Duty-free rip off

Are duty-free prices really cheaper than outside the airport?

Browsing duty free shops is a guilty pleasure of many international travellers hunting for a bargain (and a great way to kill time between flights), but do the savings promised by rows of premium alcohol, glittering perfume displays and oversized Toblerones really stack up?

Research by Finder has found many duty-free prices are comparable to what you’ll find in local retailers.

Finder Travel spokesperson Angus Kidman said travellers should shop around for the best deal.

“If you have your eye on a particular item, do some research on prices before you leave,” Mr Kidman said.

“Check out the price in duty free and see how it stacks up.

“Bear in mind it could be even cheaper at your destination.

“Take a quick snap of the price on your smartphone and buy it on the way back if it’s the best price.”

Best bargains

Finder revealed that spirits, such as vodka, whisky and gin, are up to 41% cheaper duty free.

Cosmetics, including lipstick, eye cream and serums, are often cheaper than retail. An Estee Lauder night serum was 26% cheaper duty free and a Clinique eye cream was reduced by 18%.

As cigarettes are highly taxed, tobacco can be found at airports for less than half the retail price, with discounts of up to 61%. Tobacco purchases are limited to 25 grams at Australian duty-free outlets.

Take it or leave it

Discounts on perfume can vary according to the brand. Finder discovered a Hugo Boss perfume for the same price as at a regular shop but found a Gucci perfume to be 26% cheaper at the airport. Research perfume prices online before your trip as you may find a better bargain at home during retail sales or at discount chemists.

Rip off

Put down the giant Toblerone. While it’s often seen as a good option for last-minute presents, airport confectionery can be marked up as much as 150%. If you’re planning to take Tim Tams or other Aussie classics to friends and family overseas, you’ll always find better value in your local supermarket – particularly if you pick them up on special.

Wine lovers can expect to pay a premium at the airport with white wine more expensive duty-free. Red wine drinkers will save an average of 4% and champagne is up to 6% below retail prices. Consider ordering wine from a local bottle shop and having it delivered to your home. Not only will it be cheaper, but you won’t have to worry about lugging glass bottles on and off the plane.

Bag a duty-free bargain

  • Research prices online before your trip.
  • Make a list of what you want to buy and what it costs at home.
  • Avoid making snap decisions on purchases you don’t need.
  • Make sure electronics are compatible with Australian systems and power points.


The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person’s particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.