Reasons for duty free

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  EternalExpat 3 Nov 2014
at 11:11

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  • Anonymous


    I am inspired by Martyn’s epic tale of getting his duty free home from the far East, to pose a more general question about duty free shops, and why we go there.

    My tastes mean that I would not be interested in anything in the duty free other than the alcohol – but almost always, it does not seem worth it. The savings are mostly modest, and the inconvenience of carrying a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on and off the plane outweighs the few pounds extra in the supermarket at home.

    It is definitely worthwhile for me in two circumstances.

    First, when there is unwanted currency to be disposed of. I still have the Kazakh tenge in front of me, they should have gone in the duty-free at Almaty.

    Second, and more important, is the things you just cannot easily get at home and that are seriously worth having: Moldovan brandy (top of my list); Dutch gin; Serbian rakija.

    But the routine whisky and gin just do not seem worth the effort. Do others agree?


    Remember that the duty free (more properly tax free) shop appeals to different nationalities for different reasons. Norwegians love the price the can buy for in the UK, for example.

    But I am with you, in that I would never think to lug a bottle of malt around just to save a couple of quid.

    One thing that did amaze me though a few years ago was the fact that I was permitted to buy a Chanel watch for my wife in T5, before getting onto a domestic flight up to Manchester, free of VAT, saving something like £800. That was worth it!!

    One good reason David:

    if you like Martini and are flying to Morocco, buy beforehand!


    I rarely buy anything at airport shops, mainly because I can’t be bothered to carry it and the meagre savings do not justify the effort.


    Same for me LP, I only buy some smokes and even then I only buy the UK duty free if going somewhere I know i cannot buy B&H. Some staff of mine in china wanted some perfume but worried about fakes asked me to buy in UK. I got 3 x 50ml bottles from the high street, each was a tenner less than T4 “duty free”


    esselle’s experience with the Chanel watch was interesting. When I bought the Seiko Astron, I tried in T5 where they only sold last years styles at slightly lower than high street prices. Eventually bought a 2014 model direct from Japan and even with the added duty paid to import the watch. still came out way lower than the cost at Heathrow. I noticed there is a new Astron stand in T5 (by Harrods) and the current models are selling for in excess of £2,200… Anyone want a direct supplier in Japan, email me..

    I think people buy, because the shops are there, but how on earth people lug the bulk purchasers and what happens when things go wrong…

    With more and more airports becoming shopping malls, the displays draw the people in and inevitably, you buy, regardless of whether you need it.

    Best time to go through is when you are late for a flight with no time to stop.

    Ciggies and booze though……. its just the tradition from “I remember when” !!!!


    So what was in your DF bag that wound its way back through LHR and AMS Martyn?


    And in some cases, you can’t even spend the local currency!

    I was in Tunis airport a few weeks ago, with a wad of left-over Tunisian dinar, and took 3 or 4 bottles of local wine and 3 or 4 bottles of olive oil to the cashier, only to be told that they only accept Euros. Their loss.

    Was in Casablanca too recently and was going to buy a bottle of expensive perfume for the missus, and was told there too, “no local currency.” Again, their loss.

    I think the #1 reason for buying ‘duty free’ is convenience. I know I most-likely won’t save much (if any) vs. the high street but hey, I’ve got a few minutes to kill before my flight and it’s there. Also a chance to win some points with the family…


    **Single Malt

    **Aftershave for son

    **Ciggies (yes give me “stick”)… for a friend… – the pictures on the pack, were 100% disgusting, despite being real…..

    I do get an added incentive at BKK, 20% discount


    Agree with most that the savings can be disappointing. I call it Profit Enhancing not Tax Free! However, if you look around there are bargains to be had.

    I was recently looking for CK One mens smelly at T5. I took the small one to the till but at the checkout the lady advised that the 200ml was on offer. End result I got the larger bottle and with a £5 Heathrow reward voucher it cost under £17! Happy days.


    Not always a total miss, sometimes you do get a selection of goods such as some single malts not commonly available in the high street. On the weekend coming through LHR T5 we picked up a bottle of NV champagne for as little as £20. One of my gripes is the limits of how much duty free goods you can bring into the country (UK 1 bottle) as in most cases (in my experience) I works out better value to get 2 bottles.

    Also those of you UK residents on EU journeys only who don’t want to lug your bottles around, can purchase good in the UK and collect them back on your arrival back in the UK. BA will also give free delivery to your home address when you spend a certain limit.


    I must have saved literally thousands of pounds over the years buying cigarettes for my wife, and there was a time when one got DFs for intra-EU travel when I don’t think she bought a duty paid pack for 5 years on the trot.

    Though actually, I would have saved even more if she had not smoked in the first place ….

    As for the title of the thread – “Reasons for DFs”, what are the remaining reasons? DFs started because a ship on the high seas between country A and country B could claim it was not in either, and so had no tax to pay (it is for this reason that even today all the cruises round the UK call in at Guernsey so that it is an “international” voyage). Then airlines said they could not compete without similar concessions. Now one senses it is mainly there to keep profits up at the airports. Would any traveller seriously miss them? I doubt it. Would airports? Their bottom lines would!

    So all of us who don’t spend money in airport DF shops should be grateful to those who do – or the airport charges would be even more astronomical.


    Why buy duty frees? Normally when there is a present to be given to someone at the receiving end and, ex-UK, something British such as Pimms, Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire or a fine single malt would be suitable. Otherwise, I really cannot be bothered schlepping extra hand baggage and the “Change for Good” envelope is my normal receptacle for ad hoc left-over foreign currency.


    Am I the only one who would happily pay extra for a Duty Free Avoidance Fast Track? ( Could give it the acronym DAFT) I hate the snakes that you have to go through after security to get to a lounge!

    Only “Duty Free” I buy is Gordons yellow label gin 47.3%. Can’t get it on many, if not any, high streets. Used to buy it on the way out of FAO or LIS and bring it back on the return. FAO have now started selling it in Arrivals at €29.00 for 2 compared with BA in flight true international price of £12.00

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