What's Actually Worth Buying At The Duty-Free Shop

Photo: SmartDesign Group, Flickr

As if your holiday needed more opportunities to spend money, you find yourself considering the duty-free shop at the airport. Sure, you can walk past some of them, keeping your money deep in your pockets as you seek an appetising pre-flight snack. But sometimes, you can’t help but get funnelled right through that duty-free pit stop, forced to put on your own blinders or be tempted by luxury goods. It can’t hurt to look around, right?

Sure, take a look. But don’t expect bargains.

Shop at a duty-free store and you can make purchases without having to pay the origin country’s tax, as well. But since duty-free shops give you a tax break, they’re not always compelled to give you a deal on the high-end products they stock. It's also important to note that Australians over the age of 18 are limited to bringing $900 worth of duty free goods into Australia, while those under Australia can bring up to $450 of duty free goods through.

Here are the few things that may actually be worth splashing out on next time you find yourself shopping duty-free:

Alcohol

If you’re arriving in a country where booze is more expensive due to a high tax on alcohol, Skyscanner recommends picking up a bottle of your favourite elixir so you can make your own cocktail hour at your hotel room. If you’re returning from your trip, pick up a bottle of whatever local spirit is in vogue to avoid paying a premium for it back home.

Perfume

You can find perfume at up to 50 per cent off at duty-free shops, although it’s not a guarantee you’ll get a deal, Rebecca O’Kane of The Travel writes. But this is also a category where you might be able to find a good buy beyond the monetary value. Get The Gloss notes that some fragrances offer products exclusive to duty-free shops, so if you’re loyal to a certain brand or scent, you may be able to pick up a unique souvenir for yourself.

Additional tips for browsing duty-free

Electronics and clothing aren’t usually a good deal at duty free shops as regular retailers often have better sale prices. In the case of electronics, beware of older models that may not have the specifications you want.

If you’re itching to purchase something that’s a little more spendy at home, research typical pricing in advance of your trip. If you’re hanging out in the terminal and decide to buy perfume on a whim, a pricing difference between home and the country you’re visiting may not matter to you. But if you’re looking to save money, having a “normal” price in mind can help you avoid any buyer’s remorse.

A rule of thumb, if you haven’t done your research or can’t get a signal to research pricing while you’re in the airport: local products, meaning from the country that airport is in, are most likely to be priced competitively. If you’re in France, items from French brands, like cosmetics or perfumes, are most likely to be priced nicely. Anything that’s been imported is less likely to be a bargain.

One last note on the ever-important topic of snacks. If you’re coming home and have leftover local currency, spending it at the duty-free store might be a better deal than trying to exchange it when you get home. Pick up some candy or that local snack you suspect you’ll be craving long after you return. You won’t get a bargain on these items, but it’s a great way to make the most of those past few foreign bills or coins.


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