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.


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