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Travel Tip: Is Buying Duty Free Worth It?

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The term duty free sounds great, especially at airports, but it can be very misleading.

It pays to be a comparison shopper before you ever get to the airport—before you make an impulse buy and pick up those headphones or that upscale bottle of cologne you really didn’t need.

Are the prices really cheaper?

In many cases, they are not.

Headphones are historically overpriced at airports, and you know why.

You’re about to take a long flight and realize you need them. Cha-ching.

In some airports, duty free is sort of a joke.

Consider Hong Kong. What’s duty free at the airport?

There are no bargains whatsoever, because all of Hong Kong is duty free!

In my experience, the only great duty free bargain can be liquor, especially if you’re entering a country with a high tax on booze, such as Japan.

Buy it when you arrive at the airport, and it makes a great (and less expensive) gift to your host.

In most cases, there are no real bargains, so caveat emptor.

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