Duty Free shops are (and will be) part of the charm within airports, seaports, planes and ships alike. They’re also the saviors of travelers who need a last minute gift, need to give themselves a treat, or simply just want to spend any remaining cash from the place they just visited. The tax free shops are generally part of a large and international chain, which carry products specially priced on all kinds of brands; from high end luxury ones to even their own. Here you will find all sorts of merchandise, yet they mainly offer clothing, accessories, cosmetics, fragrances, liquor, tobacco, local souvenirs, etc.
You will always find product lines sold exclusively at these sort of venues. Brands like Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown or MAC, on exclusive presentations and sometimes at a more competitive pricing than the one offered outside of the duty free “zone”. This because they are often bundled with other colors or products from the same brand.
In a way, airports are also a reflection of the country you are visiting, and Duty Free shops provide an important “curtain” of commerce with a wide variety of products which, in theory, are more accessible. Yet, it is important to notice that even though there is a lack of taxes related increments in their price tag, it doesn’t mean that they will always be cheaper than the regular retail ones. So bear that in mind. Further ahead in this post, you’ll find explicit tips to do some smart shopping on this sort of venues.
In Guapologia we did some research on the best Duty Free shops where you can find fabulous options; luxury brands, beauty products in high demand, local brands and a myriad of other opportunities. Remember that every traveler, depending on the country being visited, has a limited amount of tax free articles she or he can acquire. If you feel that you are getting carried along too much on your selections, ask beforehand about such limits.
Dubai International (DXB) – Is the proud home to one of the most prestigious chains of Duty Free shops; “Dubai Duty Free”. As you can imagine, since we are dealing with one of the richest cities in the world, here. At Dubai Duty Free, you can even set aside your purchases when you come in and get them until you are ready to leave. It also has a webpage to buy online and pick up your purchases whenever you prefer. With an extension of 2500 square meters, you’ll be hoping for a long layover between your flights.
London Heathrow (LHR) – Here you will find considerably fashionable wares, especially from British designers, as well as the most fundamental products from brands such as Estee Lauder or MAC. Make sure to stop by the Heathrow-only branch of world famous Harrods, where you’ll be able to peruse on offerings from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Balmain, among many others.
Singapore Changi (SIN) – This is one of the largest airports in Asia, with a Duty Free shopping experience that will blow your mind. It also counts with online shopping, so that you can pick up your purchases when you get there or are about to leave. You will find a plethora of boutiques such as Armani, Marc Jacobs, as well as discounted perfumery and beauty treatments.
Hong Kong International (HKG) – It offers luxury jewelry and international brands and cosmetics. Since silk is one of China’s main products, we highly advice you to consider acquiring a few garments of this material here. However, make sure to watch out for inferior copies, and set your aim for high quality ones. Here you will also find massive boutiques from Chanel, Gucci, or Prada, to lower priced ones like Zara.
Seoul Incheon International (ICN) – Located in South Korea, it is smartly divided in both short and long time shopping areas. So, if you have a long layover you should not avoid stopping by shops like Chanel, Burberry, Mont Blanc, Zegna, Boss, Etro, MCM, Furla, Max Mara, Dunhill, Daks, Longchamp, among many others. This is also the home of the “Shilla Duty Free Shop” chain, where you’ll find reasonably priced souvenirs, fragrances and cosmetics.
Besides the previously mentioned “Top 5” Duty Free shops in the world, we also recommend you to stop be the recently remodeled and extended Aeropuerto de Madrid – Barajas. (MAD) Here you will find more affordable brands such as Springfield, Loewe, Parfolis, Carolina Herrera and Adolfo Dominguez.
If you are traveling by South America, the best option you will find is the Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen (PTY) in Panama. Since this is a city with a high volume of transit you will find global brands such as Lacoste or Tommy Hilfiger. The “Duty Free Attenza” chain is native to Panama, and you can find it at several other countries, including Mexico.
And speaking of Mexico, doubtlessly the best Duty Free shop is located at the Aeropuerto Internacional de Cancun (CUN) where fabulous Mexican brands such as Pineda Covalin are also found. There is also a great variety of stores that you will only be accessible when you are departing. That is, if you are flying from this airport to anywhere else.
- We advise you to stay up to date on the local customs policy of any country you are visiting. Also, if possible, make your purchases ahead of time and be smart about it. Remember: Not every Duty Free shop offers the best prices. However, you’ll most probably find great promotions on several of them.
- Even though the “hook” on these kind of stores is their tax free prices, not always EVERY SINGLE tax related increment is exempted. Specially on luxury items. Ask, Google, and check out the related rules of every country you visit, so that you are not caught off-guard with a tax hike on the amount of your purchases, which you had not considered beforehand.
- Check and bear in mind the price of items in regular retail shops which you are considering getting on Duty Free ones, before buying them at the airport.
- It is probable that there are exclusive collections, designs, or presentations, available only at airport located stores. So, if you find something you really like, and you have not seen it anywhere else, highly consider buying it.
- It is also possible that, if you are waiting to buy a limited edition product, you will not be able to find it so easily at airport shops. Generally, they are stocked with the brands’ latest offerings, but they do not restock often. So, it almost becomes a matter of sheer luck if you happen to find in there just the very specific hue of lipstick from the RiRi collection for MAC that you are craving for.
- Another place where there is even more tax free shopping available is inside the planes themselves, during flight. Specially on Mexican and European airlines. The most beautiful scarves I’ve got come from a flight in Lufthansa.
- If you have a stop en route to your final destination, do not forget that most probably you will have to go through a security revision again. (most certainly on flights that go to or through the US) It is indispensable that you pack your purchases inside your luggage that you intend to check in, especially if you are considering liquids, gels, or creams on volumes larger than 3 oz. Otherwise, you will have to relinquish it at the security checkpoint. And obviously nobody wants to do that!
- In several cities, especially if they are popular shopping destinations (like Houston or San Antonio, for example) it is possible to get a back a percentage of the local taxes from your purchases. Check out the series “Elastiza tus dolares” to get to know more about this.
So there you go! Share your thoughts and opinions on Duty Free shopping on the comments section below. We are eager to know which ones you know and recommend!!!