Is duty free a good deal?

I’ve never been a duty free shopper. Stocking up on alcohol and cosmetics just never seemed compelling to me.

However, I recently had a longer-than-expected layover in Puerto Vallarta, so I spent some time wandering around the airport.

I found myself in the duty-free shop, where I ended up tasting, then buying, a wide variety of tequila.

duty free tequila

It seemed like a good idea at the time. But now I have to wonder: is duty-free a good deal?

Duty free shoppers (or naysayers), please weigh in!


  1. As an expat in the Middle East, it’s more about convenience than saving money. Picking up booze on arrival means I don’t have to make a special trip to the limited number of branches where alcohol ca be purchased. Also, on arrival into other countries, I usually pick up a bottle of bubbly – because, what a great way to start my holiday!

  2. Usually, its not a good deal. But I have found buying tequila in Mexico (especially Mexico City) to be a big exception. I have gotten otherwise pricey tequilas at great discounts. Especially if they have a sale.

  3. Rarely do I consider it a deal but certain airports do seem to have some great but occasional deals. PTY had litre bottles of Grand Marnier for $23 a couple of years ago and I also found Cardenal Mendoza there for half of what I’d have to pay stateside.
    My favourite though is BOG where I load up on Havana Club Ánjejo 7 Ános rum for only $16 a bottle. Nothing has ever been so smooth.

  4. It really depends. In general, I’ve found that you are purchasing a local(ish) product then deals can be quite good: rum at PTY, tequila in Mexico, Japanese whiskey at NRT, irish whisky at DUB or SNN. Buying non local items is typically not a great deal though.

  5. Christian says:

    I guess it’s like most things in that if you know the price, you can see you’re getting a deal on some things. If you don’t know what prices run, local booze tends to be well priced. Otherwise, if something sounds like a bargain for a quality product with a recognizable name, do it. You’ll rarely end up doing worse than non duty free back home.

  6. I used to stock up at SJU. Because of the bottling plants located in Puerto Rico you can sometimes find good deals there.

  7. Usually it isn’t that great but you may save sales or VAT taxes which can be 8 to 17 %. Also cigarettes are typically a good deal if you smoke. Again because of the taxes. Also duty free shops at airports or on shore are cheaper than on planes or cruise ships.


    I like to shop at the duty-free shop

  9. In recent times, many great bottles of scotch are made just for the duty-free market. Outside of visiting the distillery, duty-free is the easiest way to find and purchase these exclusive (and often high priced) releases.

  10. We found Dom Perignon at Heathrow a few yrs ago much cheaper than we could get in Texas so we brought a couple of bottles home….where they are still aging to perfection!

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