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Buying Duty Free Items: Know Before You Go

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Buying Duty Free Items: Know Before You Go

Duty free stores are found in international airports. If you've ever traveled internationally, you've probably seen a few duty free stores on your way. If not, don't worry! This guide will give you all the knowledge you need to snag great deals and skim over the sub-par ones. Duty free stores are tax free stores because the stores are not associated with any particular country, and it is assumed that whatever you buy will go with you to a different country. Because of this, you can buy some big ticket items without the added price of federal and state taxes.

Snag The Good Deals While You Can.

Most people don’t travel internationally very often, so if you get the chance to visit one of these duty free stores, take advantage of it while you can. There are many items that are well worth the effort to pack them onto your flight and carry them home.

  • Liquor: Liquor is one of the best items to buy from a duty free store. Liquor taxes can be very steep based on your country, sometimes instantly doubling the price of a bottle. Stock up while you can and throw yourself and your loved ones a “coming home” party, or just keep it all for later use.
  • Tobacco: Tobacco is another item that often carries heavy taxes. Tobacco taxes vary from state to state, so depending on where you are from, you could be getting a great deal. Duty free stores often also carry imported cigars that could cost you a fortune elsewhere. When shopping, keep in mind that you can only carry a limited amount of both alcohol and tobacco across the borders. Check the limit before you buy something that you can’t bring with you.
  • Local Goods And Souvenirs: Local goods and souvenirs are almost always in duty free stores. Friends and family always appreciate a gift from across the border, so check for some unique gifts here. Otherwise, you’ll probably overpay for that cheesy T-shirt and refrigerator magnet.
  • Luxury Items: Luxury items that cost a fortune are actually a great deal at duty free shops. Because their retail prices are so high, the taxes will inevitably also be very high. If you were already intending to buy one of these high ticket items, a duty free store would be the perfect place to snag one with a discount.

Avoid Buying Something You’ll Regret.

There are several types of products better to refrain from purchasing while at a duty free store.

  • Electronics: Electronics may seem like a great deal when they are tax free, especially with tax adding triple digits to your bill. However, many of these electronics may be out of date, which means you’ll be paying big bucks for an obsolete item.
  • Books, CDs And DVDs: Books, CDs, and DVDs may seem like a steal, but there’s no reason to pack your suitcase full of them when you can get the same deals at online retail websites like Amazon or Ebay. With the airline luggage weight restrictions getting tighter and tighter, you’ll need all the room in your suitcase that you can get.
  • Clothing: Unless you are shopping for local fashions, clothing is usually not a good buy at duty free stores. The clothing at those stores is often discounted off the manufacturer’s price, which is already inflated to begin with. You’re better off waiting for sales at your local stores back home or checking out thrift stores.

Check Exchange Rates Before You Buy.

If you have a smartphone, download a currency converter app to check the exchange rate. When you are handling another country’s money, you may not realize that you are spending more than you should. Double check the exchange rates before you buy anything because sometimes, the price may actually be just the same as if you bought it back home. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to waste the suitcase space.

A Few Extra Tips:

Duty free stores run a little differently than regular stores, so you should be prepared before you go.

  • Know your license plate number before you shop. The owners use this to complete your purchases.
  • Keep all of your receipts. There will be staff checking when you go through customs and sometimes, even an extra store guard outside the store might want to glance over the receipt.
  • Keep all of your purchased items together and easily accessible. Often customs will want to check your items before you get on the plane, and you won’t want to make your security check an even longer process.
  • You are not allowed to open items before you take them across borders. Make sure that all of your items, such as alcohol and tobacco, are completely sealed, or else they will be confiscated.

Shopping at duty free stores is just one of the perks of traveling internationally. If you get the chance, take a look around and see what kind of deals you can find. Just shop smart and look carefully to make sure you are truly getting a good deal before finalizing any purchases.

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