Joanita Wibowo

Retirement Income

Duty-free shopping: The do's and don'ts for nabbing a bargain

Duty-free shopping: The do's and don'ts for nabbing a bargain

When you’re lounging around at the airport waiting for the boarding gate to open, it can be tempting to look around the brightly lit shops and pick up some duty-free goods. While you may find great bargains, the cost of some items at these stores can be a lot more expensive than local retailers. If you’re not paying attention, you may end up paying up to twice the recommended retail prices.

Here are the things you should get at the duty-free to save money, as well as the shopping traps you should avoid.

What you should buy

You could save a great deal when buying liquor, cigars and tobacco products at the airport. According to a review by, spirits such as Absolut vodka and Johnnie Walker Red whiskey were 33 per cent cheaper. The price gaps can be more significant if you’re travelling to a country where alcoholic drinks or cigarettes are more expensive due to high taxes – so stock up on the way to avoid spending a fortune later.

Keep in mind the restrictions in place for alcohol purchases – in Australia the limit is 2.25 litres.

Some cosmetics, electronic goods and luxury goods – such as perfumes, bags or sunglasses – can also be cheaper, depending on price variations. A 2018 comparison by CHOICE found that iPhone X Silver 256GB was cheaper at Sydney Airport’s Heinemann duty-free shop than at Apple Store, while Canon IXUS 190 Digital Camera was more affordable at Harvey Norman. Andy Kollmorgen of the consumer group advised travellers to “shop around” and “do your research”.

What you shouldn’t buy

In general, confectionery and snacks are a no-go – discovered that Tim Tams were priced 72 per cent higher than in supermarkets. It can indeed be hard to resist getting the special chocolate blocks that you can’t find in your neighbourhood Woolies, but common snacks should be purchased out of the airport.