There’s no question that shopping duty-free can mean substantial savings on a wide range of fabulous products. But getting the most value out of your dollar means knowing how to shop smart. Here are some general tips to help you enjoy a successful duty-free shopping experience, no matter where you’re traveling to.
For the best deals on a percentage-off retail basis, look for items that carry a high duty rate, such as tobacco and liquor. If you're more interested in total dollar savings, focus your buys on big-ticket luxury items, such as fine watches and designer jewellery.
When shopping duty-free, it's smart to know how much an item normally costs in retail stores. That will give you an idea of just how much of a bargain you'll be getting.
You can find duty-free shops and merchandise at locations that cater to international travelers. These include international airports, border towns, ports and cruise ships. In some places, you can even buy duty-free on-board international flights.
You can’t reenter the country you are shopping in with items you purchase at that country’s duty-free shop unless you’ve met the mandated length-of-stay requirements outside of the country. Generally speaking, to take advantage of duty-free deals, you must be leaving a country for at least 48 hours.
Since duty-free rules vary by country, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the policies of the country you’re traveling to or from—before you shop. To learn about a country's duty-free laws, try contacting its customs or border patrol agency or a travel agency, duty-free shop or airline located in that country.
When shopping duty-free, be sure to have receipts on hand for all of your purchases. This will ensure that you can move through customs and security quickly—and without incident.
Frequent travelers should be aware that in many countries, duty-free exemptions are valid on a monthly basis. That means that once you’ve reached your duty-free limit, you'll need to wait 30 days before claiming another exemption.
If you find a fantastic deal at a duty-free shop in your own country, you'll need to transport it with you when you're traveling. You’ll also need to make sure it fits under the import exemption allowed by your home country. If not, you'll likely have to pay a surcharge on the item(s) when you return.
Keep in mind that in many countries, there are restrictions on the amount of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products you may import into that country. For example, the United States limits you to one liter of alcohol and one carton of cigarettes per person. Be sure to check the laws of the country you’re traveling to or from before you purchase these types of products duty-free.
If you’re traveling overseas and you wish to make a duty-free purchase of perfume, alcohol, cosmetics or any other item that may contain liquids, gels or aerosols, you should take extra precautions to ensure that your purchases will not be confiscated by security personnel. For guidelines, please see the Transportation Security Administration website.