It used to be the case that saving money on pre-flight duty-free deals at the airport was a big part of the holiday experience, but not anymore.

According to research by and, unaware travellers now often pay up to TWICE the price for perfume, alcohol and designer goods at airport duty-free than online or in the high street.

Thanks to the introduction of GST and taxes and import duties being phased out in Australia, duty-free shopping is no longer always a saving for travellers holiday dollars.

And with online shopping behemoths and discount retailers, like and Chemist Warehouse, for example, coming into play, the margins have become even smaller.

But there's always Toblerone

But there’s always Toblerone

Some recent comparison of prices by of items offered at the Heinemann duty-free shop at Sydney airport compared to local retailers did show some savings on buying spirits and cigarettes at the airport.

Spirits including Absolut vodka and Johnnie Walker Red whiskey were 33 percent cheaper, a carton of Benson & Hedges cigarettes were 37 percent less duty-free, a Dior lipstick was 18 percent less, and you could save 43 percent on Clinique ‘Dramatically different’ moisturising cream.


On impulse it’s tempting…

Choice however, compared prices for a camera, headphones, moisturiser, wine, rum, and chocolate and found lower prices at online stores such as Harvey Norman, and Woolworths for all of the products except the rum.

It’s also worth trying the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) for better savings if you can get yourself organised before you leave. If you spend $300 at a store in Australia within 60 days before you depart, get a tax invoice and you can claim a GST refund at the airport.

The refund must apply to items you wear or carry on the plane and excludes liquor (except wine). You can’t drink the wine before you claim the refund (doh), but you can wear or use most other goods beforehand. And most importantly, only the person who actually bought the goods can make a claim.

Arrive early to avoid disappointment...

Arrive early to avoid disappointment…

The Choice website advises taking the goods and services tax invoice to a TRS facility along with your passport and boarding pass up to 30 minutes before your flight departs. Though in reality, it’s probably worth leaving yourself more time than that, as it can often be a slow process depending on the queue.

The TRS is beyond Customs and Immigration at the international terminals in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin and the Gold Coast.

The bottom line is if you’re not sure – make a quick price comparison on your smartphone before making a purchase.

READ: Qantas to shelve shopping in the sky

READ: Duty-free rip-offs: Some things just aren’t worth buying at the airport

Do you still buy duty-free at the airport? Hare your thoughts below?