How to save on Shopping at Duty Free Shops

It's almost impossible to board an international flight without passing by duty free shops. If you know what and where to buy, you can save a lot. We have collected some tips on how to organize profitable shopping in Duty Free stores.


The concept of duty free is simple: international travelers can buy goods that are not subject to the usual taxes and import duties.

When a passenger goes through passport control at an international terminal, they are thrown into a sort of legal and geopolitical limbo. The person has still boarded his plane, although according to the documents he has already left the country of departure, but he has not yet entered the country of destination. In fact, this means that there is no governing body taxing his purchases at the airport.

For this reason, duty-free shopping is also available on the cruise ship, at the seaport, and sometimes at the land border crossing. The rule does not apply to employees, so when paying for a purchase in a Duty Free store, the cashier will ask you to present your boarding pass.

As a rule, most countries offer a fairly similar range of goods in duty-free shops. Most often, these are alcohol, tobacco, leather products (shoes, belts, bags), designer and branded items, electronics, watches, glasses, jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics.

You can often find Duty Free on the shelves “goods for the road” – chargers for devices, pillows for flights, etc. Also, many airports have shops that sell local specialties – food, alcohol and drinks, souvenirs, handicrafts.


A question that has received a lot of research does not have a clear answer. It is impossible to say exactly how much you can save on average when shopping at Duty Free at an international airport: it all depends on the country, airport, currency exchange rate and the goods you buy.

The best way to understand the benefits of buying is to compare prices in Duty Free with prices in Russian stores or outlets in the country where you are going on a trip. Alas, as a rule, for the simplest locally produced goods, the price at the airport will be significantly higher.

For example, a bar of ordinary domestic chocolate “Alenka” in the Duty Free of the Russian airport will cost from 2 euros, while as in a store near the house – 70-80 rubles. A bottle of Russian champagne at the airport will cost 9-10 euros, while in a regular store – 400-500 rubles.

For profitable shopping abroad, you can “go through” the sites of duty-free shops at foreign airports in advance.

Such “showcases” at the airports of Dubai, Paris, Istanbul, Doha and other international airports, including Russian ones. If you are confident in your purchase, you can pre-order the product and pay for it on arrival at the duty-free shop at the airport. Often at a discount. For example, Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg offers a 10% discount on purchases in Duty Free pre-order.


As a general rule, liquor and tobacco are the best deals, simply because they are the most heavily taxed in most parts of the world. However, this does not necessarily mean that the price of alcohol at an airport store will be lower than at a local supermarket or anywhere else you travel.

According to various studies in 2022, sweets in Duty Free at international airports will cost an average of 40% more than in local supermarkets. Wines at EU airports are 10-20% more expensive than in ordinary European stores, cosmetics, depending on the brand and region, are 10-25% more expensive. Well, overpayment for sunglasses at airports located in sunny countries can be up to 30%.

According to statistics this year, the cheapest alcohol is at Stockholm airport. Tobacco, on the contrary, will cost less at the Dubai airport, and it is more profitable to buy perfumes and cosmetics at the airports of Eastern Europe.


There are certainly advantages to shopping in Duty Free. For example, you can buy things that are not available in your country of residence or, conversely, in your country of destination.

Also, you can try out new products or buy some limited-edition goods in the “dutiks”: sometimes this is a special bottling or limited product lot, bottles in a gift box, a set of cosmetics in a travel kit. Finally, many people simply enjoy shopping before their flight: it improves their mood and allows you to pass the time before departure.

According to Fortune Business Insights, travelers spent almost $37 billion in duty-free shops in 2021, and this figure is expected to exceed $45 billion in 2022 and double by 2029.


The most popular product that is bought in any Duty Free in the world is alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are also popular among Russians, but our compatriots often forget that the import of “hot” drinks into the Russian Federation is limited.

Without paying duties and taxes, Russians and citizens of other countries who have reached the age of 18 are allowed to import into the Russian Federation and countries EAEU of alcohol with a volume of up to 3 liters.

When importing alcohol with a total volume of more than 3 liters, but not more than 5 liters, it will be necessary to declare the imported and pay the appropriate duties (10 euros for each liter in excess).

Remember: with all this, the degree and turnover of an alcoholic drink do not play a role: it can be not only vodka, wine, whiskey, but also beer and other alcoholic products.

Elena Myagkova

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