Duty-free is it worth it?

As much a holiday tradition as cocktails by the pool, does duty-free still offer good value?
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  • Updated:23 Aug 2005

02.Prices compared

What we found

  • Both alcohol and perfume are better value duty-free than buying in a retail store here, and perfume was also cheaper in all the overseas airports we checked except Auckland.
  • For alcohol it isn’t always easy to compare prices. Spirits tend to be sold in bigger bottles (sometimes with a higher alcohol level too) in duty-free shops, so it’s hard to compare like with like, and overseas we also found packages that offered a good deal if you bought two bottles instead of one. While you’ll pay less per millilitre, two bottles are of course still going to cost you more than one.
  • Comparing the prices worldwide of electronic goods like digital cameras and the APPLE iPod is also difficult. Because models are superseded so quickly (cameras seem to average roughly a six-month cycle) and are susceptible to demand, a model available in Australia may no longer be available overseas, or vice versa.
  • Watches are also very hard to compare because not all shops stock exactly the same range. This means if you have your heart set on a particular model, you can’t count on finding it everywhere.

GST Refunds

If you’re travelling overseas you can even buy portable items (such as a digital camera) in a normal retail store before you leave, take them with you and claim a tax refund on them. Using the Australian Customs Services’ Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), you may be able to claim a refund of the GST, which applies to things like clothing, jewellery, shoes, cameras, small electrical goods and souvenirs, and of the wine equalisation tax (WET).

Refunds are subject to several conditions, including that you must:

  • Have bought the goods no more than 30 days before your departure.
  • Take the goods with you as carry-on luggage when you leave.
  • Spend $300 or more in the one store and ask the retailer for a single tax invoice to cover all items.

Present your passport, original tax invoice, international boarding pass and the goods to the Customs Officer at the TRS facility in your departure airport.
Remember, there are limits on the quantity of goods you’re allowed to bring back into Australia duty and/or tax-free. Along with any duty-free items bought here before leaving and overseas, items bought under the TRS are included when determining your duty-free allowance. Goods for which a TRS claim has been approved must be declared to Customs on your return to Australia.

For more information on the Tourist Refund Scheme, go to the Australian Customs Service website.


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