Duty-free shopping gives international travelers the opportunity to save money on a variety of products, from alluring high-end jewelry to premium liquor and tobacco. However, many travelers are not sure how duty-free shopping works, or how to make the most out of the experience.

Let's start by a simple explanation: a "duty" refers to a tax or fee placed on goods by government entities. Merchants who import goods and sell them to consumers who are leaving their country are not charged a duty on these products. This allows sellers to pass the savings along to their customers, giving shoppers the opportunity to grab fantastic products at bargain prices. Travelers can find duty-free stores and products at international airports, border towns, ports, cruise ships and even on-board international flights—basically in all locations that cater to international travelers.


What is Duty Free Shopping?

Tax and Duty Free shopping is available to customers who are traveling internationally, that is, leaving the United States for foreign destinations.

If you are traveling internationally, you may shop "tax and duty free," buying items without having to pay either the sales tax (called Value Added Tax or VAT in many countries) or the customs duties assessed by the United States – primarily on liquor and tobacco but also with many other products. The savings from Duty Free Shopping can be significant.

Duty Free Savings Compared to U.S. Domestic Prices
(savings may be more when compared to most other country's domestic prices)

Liquor 25% to 50%
Tobacco 25% to 50%
Fragrances and Cosmetics 15% to 20%
Luxury gifts, Accessories, Watches 10% to 25%
Confection and Other Edibles 10% to 25%
To be eligible for duty free shopping, you must:
  • Be leaving the United States (usually for more than 48 hours).
  • Take the items with you into another country (As required by U.S. law, you will receive your items as you exit the country, either as you get on the plane or as you drive across the border).
  • Most countries impose restrictions on the quantity of duty free merchandise you can bring in.

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