travel budget review


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Good deal That duty is free..!!


You're on a long international flight, and you're starving. But they won't serve dinner until the flight attendants complete their "duty free" sale.

You're walking through the airport, and there is a duty free store every few hundred yards.

Should the budget traveler set aside money for these opportunities? Finding an answer to that question can be tricky.

First, understand that "duty" is a generic term describing a variety of taxes imposed on goods. Once outside a nation's borders, you can buy duty free cigarettes at 33,000 feet or on the high seas. International airports get around the tax bite because they are in designated foreign trade zones.

These taxes can add huge sums to your checkout total. "Forest" is a British group opposed to airlines that sell duty free cigarettes and yet ban smoking.

They cite a Sunday Telegraph study that found a one-liter bottle of liquor that normally costs 14.49 GBP should cost only 4.74 when the excise duty and Value Added Tax are subtracted. But Forest says that "duty free" bottle goes for between 7.75 to 11.25 GBP. Forest's conclusion: maybe "duty free" is actually "duty reduced."
Suzy Gershman is a shopping expert who goes one step further. She calls duty free shopping "a joke."

The author of Frommer's Born to Shop says "I have bought fragrances duty-free and found out they were cheaper at Saks. As a rule of thumb, you're not going to save very much."

If the Telegraph study and Gershman both are correct, you should shop duty free very carefully. Click "next" at the bottom right of this page for a look at some duty-free shopping strategies.