10 things not to buy duty free

There are savings to be had on the original duty-free staples of alcohol and cigarettes, but some purchases are better made at home.

Here are the items you should not be buying at the duty-free counter.

It isn’t easy to find the enormous Toblerone bars that you regularly see taking up space on the duty-free shelves, but if you really need your chocolate that big, you should definitely shop around. The Toblerone bars are usually 88 per cent more expensive than regular retail price. Regular chocolate purchases are also much cheaper if you buy them at the supermarket.

The price of Tim Tams at Sydney Airport jumped into the headlines last year, when someone noted that one packet was on sale for $26. These prices probably exist to trap tourists, and as a local you should know much better.

duty free timtams

While not usually quite as outrageous as chocolates and biscuits, even the humble nut section is still more expensive than bringing your own snacks on board your flight. A small packet of honey roasted macadamia nuts still costs roughly 18 per cent more than the regular retail price.

While alcohol is one of the best places to save money when doing your duty-free shopping, not all alcohol is equal. You can save heaps on spirits, but if you are a wine drinker it pays to shop around and compare prices. You will almost certainly pay more for white wine, while red wine can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sparkling wine is usually cheaper at duty free, but it is still worth checking before you get to the airport.

There may have been a time when it was worthwhile buying perfume from duty free, but now that we have discount pharmacies offering great prices for premium perfume brands, you are able to make bigger savings elsewhere. However, if you are buying your perfume or fragrances from a premium store, you may still find the prices at duty free cheaper than what you usually pay.

Confectionary can be marked up by as much as 150 per cent at the airport. At that price it is probably cheaper to wait until you arrive at your destination and raid your hotel’s mini-bar.

Neck pillows
If you are unprepared, you might arrive at the airport sans neck pillow, see someone sleeping in the airline lounge and have your memory triggered. Be prepared to pay a premium for this mistake. You can buy these pillows for under $10 at home; at the airport, you can expect to pay around $50.

duty free neck pillows

It’s possible to purchase headphones at home that are cheaper than the retail price, but you’ll be choosing from a limited selection. You’re better off shopping where there’s a wider variety of products, so you’re not limited to the more expensive brands.

If you turned up for your flight without a pre-bought neck pillow, chances are you’ll also remember power adaptors when its too late. If you go to a discount store you’ll spend half as much on these items compared to buying at the airport.

Electronic goods
There are serious savings to be made on electronic goods with duty free purchases, but if you are looking at these items while you are overseas, it can require a little bit of research as they may not be designed to run on the voltage used in Australia. This might mean the purchase of a bulky transformer and could take a significant chunk out of any savings that you make. You can certainly buy electronic goods, but just make sure that you check the specifications very carefully.

Do you still bother with duty free shopping when you travel? What do you like to buy?

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Written by Ben


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