Thanks to price comparison websites, buying cheap quality alcohol online is very easy nowadays. You can check the prices of the biggest brands and most retailers with just a few clicks. But what about duty free shops? And what about online duty free shops selling alcoholic drinks online? Even tough, duty free shops are accepted to be generally cheaper, the price comparison websites never list them. Therefore, I started comparing the prices of alcohol in duty free shops with regular shops both online and offline, and the results will definitely surprise you.
My reason for writing this guide:
I stumbled upon duty-free shops selling cheap cigarettes online (sometimes they are called tax free shops but actually that’s incorrect, explanation can be found here: the difference between duty-free and tax free) . It is surprising how much money you can save by buying cigarettes online.
However, I wanted to see whether the same is true for buying alcohol online. It turns out it’s not, which was quite surprising for me.
/Brick and mortar duty-free stores are overpriced rip-offs, you can read my article exposing them here: duty-free shopping guide, you shouldn’t shop in duty-free shops at airports. See it for yourself below. The only way to save money shopping duty-free is to do it online. And it depends on the product category, not everything is cheaper./
UPDATE: Coupon codes for duty free alcoholic drinks are at the bottom! Scroll down to get the temporary coupon codes, while they are still valid. New coupon codes are posted regularly.
Buying cheap alcohol online
Some duty-free shops circumvent duty-free laws and are able to sell, among other things, unbelievably cheap cigarettes online legally (with free international shipping and bulk order discount, they are indeed really cheap).
However, the liqueurs and spirits they are selling are overpriced.
Buying duty free alcohol online – price comparison
Let’s compare prices and see the results.
/You can find similar price comparisons of many different product categories on the website, check them all out./
I used Bacardi Superior (1 liter, premium white rum) as an example.
|Price comparison – Bacardi in the UK|
|Duty free shop at an airport||€22,5|
|Online duty-free shop||€30|
Duty-free shop selling alcohol: This is from a UK duty free shop at an airport, Worlddutyfree shop.
A bottle (1 liter) of Bacardi Superior costs £ 18.99, around EUR : € 22,5.
Online alcohol retailer: Mysupermarket.co.uk, a UK online price comparison site, gives the following prizes for popular European retailers:
A bottle of Bacardi Superior costs only £ 18.00 at Waitrose, around € 21. Cheaper than at a duty-free store at an airport!
Duty free alcohol online: and finally let’s look at a online duty-free store.
It’s $33.99, which is € 30, £25, the most expensive of all the options!
I also did a quick comparison for US visitors with Grey Goose premium vodka (1 liter). Just the numbers:
- Duty-free shop at an airport: $ 42
- Walmart: A bottle of 750 ml (there was no 1 liter version) costs $ 27.97
/Let’s calculate the price of 1 liter: (27.97/750)*1000 = $ 37. 29/
- Local online retailer (Liquor mart): $32.99
- Online duty free shop selling alcohol: $57.99
As you can see, in this case, the local online retailer Liquor Mart sells it seemingly the cheapest. However, their shipping fees are quite high (depending on which state you are located), and if you add that, the costs is on the same level as the duty free shop.
Unsurprisingly Walmart is the cheapest option in this case.
Conclusion: it’s best stick to local retail chains when purchasing alcohol in person or online. Unless you can catch a deal online (coupon codes are at the bottom of this webpage). Even though I compared the prices in the UK and the US only, this is a worldwide phenomena. Duty free shops have been ripping you off for years! You can easily do the price comparison for your country as well.
Surprisingly, in this case, online duty free shops are definitely not a good option. Not what I expected at all. This illustrates quite well the importance of comparing prices in each product category (check the price comparison of other product categories as well).
However, in case you are looking to buy more exotic alcoholic drinks, online duty-free shops can still come in handy, as such alcohol is often overpriced, or not at all available in local supermarkets (they only sell mass-market products).
Duty-free allowances for alcohol
You can find the duty-free allowances for alcoholic drinks here: Duty-free, tax free guide with allowances (sorted by country).
Certain countries seize your order if it exceeds the limit on duty free products. The UK, and to a lesser extent the US is notorious for this. In those two countries we definitely do not recommend ordering more than the duty free allowance.
Legal issues with buying alcohol online
Ordering alcohol from online duty-free shops is, in general, perfectly legal (unless ordering alcohol online is illegal in your country, must be 18+). However, just to make sure, you should always check out the local laws on ordering alcohol before you make a purchase.
If you fail to comply with your country’s or state’s regulations, your order may be seized. If your shipment is seized, contact the retailer you bought the spirits from; even if it was uninsured many online duty-free shops offer some form of recompense.
The shop I use offers a form of insurance to protect buyers. If you decide to pay some extra, your order will be guaranteed to be delivered again if it happens to be seized by customs, free of charge. I strongly suggest using this insurance if you bulk order.
You should also pay attention to the allowances on alcohol in your country, that is, what amount you may import without having to pay extra. You can find the duty free allowances here, at the bottom.
Duty-free alcohol coupon codes
Duty-free shops regularly offer discount codes for alcohol and other products. You can find the latest coupon codes here.
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It helps me out a lot, I appreciate it. Thanks!
Check out the other alcohol related price comparison and shopping guides:
- Duty free Spirits
- Duty free Liquor (coming soon)
Last updated: 2016-08-06
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