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It just sounds so good doesn’t it? Surely if no duty or taxes are being charged, whatever you’re buying is bound to be cheaper? False. Well, sometimes. And then you add in the excitement of travel, and irrational decisions are bound to happen. Duty free can be a great deal, but it’s nowhere near guaranteed. In fact, that’s one of the eight most popular travel myths. Here’s everything you need to know when it’s time to run for the exit or buy, buy buy.

Best Items

Alcohol and perfume can be two of the “best buys” in duty free. Chocolates are almost always overpriced and things like “I Love New York” t-shirts will always be cheaper in town, than at the airport. The first important thing to know is that duty free prices vary by airport, country and region. Some places will offer far better deals than others and some will have great deals on some items, while others are awful. And some won’t have any deals at all!

First Step

Working wifi or having a “home” price in mind is crucial before walking in. Know how much you’d pay for that bottle of champagne or that bottle of perfume at home or your destination, before seeing any of the offers inside duty free. In places like Germany or the United Kingdom, duty free and champagne are legitimately cheaper in the airport than in the city – so there can be excellent deals – but you must have something to compare with.

Best Locations

SkyScanner came up with an interesting comparison, looking at prices in duty free outlets all around the world. London, Berlin, New York, Moscow, Singapore and other European countries consistently scored very well. For alcohol – in general the worst values are in Middle Eastern countries, or countries where alcohol is largely banned within the country. You’ll get the best champagne deals in Europe, best whiskey deals in Japan, cheapest cigarettes in Moscow.

Key Offers

Look for the special offers, especially on booze and perfume. For example, Veuve Clicquot champagne retails for around $50 per bottle in the US. But it’s not at all hard to find two bottles for £40-50 in the UK and throughout Europe. That equates to roughly $60, a savings of $40 or more. Perfumes and skin products also often include special bundles which can represent equally excellent value.

Do you buy things in duty free? What’s been your best purchase?

Featured image courtesy of Veuve Clicquot.

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