Can I buy Duty Free at the Border, possible and where?

Shopping for Duty Free at the Border is growing, at the frontier crossings between Brazil and Uruguay and also with Argentina, huge emporiums are now opening.

Border Duty Free store
Duty Free at the Border

On the US Border with Mexico there are also huge Outlet Malls, all containing a Duty Free Shop. Russians can drive to Finland or Norway to buy and in Asia, even some of the trains stations have Duty Free shops.

Shopping at the Border is big business, especially for those who live in a high tax country. But what you are allowed to buy and where, can get confusing, especially if you are a foreign visitor.

The Duty Free on Arrival global shopping guide also covers land travel information of where to find Duty Free at the border.  This section details the rules and some of the key stores at each destination. (There are too many for a complete list of stores).

So, if you are travelling soon by road and crossing a border, check our land based Duty Free section.

Mexico Duty Free
Duty Free shopping going north from Tijuana Mexico, shop whilst you wait.

The world is a big place to cover in one article, so let us concentrate on The Americas just now. Did you know that at almost every land border crossing from Canada in the North down to Argentina in the south, almost certainly has a Duty Free Border store at the frontier point?

Here are the key points to look out for, if you want specifics go to our directory of travel points. You can then find the relevant Allowances and Exemptions for your journey.

Paraguay Duty Free
Cross into Paraguay from Brazil for Duty Free at the Border

– Anyone crossing a border internationally can buy Duty Free goods on their way out of a country.

– Usually, you buy on departure in the country you are leaving, not at the one you are arriving into. But there are exceptions.

– If you are a Resident in one country, sometimes you cannot buy in the shops located where you live. Some shops serve foreigners only, not locals.

Sounds complicated, but this is done to stop the locals buying daily. Unfortunately, they want Tourist Dollars, not your local currency.

– In some countries, like the USA, the shop must deliver your goods right to your car, bus or van and you cannot take them direct from the store. This is due to Customs regulations.

– In many places your limits are restricted, depending on how much time your are out of one country, before you return. If you don’t plan to return, the allowances could be greater.

– Bear in mind that your Duty Free exemptions apply to your country of arrival, not to your country of departure. At least when you cross a border, Customs know exactly where you have arrived from!

– You can’t go backwards and forward in the same day and keep buying extra goods. Obviously this is to stop people “loading up” with discounted goods.

– Border stores are usually less expensive than airport stores, because the local competition is fierce. If you are flying off on a trip that takes in land borders, bear this in mind.

– The product range at the border is much more extensive, they have more space to work with and baggage weight is not an issue, especially if you are in your own car.

Duty Free at the border
Brazilian Duty Free Customs warning 30km from the border with Uruguay

– Don’t be greedy! In many countries Customs have Limit Control Units, anything up to 100km inland of the border.  So, just when you think that you have sneaked through that diamond-encrusted watch, you might be in for a shock.

– Many shops in Central and South America have US Dollar based prices, in some places you can only pay in Dollars. If you home currency is weak, the bargains will be less.

– Unlike airport stores, “big-ticket” electronic items, such as TVs, refrigerators and even aircon units can be purchased. So can speciality foods and sometimes not so speciality, like Ketchup being sold in giant packs!

– Keep all receipts for any inspection by Customs, don’t get your purchases gift-wrapped in case they are opened and Inspectors are very wise to receipts that reflect a ridiculously cheap buying price!

– Often you need to be prepared for a long line of cars and a long wait to cross, make it easy to show your purchases to Officials. The easier it is, the quicker you cross.

All the specifics can be found in our directory, just enter your Country or City and the details are there for you to check before you travel.


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