Duty Free Allowances on arrival – avoid the confusion – check before you fly!

Let’s be clear from the start! When travelling abroad…. your Duty Free Allowances apply to your country of arrival, not to your country of departure.

Duty Free Allowances
Check your Duty Free Customs Allowances and limits before you fly!

Duty Free on Arrival sees a multitude of searches to our online database asking “what are the duty from allowances from …..?”.

Travelers should be asking is “what are the duty free allowances into …..?”. Then see how your departure point relates to your arrival point, because the Allowances differ by route.

It is important to note that where you buy the goods, be they on departure, downtown or even on arrival… how you buy or how much, bears absolutely no relevance to to your inbound limits and restrictions into a different country.

It’s all about what you can take in to a country.

Just because you can buy 600 cigarettes or 10 litres of booze in the departure area of an airport, on a flight, or even whilst cruising or on ferry boat, doesn’t mean that you can take this quantity into your next country.

Simply, you should check ahead, before you travel and before you buy, to see what you are allowed to take in to your next destination. And, if you are doing a stopover for a few days, each different country has their own rules too. All this applies to your itinerary.

Here’s a good Duty Free Tobacco example:-

– Where you live, the Customs Allowance is 400 cigarettes when returning to your home country, so you buy this quantity on departure, but are travelling to one of the many countries that restrict tobaccos, like Singapore or Sydney.

– Even if you are allowed (quite legally), to take this quantity home with you, Singapore, nor Australia will not let you import them when you arrive there. In which case, you are going to have a problem taking them home with you because they are likely to be confiscated in these countries.

Here’s another, for Duty Free Alcohol:-

– Alcohol is restricted at you destination, or during a brief stopover, but not when returning home. (Saudi Arabia is the obvious example).

– Bad news, it doesn’t matter how many litres you are allowed to bring in to your final home airport, you are not going to be able to get that duty free whisky into your destination. So, you won’t even get the chance to bring it back with you.

This all sounds very logical, stating the obvious and something that everybody knows already. But they don’t, travel forums are loaded with comments, questions and complaints, that are full of misconceptions.

One of the biggest misconceptions is how people confuse airline and airport security rules with Customs Rules. Duty Free Allowances can be described in different forms- Customs Allowances, Customs Limits, Exemptions or even Travelers’ Baggage Allowances, but actually, nothing to do with baggage at all, really. Except that you are carrying it with you.

Let’s also clear up another Urban Myth:-

– Just because you buy goods downtown in a normal store at your destination. Let’s assume some perfume, a leather bag or an iPad. This doesn’t mean that your inbound return Customs Limit is greater, just because your bought abroad and paid the local the tax on your goods.

– So, you paid the local sales tax on an iPhone, Prada Bag and some clothes when you purchased them in Miami at great prices, but then returned home to London. You are probably way over your Customs limit on return, with or without paying the tax. (example… £390 Customs limit back into the UK).

– Or you bought your iPhone in JFK airport “tax-free for export”, probably still over your limit of £390.

– In either of these examples above… it is about what monetary Limit is allowed on your return home and not what you paid abroad. With or without the tax is irrelevant.

Duty Free Security
Airline Security Rules are different to Customs Rules

Airline & Airport Security – more confusion when buying. The carrying and arriving with goods bought in-transit or abroad, especially liquids, can be very confusing.

Let us be really clear here. Your inbound Duty Free Allowance and the security rules related to flying and carrying Duty Free goods – are two completely separate issues. They should not be confused, as we often see from commentators on forums.

Here’s the checklist:-

– Customs Rules; the Duty Free Allowances might allow 2 bottles of wine and 1 of vodka into their Country. Whether your liquor is packed in an official “STEB” airport/airline security bag is completely irrelevant to the Officials who want to check your baggage on arrival.

– All that interests your arriving Customs Officials is your Limit, not how it is packed.

– Australia restricts the import of carry-on inbound liquids, like Duty Free whisky, to the last stop on your journey (i.e Singapore direct to Brisbane is ok, but not from London via Singapore) and it needs to be properly packed in a STEB security bag with a receipt from the duty free shop.

– You might buy 3 litres in Singapore airport, have it properly packed in the right STEB bag with receipts too, clears Security Rules fine – but you are still over your inbound Customs Limit, a different issue completely.

– The 100ml limit for carrying liquids on to a flight and through airport security, such as shampoo or mouthwash, is about your personal possessions, not about duty free shopping.

– This limit of 100ml for liquids in-transit has no relevance to what you buy in airport or airline duty free shops and the “clear plastic bag” required of you for your toothpaste, is completely different to the internationally approved “STEB” clear sealed plastic bag needed for your Duty Free purchases.

And finally, here’s another tip for those arriving into the USA… US CBP Pre-clearance, what is it? Dublin Ireland operates pre-clearance, so does Abu Dhabi and also some airports from Canada to the US.

Pre-clearance and duty free
Duty Free & US CBP Pre-Clearance facilities, what does it mean for duty-free shoppers?

Customs and Border Control Pre-clearance into the United States, means that you actually pass though Customs & Immigration formalities in your country of departure, not when you arrive at the US Airport.

– This means that you are now on a Domestic flight, not an international flight, because you cleared Customs, before you departed.

– So you CANNOT buy any Duty Free goods on this flight, or even in the airport before you depart.

To accurately check all the other Rules related to your trip and your destinations, go to our online duty free database by hitting our logo above.

Buying Duty Free cigarettes for price savings gets more complicated

Buying Duty Free cigarettes or tobaccos is still about the best price saving product line when you travel, but buyers need to beware of the growing number of restrictions being imposed at Customs on arrival.

cigarettes duty free
Duty Free cigarettes not permitted

The original duty free shop was the one that sold cigarettes and alcohol at hugely discounted prices, it was this concept that the phrase “duty frees” was built on and has since spurned a global retail hub in airports and on airlines for those seeking a bargain.

But, times have changed and there are more changes to come for the smokers and drinkers amongst us.

Let the buyer beware, especially the smoker and they are best to check before they fly to find out what they can buy in an airport and more importantly, what they can take in to their destination.

duty free cigarettes
Airport Duty Free cigarette display

In 2016 there are numerous countries that will not permit the import of duty free cigarettes. The list is getting longer with Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Sr Lanka and Barbados stopping or reducing the duty free cigarette allowance. These rules apply in some countries, even if you offer to pay the tax on your tobacco.

Next year, the duty free cigarette allowance into Australia for travellers will be reduced to 25 sticks* or one pack, down from 50 sticks*, 2 packs at present. Other countries are planning similar reductions in the future. In the UK airport shopping for cigarettes is now conducted in a special area behind a screen, another rule to deter the sale of duty free tobaccos.

Oddly, there is one known exception where the Customs limits and exemptions have increased, Switzerland. This European, but non-EU Member State is one of the few to increase the allowance to 240 cigarettes on arrival. But, you can only take advantage of these new limits if you buy at the Swiss airport duty free arrivals shops. Why, because most, if not all other airports do not sell cartons of 240 cigarettes (12 packs of 20 sticks).

Duty Free Allowance
Airport Arrivals Store Switzerland cigarette allowance increased to 240 cigarettes

You can check all the world-wide duty free allowances, limits and restrictions, just go to our search pages, enter your destination and click the red Customs icon for details as to what you can buy, or not! Some pre-travel research might just save you time, money or even having those cheap cigarettes confiscated on arrival.

*The conventional cigarette pack contains 20 sticks, the carton 10 packs totalling 200 cigarettes. Many airports now sell multi-packs of 400, 600 or even 1000 cigarettes. It is very rare to find airport duty free stores selling packs of 25 cigarettes or cartons of 240 (12 pack of 20).

This means that if you want to take in 25 or 50 cigarettes into places like Australia or New Zealand, you need to buy them in the airport arrivals stores located in these countries.

** Duty Free on arrival does not promote or sell duty free cigarettes, tobaccos or cigars. We just provide useful information to assist consumers who may wish to buy on their travels.