The Real Deals In Duty Free


Airport duty-free has always been a favorite place for travelers to get gifts, stock up on booze or whittle away time between flights. The word “duty” means “tax” and the chance to buy items without any tariffs can be a rare opportunity to save some serious cash.

Yet at times, even the most experienced frequent fliers can be left wondering if the airport is really the bastion of bargains it’s supposed to be. You’re right to be skeptical. Sometimes those airport shops are light on deals rather than duty. To help simplify your bargain hunting, here are five items that are typically decently discounted at duty free.

1. Alcohol.

There aren’t many countries in the world that don’t tax alcohol so it’s always a sure bet that you’ll enjoy significant discounts if you buy booze at duty-free. But before you decide to max out your credit card on cases of wine, remember that each country has maximum allowances for alcohol.

Be sure to know how much you’re legally allowed to bring into the country. You don’t want to wait until you’re going through customs to find out you were only allowed to bring in two — and not twenty — bottles of expensive Bordeaux.

2. Tobacco.

Like alcohol, cigarettes and cigars are heavily taxed and are always cheaper at duty free (sometimes by as much as 50 percent or more). Be warned: like alcohol, tobacco has strict allowances so make sure you know how much you’re allowed to purchase. (If you’re not sure, often the people working at Duty-free know or can look it up for you.)

3. Cosmetics.

Often high-end (like Chanel and Dior) makeup brands and skin creams are cheaper at duty free. They are almost never on sale in regular department stores so whatever discount you can get is usually worthwhile.

4. Specialized Items.

Items that you would find in abundance in the country you are visiting, for example, maple syrup in Canada or Swiss Chocolate from Switzerland, can often be cheaper at duty-free. Be cautious, however, these specialized items can be hit or miss and retailers will sometimes mark the items up knowing that they make popular gifts for tourists.

5. Sunglasses.

It may seem strange but brand-name sunglasses are frequently cheaper at duty-free. While it’s often best to stay away from brand-name items like clothing and purses, for some inexplicable reason, many travel experts agree that sunglasses can typically be had for a good deal at airports.

In general, sticking with the above five items will ensure that any shopping you do at duty free nets you some real savings.

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