Arrival Duty Free Sales

Arrival Duty Free sales may seem an anomaly.  As I’ve mentioned in the section How It All Started, the whole concept of Duty Free was based on the notion of exporting your purchases.  Nevertheless, there are quite a few countries which allow sales of Duty and Tax Free merchandise on arrival.  There are actually a lot more than you might think.  Most of them are outside Europe.  A few (Argentina and Brazil) actually have increased allowances for Duty Free purchases made on arrival.

It’s surprising that airports in none of these countries inform passengers online that they can buy Duty Free on arrival. A real missed opportunity – both for the passenger and the airport. It also continues to reinforce my view that airports are really lousy at communicating their benefits to potential buyers.

But even if you don’t buy on arrival, it’s worthwhile knowing about it beforehand as part of your homework. You’ll be ready to check on arrival to see if it’d be a good deal to buy on your way back home.

So here are the countries with which I’m personally familiar that have arrival Duty Free shops:

  • Asia/Pacific – Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan
  • Africa – Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia
  • Middle East – Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey
  • South America – Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador

There may be others.

Arrival Sales in Europe

However, in Europe only 4 countries – Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Russia allow arrival Duty Free sales at airports.  None of them are in the EU.

Zurich Arrival Duty Free Sales

EU rules don’t permit arrival Duty Free sales.  However, you may have seen arrival shops in some airports in the EU, such as London or Dublin, for example. 

These aren’t Duty or Tax Free sales.  They’re Travel Retail sales – either Tax Discounted or standard domestic Tax Paid. You may remember that these are available to all passengers in either direction of travel.

Many EU airports also offer a collect on return service for purchases made on departure.  This is similar to the concept of arrival sales.  However, collect on return is always restricted to buyers who are travelling within the EU.  Sales to intra-EU travellers are Travel Retail, not Duty Free, so they’re OK under EU rules.