How to make the best of duty-free shops at international airports

duty free

If you are not someone who will delve into a book while waiting for the boarding announcement at an international airport, it is likely that your eyes stray to the duty-free shops.

Many believe that buying duty free stuff from international airports abroad is cheaper. With the advent of online shopping, some have started questioning the wisdom of making purchases from duty free shops. Surveys have revealed that the same products by the same brand are sold at different rates at different duty free shops internationally. It has also come to the notice that even within one international airport, the same commodity is sometimes sold at different rates at different duty free outlets.

Here are some tips which could help you make a decision whether to purchase an article at a duty free shop or not.

• Check if the article you wish to buy is available in India or not and if available, at what price. This could be checked online. Easy currency converter programs are also available online.

• If you are making the purchase using credit card, check if there are any charges applicable for international transactions. If such charges are applicable, you might end up paying more than the price on offer.

• Compare the price of the item you wish to buy across the duty free shops of the airport.

• If you might travel across many international airports, it would be worthwhile to do some homework before you set out. Websites such as 'The Points Guy,' 'The Duty Free Addict' etc could be referred to for comparing the prices and to locate which commodity is cheaper at which international airport.


'The Points Guy' surveyed 50 international airports spread over 6 continents last year. They identify Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Grand Cayman as the cheapest airports for duty free purchase. Santorini (Greece), Sydney, Zurich are some of the costliest airports as per the same survey.

For cosmetics, the best outlets are in Vienna, London, and Dubai. London also features as one of the best destinations for perfumes along with Madrid and Porto.

Many think that Bangkok offers the best quality products at cheapest rates. Surprisingly, the cosmetics and perfumes are the costliest at Bangkok.

Survey across 14 international airports in USA revealed Honolulu to be the cheapest for duty free stuff while Seattle ranked as the costliest.

It is good to be aware of the duty free allowance of your native country and of the countries you are visiting.

If you are purchasing things beyond the duty free allowance, you are liable to be levied customs duty. Study the duty free allowance of things like alcohol and cigarettes.

Textiles and garments may prove to be a lot costlier in duty free shops when compared to online prices and the prices offered at the super stores in India. Avoid purchasing souvenirs from duty free shops. Souvenirs could be purchased from street vendors at cheaper prices.

These suggestions are not to dissuade you from making purchases at duty free shops. However, attempts should be made to ensure that whatever you purchase give you an economic advantage.