How to Shop Duty Free – A detailed shopping guide on tax free shopping

How to Shop Duty Free

There are plenty of things to plan when travelling that we usually forget to think about duty free shopping. This guide will help you learn how to shop duty free and how to get the most out of the experience!

What is Duty Free Shopping

Before discussing how to shop duty free, it is probably worthwhile discussing what duty free shopping actually is. Duty free shops are typically situated in border zones all over the world. These shops are usually located at airports, but can also be found at other locations such as ships or ferry ports, trains or train stations and airplanes. These duty free shops sell goods without taxes, i.e. “duty free”, “tax free” or “excise free”. Most countries also offer a tourist refund scheme for travelers who buy goods whilst traveling (e.g. at retailers in cities). For more information on tax regime’s refer to our tax page.

History of Duty Free Shopping

The first duty free shop was apparently opened in 1947 at Shannon Airport in Ireland, which still operates to this day. Whilst the first shop was opened in 1947, the trend did not really take off until 1960, when Charles Feeney and Robert Warren Miller opened what is now known as DFS. Today Duty Free Shoppers operate all over the world, including locations such as Hong Kong and Singapore. The duty free shops continued to rollout worldwide without much resistance until 1999 when the EU made changes to the duty-free and tax-free laws. For EU specific information we recommend you refer to our tax page or the Heathrow Airport page.

Duty Free Shopping Rules

Unfortunately there are a lot of rules to consider when shopping duty free. These rules vary by country and can include items such as minimum purchase amounts, time or date restrictions on purchases, restrictions on the quantity of imports… and the list goes on. Unfortunately, the rules for duty free shopping vary by jurisdiction and we recommend you do your research prior to traveling by referring to our tax page.

How to Shop Duty Free

So now that we have explained what duty free shopping is, the history of duty free shopping and the fact that there are strict rules that exist, we can now discuss how to shop duty free. Basically, in order to know how to shop duty free, you need to follow a set of simple guidelines which will help you do this properly. The first and most essential thing you need to understand is that the internet is your friend. You have probably landed here following a simple Google search, which means you are already on the right track and thinking ahead!

Here are some general tips to help you make the most of your duty free shopping experience:

1. Research the duty free or tax free shopping rules of your departing destination. Once you know these rules you should be well equipped to ensure you don’t get caught out. There is nothing worse than realising that you will not qualify for a tax refund on departure, when it is unfortunately usually too late to return the purchase! Some countries also offer tourist refunds for purchases made outside of airports, so check out if these are available on our our tax page.

2. Research the duty free or tax free shopping rules of the destination you arriving at. It can be very disheartening if you exceed the import limits on duty free goods and have to pay those taxes back (or possibly even more) when you arrive home! Almost every country has a strict limit and you need to be familiar with it. World Duty Free has a helpful page on this.

3. If you know what to buy – compare your favourite products on Duty Free Addict.

4. If you don’t know what to buy and want to find out what are the best value products or brands to buy at your destination – try out the Duty Free Addict Country Guide.

5. Leave space in your carry-on luggage for that last-minute purchase!

6. If you are making multiple stops on your way, make sure that you will not face any issues (limits or otherwise). I find that shopping assistants can be helpful, although they are unfortunately not always correct. It’s always worth asking them their opinion nonetheless.

As a whole there is an art to knowing how to shop duty free. If you plan ahead, the experience will be much more enjoyable. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning ahead now at Duty Free Addict!