DUTY FREE shopping - a ritual that every traveler diligently follows. No matter how hard you resist, the flashy red logo is sure to lure you in to spend even the last change of the local currency. I am always tempted by the bright stores, neatly laid product on the shelves and the red tags with promotional discounts is always the cherry on top. 

While the idea of shopping duty free always gives me an adrenaline rush and why not- who doesn't like to save while shopping? I am the person who always likes to pre-plan my duty free shopping but a recent incident changed my entire perception of duty free and the money-saving notion I had for all these years. Fast forward to last week- I picked up a bottle of Lagavulin 16 years at Abu Dhabi airport for 110 USD. I felt like one happy thoughtful wife picking out a reunion gift for husband. Little did I know that this reunion gift would lead me to a " bury my head in the sand " moment. Should you ask me why?? - so the bottle I bought for 110 USD at Duty Free Abu Dhabi retails for 70 USD all tax included in US......bam!! Hubs has been buying the same bottle of Lagavulin 16 years for 70 USD for years and I had no idea. I guess it's time to keep a tab of where and how he spends his money....lol!

Well, that is just my story but this kind of led me to delve into the truth of Duty Free shopping, all the underlying facts and misconceptions that we I thought of otherwise all these years. 

What is DUTY FREE shopping or DUTY FREE shops? 
Duty free shops are retailer outlet stores where goods sold are exempt from any national or local taxes and duties, condition being that the goods sold will be sold to travelers who will take them out of the country, usually at the airports, train stations and even cruise liners. 

1. Duty Free is not necessarily cheaper

As proven in my case DF is not always cheaper. You definitely save on tax and duties, but the MSRP  ( manufacturer's suggested retail price ) can vary across the board and can be a higher or a lower retail price of the product under consideration. Paying a higher retail price would be justified if it is a limited edition item and it is unlikely to be available in your country, but if it's a scotch bottle that retails for a lot less in your own country.....forget duty free go indigenous. 

2. Import limits may vary in every country

While you might have a long list of duty free shopping to do, you will be stumped to learn that your individual tax-free, duty-free spending is capped. Every country has it's own cap and any amount spend over that would be taxable in your own country. For instance, USA allows you to bring duty-free goods into the country only worth up to $800, any amount spend over and above at will be taxable in US. Unless you are traveling in a group where you can combine the family exemption and  use it towards higher priced items. You are allowed goods valued up to 800 times the no. of people of that family traveling in case of a family. 

3. You can start shopping 30 days prior to your travel date 

If you have you travel reservations complete, you can start shopping online 30 days prior to your travel date. You can add things to your cart, pay online and have your desired airport hold the items for you. At the airport you just show your boarding pass and collect your items. 

4. Shop hassle free before you fly 

Many passengers want to take advantage of all the duty free fantastic savings but worry about struggling with the extra baggage to carry throughout their trip.  Some airports offer a Shop & Collect service, which means you can make your pre-flight purchases and then have them safely stored, ready for collection on your return from your trip. To take advantage of the service, simply ask the assistant when paying for your goods whether this service is available at the airport / terminal that you are flying from. If so, they will be able to talk you through what you need to do and show you where to collect the items from. They will ask you for your contact details and return flight information and then take care of the rest. Your purchases are insured and safely stored to be collected at a convenient location on your return, after you’ve cleared customs and collected your luggage.  Pick-up locations vary by airport and so will be detailed on your Shop & Collect receipt. Isn't that the coolest thing about duty free shopping, specially when you are buying fragile or perishable items? 

These are just some of the duty free truths and facts, do share some of your experience.


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