sometimes some regional items (eg. Jenevers - Dutch gins - if in Amsterdam, or Icelandic spirit Brennivín if departing Reykjavík), but often best not to count on it.

    Note that if you purchase spirits you might run into complications with regulations allowing or limiting liquids on flights. Usually you should be fine if it's a non-stop flight, you'll typically get the bottles in a special sealed and marked bag. But it might be trickier if the flight has transfers that include additional security checks; you may or may not have an opportunity to transfer the liquids to checked baggage.

    Duty Free stores at airports also tend to have selections of perfumes, jewelry, and some electronics, but I've no idea how good value those are. There's also assorted candy and gifts available. I suspect some of these are often aimed more at guilting a traveller who feels obliged to return with some sort of gift to his/her sweetie or kids rather than actually representing good value.

    Found a couple of articles that seem to back up the "go for the booze and cigs" angle:

    Interestingly enough, I knew from your first sentence ("Alcoholic spirits (whiskey etc) and tobacco are the usual items to get") that you were a man, who rarely see beyond what THEY buy [unless, like me, they're in the DF business]. Alcohol and tobacco represent, in airports and downtown duty-free shops, between 20 and 30% of all DF sales. The top sellers are cosmetics and perfumes, which can represent as much as 70% of the T/O.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM