For a lot of travelers, the best way to kill time during an airport layover is a shopping spree. But are the deals at duty-free shops really worthwhile?
Zach Griff, an analyst at the travel website The Points Guy, collected data from 50 different airports around the world, including 14 in the U.S., to determine which duty-free shops offer the cheapest prices on the most popular duty-free product categories — liquor, cosmetics, fragrances and tobacco products. (Duty free stores are typically located in airports' international terminals and are exempt from local or national sales taxes.)
"In general, buy alcohol in the Caribbean, cosmetics and fragrances in Europe and tobacco in Asia," Griff writes in a report published on Thursday.
The Points Guy found that overall, the cheapest international airports for duty-free shopping are the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the Singapore Changi Airport and the Owen Roberts International Airport in the Cayman Islands.
The most expensive international airport is in Santorini, Greece.
However, Griff points out that different types of products can be better deals depending on where you buy them.
The international airports in Kiev, Ukraine; Madrid, Spain; and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands offer the best deals on liquor, according to The Points Guy. For instance, a 1-liter bottle of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey selling for $26.72 in the Madrid Barajas International Airport, which was 30% less than the same bottle sold for in London's Heathrow Airport.
London's Heathrow Airport, Dubai International Airport and Vienna International Airport have some of the best deals on cosmetics, The Points Guy found. For fragrances, the best duty-free prices can be found in Spain's Madrid Barajas, Portugal's Porto Airport and London's Heathrow.
Looking at international terminals in U.S. airports, the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu offered the cheapest duty-free prices overall, while The Points Guy team found the highest prices in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Honolulu's airport offered some of the best duty-free prices on liquor and tobacco products, while John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City had some of the best duty-free prices on cosmetics and fragrances.
Overall, The Points Guy found that duty-free shopping can definitely be worth it, but it might depend on which city and airport terminal you're traveling through. It's important to compare prices when you can, and it's not a bad idea to search for prices online (and use a currency converter if you're out of the country) to make sure you're getting a good deal, Griff writes.
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