There isn’t a whole lot to do when you’re sitting around in an airport waiting for your flight. Of course, since most airports now have free Wi-Fi you could spend the time at an online casino. Alternatively, you could go on a mad shopping frenzy. Airports offer duty free shopping after all, and that means insane bargains. Right? Or maybe that’s just what they want you to think.
Sure, it can mean insane bargains. Or it can mean getting ripped off so badly that you’ll be feeling the burn for weeks afterwards. It depends really, which is what makes shopping duty free somewhat similar to traversing a minefield. Though with less long term therapy or emergency medical attention needed.
Let’s take a closer look at the best and worst airports for duty free shopping so that you can make sure you get a great deal.
It turns out that, just to make the minefield even less predictable, there are no airports that offer universally good prices on all products. Instead, sneaky as they are, airports around the world tend to vary significantly, depending on which items you are buying. So it’s best to look at prices in categories.
If you’re after some lovely foreign liquor, you’ll want to stay very far away from Santorini and Athens in Greece. Though, you may just want to steer clear of duty free shopping in Greece entirely. Chances are you’ll be paying up to 30% more than you would anywhere else.
However, the best prices for liquor can be found at Madrid in Spain, the Grand Cayman on the Cayman Islands, and Kiev in Ukraine.
Here is where things already start to get confusing and sneaky. If you just bought liquor in Madrid, stop there and move on, steering well clear of the cosmetics. Although booze is going cheap, the cosmetics are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.
Instead, you’ll want to do your duty free shopping for cosmetics in London, Vienna, or, weirdly enough, Dubai. Steer clear of Zurich and Bangkok for these items too, as they cost a pretty penny.
You’ll naturally want to smell nice with some exotic fragrances. But where to get them? Wouldn’t you know it, Madrid is back again, and happens to be the cheapest for fragrances. So liquor and fragrances, yes, cosmetics, no. Also London and Porto, in Portugal are other bargain locations.
Bangkok, Vienna and Accra in Ghana are the most expensive, and duty free cosmetics here may cost as much as double elsewhere.
Sadly, Madrid isn’t back for this one. Instead, the best airport tobacco prices can be found in Singapore and Bangkok. Interestingly smoking in Singapore is not that common, and dropping a cigarette butt could lead to a fine of $300, or even jail time.
The worst duty free tobacco prices are not too surprisingly found in London, Paris and Sydney.
We’d just like to point out that just because the above mentioned places are known to have the best prices, it doesn’t mean that the best prices will be found in every shop in these airports. As with shopping everywhere else, you would be smart to look around, take some notes and make sure you’re getting the best of the best deal. Interestingly enough, prices can jump between duty free stores in an airport, even if those stores are just a brief walk apart.
With that kept in mind, the cheapest airport in the world overall is Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The most expensive is Santorini in Greece. So, if you traveling extensively and love duty free shopping, you now know where to avoid, and where to get the best deals globally.