How to find the best Duty Free Prices – check before you fly

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How you can find the best Duty Free prices online, before you fly.  Here are some handy tips.

When you know the stopovers for your journey, find all the Duty Free pre-order stores on your route plan. Today, this is easily done online. Then just go through the order process to find what you are looking for.

Stating the obvious? Yes, because proper price comparison can only be done by you. Many of those sites out there get it wrong, especially for liquors. Tobacco prices are even harder to find and we have seen sites comparing the wrong prices – like the cheaper duty-free with the higher priced duty-paid** goods.

Duty Free iPhone
Is it a good deal?

– Search “duty free pre-order” – “Duty Free click and collect” or “Duty Free reserve and collect” and add the name of your destination, airport or airline at the end.

– Or use the Duty Free on arrival online shopping guide * to find stores at your destination.

– If you think your own Country is expensive, check at your airport Duty Free arrivals store before you leave home. Airports usually base their prices on the local Downtown stores. If these are expensive, the airport will be too!

– Airline in-flight stores for on board shopping is often cheaper than buying in the airport.

– If you are travelling overland, Duty Free shops at the Border can have the most competitive prices, more so than airports or airlines.

– Special Duty Free Territories are the locations with extra Tax advantages: Places like Gibraltar, Ceuta and Melilla, Hainan Island, Samnaun, Panama, Andorra, Helgoland, The Aland Islands, San Andrés, Tioman Islands and Johor Bahru near Singapore.

– Dubai Duty Free is one of the best places in the world to buy Duty Free cigarettes or liquors.

– Now the Pound is lower than before, Great Britain is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy electronics, like cameras, phones or laptops. Thailand is similar with a massive electronics Mall called MBK, specialising in phones or the laptop Mall Pantip Plaza. Shop downtown, rather than in the airport and recover the sales tax when you leave.

USA Tax Free
Louisiana Tax Free

– The United States is one of the most competitive places to buy Fragrances and Cosmetics. Prices are very cheap compared to other countries and the range is enormous. Shopping in Downtown stores is as good as in the airport.

– Be cautious of stores claiming to be “Duty Free” that are not attached to an airport or airline. 

Duty Free complaints

– Most Border shops sell goods at duty free prices, but some may not actually be be accredited stores. The same applies to some online stores who use the phrase “duty free” just to attract customers.

– For Fashion, clothing and leather goods check out the village style Outlet Malls downtown or near big cities, especially in Europe or the USA. Here, you will find major brand names at the best prices. Plus, you can often get the local tax back when you depart the airport.

Overall, there is no substitute for doing your own research and checking all the online stores for your route to find the best duty free prices.

Enjoy your shopping!

*We are updating our store links all the time, apologies if some don't work or are missing. The Duty Free retailers have only just started to move online with pre-order sites, so we are doing our best to update. **There are now many restrictions on the sale and publicity of duty free cigarettes, tobaccos or cigars. Some bona fide Duty Free stores still display and sell tobaccos for pre-order, but it is getting more difficult to find them. If you want up to date prices for a location, post a question on a travel forum.
Internacional: Para buscar tiendas libres de impuestos, catálogos y precios, ingresa tu ciudad o país de destino y haga clic "Go". Cuando encuentre la información de su destino haga clic en el icono rojo de Aduanas para la búsqueda restricciones aduaneros. Para encontrar lojas duty free e os preços, inserir destino, click e Go! A cota de isenção alfandegária refere-se ao seu país de chegada e não ao país de partida. Os regulamentos alfandegários podem ser encontrados clicando no botão aduaneiro para a esquerda ou procurando seu país de destino.

Best Duty-Free Shopping tip – do not compare prices!

What is the best Duty-Free shopping tip we can offer to you? Be careful when comparing prices and get to know the rules in advance.

Duty-Free shopping tip
Compare prices with caution!

If you are travelling soon, planning to shop duty-free and want the best deals, don’t compare prices or at least beware of those online price comparisons.

Why? Because, you’ll find yourself running around in circles trying to compare so many products, pack or bottle sizes and prices which probably do not apply to your journey plan, your destination, the currency exchange rate, or where you live.

Not to mention the Duty Free Allowances and limits permitted on arrival!

Duty Free on Arrival is here to assist you as best we can by pointing out and advising on the pitfalls in advance. We are not here to put a gloss on matters, just to promote one store or another.

Indeed we mention duty-free price comparison too on our site, but we suggest you go about it in a more accurate fashion. (see our summary below). The Tax Free shopping blog Tax Free Travel agrees with our advice too with a scathing report on some alleged duty-free comparison sites.

Price comparison for Duty-Free shopping is an almost impossible task, because there are so many different variables for each shopper. Not least your currency exchange rates and its daily fluctuation.

Duty Free Rio de Janeiro
Duty Free shop in Rio de Janeiro Galeão airport with prices shown in US Dollars

Here’s a good example: All prices in Brazilian Duty Free Shops are based on US Dollars, you will often get your change in US Dollars too, even if you pay in Yen, Pounds or Euros. Or, you might get your change in Brazilian Reais. But probably not your home currency.

This makes it confusing and often virtually impossible to compare prices if your home currency is not Dollars. How do you work out what currency you want to pay with and whether by cash or card?

Credit Card payment has other issues to be cautious of, because when you buy in some stores, the base currency is US Dollars and not local currency, this payment is then converted back to your home currency. In effect, this means you have two exchange rates to worry about, not one.

Another thing to watch out for is DCC or “dynamic currency conversion” where you pay by credit card, but in your home currency, even when you are abroad. This can be convenient, but it may give you an inferior exchange rate? The upside though, is it may save you that +/-3% overseas billing charge when you get home. Either way it is something to consider, before you shop.

All these factors can really confuse matters and make many of the duty free prices offered by price comparison sites, invalid or substantially different to the reality.

Duty-free spirits
Did you check the bottle sizes for your duty-free offer?

And, when you are buying liquids……..  (liquids can mean liquors, wines, beers, perfumes or even cosmetics), watch the bottle sizes being compared very carefully.

Whisky or Gin prices might be offered in one airport store in Litres, but the comparison site might compare it with 70cl or 75cl bottle sizes?

That’s a size difference of 33% …. more than enough to confuse the prices being compared.  So, don’t just look at the prices shown on the comparison site or that special promotion, make sure you check the bottle sizes too.

Duty Free Gibraltar
Duty Free shopping in Gibraltar near to Spain, but what is your allowance back home?

This store in Duty-Free Gibraltar clearly tells you the bottle sizes, but what size do you normally buy in nearby Spain?

What is your Duty Free Allowance back home when arriving from Gibraltar compared to the rules from from Spain?

In fact, EU residents can only take home one litre from Gibraltar, but from Spain there is no limit, because it is seen as a domestic journey.

Each traveler has their own plan, route and objectives, does the online price comparison really give a true reflection? Ask yourself the question before you press that go to my basket button.

Confused? For those who want to shop on their travels, we offer our best duty-free shopping tip in a summary….

Compare your prices, but do it yourself, by going to the store’s pre-order website for your destination. (Most airports or airlines now have one).

If you see a duty-free online price comparison*, check the bottle or pack sizes quoted?

Check the airport stores they compare and make your own comparison, before you buy.

In The European Union, many airport duty-free shops have two different prices …. do you know why and is like-with-like actually being compared? Are the prices being compared correctly?

You might be told that goods are cheaper at your destination, but can you take them in? Check you allowances on arrival first**

There are no hidden secrets to shopping duty-free, the open secret is to research in advance for yourself and make sure that you check before you fly!

*Travel Retailers don't like price comparison, unless of course, they know they are the cheapest. So retailer prices are rarely shared with comparison websites. Details are often "scraped" from retailer sites and in Duty Free, where there are many Tax Rules, this means that incorrect, inaccurate or differing products, sizes or prices could be compared. **In India, Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Hong Kong, Singapore and other locations, duty-free tobaccos cannot be imported into the country. Or, at least, some territories only allow a one pack maximum. 

**Many countries now restrict the online display and sale of duty-free cigarettes or tobaccos, so the comparing of prices is impossible. The only way to get information is to go to travel forums and ask a question.
Internacional: Para buscar tiendas libres de impuestos, catálogos y precios, ingresa tu ciudad, aeropuerto o país de destino y haga clic "Go". Cuando encuentre la información de su destino haga clic en el icono rojo de Aduanas para la búsqueda restricciones aduaneros.

Para encontrar lojas duty free e os preços, inserir aeroporto ou destino, click e Go! A cota de isenção alfandegária refere-se ao seu país de chegada e não ao país de partida. Os regulamentos alfandegários podem ser encontrados clicando no botão aduaneiro para a esquerda ou procurando seu país de destino.

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