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Airport Duty Free Shopping

Beware airport duty free shops. Amsterdam: the duty free shop's price for Channel #5 was $50 more than what I paid at Galleries Lafayette, the most deluxe French department store.

Bell's Scotch, $15 in downtown Barcelona, $17 duty free at the airport. Similar at other airports. However, at the Port of Valencia (and in Canada), it was $11.

Posted by
8889 posts

Old news I am afraid. Very few "Duty Free" shops are the bargain they used to be. Never buy without knowing the price outside the airport.
Many shops in airports are not "Duty Free", they just look the same but nowhere do they actually claim to be "Duty Free". Travellers within the EU are not allowed Duty Free, so many (most) airport shops still charge duty+VAT so they can sell to the majority of travellers who are Intra-EU.
Beware the phrase "Tax Free", it means nothing; that is not "Duty Free".

Posted by
6791 posts

Indeed, you have to know the brand, quality and prices. I have found that the Duty Free often sells full-liter bottles rather than 75ml as found elsewhere. I bought a liter of Calvados at Orly, when flying out on Icelandair, after comparing the prices in town. Better quality and larger bottle, similar price.

However, one year living in Paris, I had my cousin bring me my favorite Dior perfume from a department store in LA because it was less expensive than Sephora in Paris or the department stores. You are right--got to know your prices, ... or just buy, enjoy, and don't look at what it could have been--just like buying airfare!

Posted by
8889 posts

I have found that the Duty Free often sells full-liter bottles rather than 75ml as found elsewhere.

Bets, That is because the duty free limit, the amount of spirits most countries allow you you to bring in without charging duty, is 1 litre. These are special bottles just for sale in duty free shops.

Posted by
5005 posts

The value of DF shops is the convenience of last minute souvenir shopping. The high rent of airport retail space has to be paid for somehow.

Posted by
13958 posts

The only item I've found that's the same price on the street and in Duty Free is Swatch watches (I love them). I bought two when changing planes last month in Geneva - the Swiss-made watches are cheaper in Switzerland than anywhere else.

Posted by
8889 posts

Shops in airports are part of the reason airports are such a horrible experience. Airports make a large part of their profits from shops, so to them shops are more important than passengers.

  • Duty Free is a tax subsidy to air transport. No other method of transport gets such a subsidy. Abolish it.
  • In order to get to the departure lounge you are forced to take a zig-zag course through a shop, dragging your bags. If you were allowed to go in a straight line, it would be a fraction of the distance.
  • The longer you are at the airport, the more likely you are to buy. It is in the airports' financial interest to keep you as long as possible in the departure lounge, so you go into the shops out of sheer boredom. Need to devise some way so it is to the airports' financial advantage to make passing through airports faster.
  • There are never enough seats. So you end up standing, and again walking into shops. Rip the shops out and replace with seats.
  • And the price of water. If they don't allow you to bring your own water with you, they should provide free water.
  • And why does air transport get tax-free fuel? Another subsidy. Aviation fuel should be taxed at the same level as for road vehicles.

{end of Friday rant}

Posted by
1493 posts

I browse shops at the airport, but don't buy.

One of my favorite perfumes is Si by Armani. It is popular and sold in many regular and high end retailers as well as "perfume.com" - first quality, but less expensive. Coupons and sales are often advertised on that site.

I check out Pandora for curiosity - some charms are "exclusive" and can't be found elsewhere. The charms and beads are sold at the price set forth by Pandora. So no authorized retailer can raise the prices. Of course, it will vary according to the country's currency, but you get the idea.

Posted by
1493 posts

I just remembered - A couple of trips ago, I was waiting and saw many, many, many "white shopping bags" being brought out by authorized duty free personnel - they had special vests on and badges.

I was amazed, lol. A group of travelers were waiting for them to be brought on board eventually. They must have gotten "some deal" lol. Wonder what they thought when they landed in Rome and saw the same thing for half price? JK, I don't know what they bought - the bags were sealed and had "special receipts" stapled to them.

Posted by
2812 posts

If I have time to kill, I'll often browse a Duty Free shop out of curiosity, but I never buy anything. I think the last time I bought anything at such a shop was about 20 years ago at CDG. There were French cheeses that I like and was familiar with, and the packaging made them look so appealing. They turned out to be basically supermarket cheese; and not a French supermarket. Because I'm a big wine fan, particulalrly French wine, I'll occasionally look at what they have at a Duty Free shop. It's mostly mainstream stuff at high prices.

Posted by
1493 posts

For "food" souvenirs, I have found the best (prices) and even delicious products were discovered at Italian supermarkets.

My trips to Italy, among cookies, chocolates and other sweets (sometimes sold in keepsake canisters), one of my prized finds was a jar of Nutella, lol.

It came in a (reusable) glass jar with "lasered - glittered effect" snowflakes around it. It makes for a nice (larger) juice glass and brings me back to my Coop market night.

Nutella in the States is made in Canada and comes in different sized-plastic containers. So, it was exciting to get something a little different as a usable keepsake.

Posted by
1075 posts

Lindt chocolate bars are cheaper in my local drugstore here at home than in Europe. Where they make them.
Boots No. 7 skincare products from the UK are cheaper here in Canada.

I never buy anything in an airport, except food if I'm desperate.
Even looking puts me off.
Who buys a $900 suitcase in an airport??!