Some travelers make it a point to pay duty free shops a visit because of what they actually promise: duty free products. This means they are sold without excess tax charges that would normally be incorporated in the price tags at shops elsewhere.

But, hold on to that thought.

While there is truth to the claim that travelers — those who present their onward boarding pass upon purchase at the cashier — would get discounted prices, experts say it depends on what is actually being bought. There are certain cases when you might be spending more than you should. The mere thought of buying in a duty free shop might create a notion that price tags found here are lower than elsewhere.

According to Swedish firm Generation Research, sales at duty free shops in airports amounted to more than $34 billion in 2013. But contrary to what most customers might think, it isn’t all money they spent well.

“Even items that might seem like a bargain at duty-free could end up being cheaper at regular retailers,” says Erin Konrad, a spokesperson for “The key is to do a little research before you purchase.”

What to Buy at Airport Duty-Free Shops

And such research should include knowing what are the ideal items shoppers should buy at duty free shops. While we don’t encourage unhealthy habits, smokers and alcohol drinkers stand to benefit from duty free shops, especially when they live on places where such products are heavily taxed. This is according to Trae Bodge, a senior editor at So citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Norway can take advantage of cigarettes and alcohol sold at duty free shops.

What Not to Buy at Duty-Free Shops
Although it is encouraged to buy local products such as artisan crafts and local delicacies such as chocolate and coffee as well as souvenirs you wish to bring home, there are items on the shelf that deserve your snub even if they are promoted as duty free.

1. Electronics
Unless you are only keen on price and don’t mind if the display model is outdated, it’s not worth buying the electronic items on display. If you are not convinced, take down notes on prices peddled at online shops such as or and compare with what you’ll see on display during your airport layover.

2. Cosmetics
Duty-free shops are often stocked with cosmetics the most, but it does not mean they’re the ones to buy simply because they are not the cheapest. Same as electronics, making online research pays off — or at least gives a traveler more informed decision. All is not lost, though, as duty-free shops are the among the likeliest places one can find discounted high-end cosmetics.

3. Cameras
Unless you are on a lookout for a new photography gadget to capture your vacation memories, cameras sold at duty-free shops are not the most worth your dollar. Shops are often less equipped with latest releases, items that buyers are more keen on snapping while on holidays. With online retailers competing for customers, duty-free shops can’t seem to keep abreast with them.