What is duty free?
Duty free shops and stores are retail outlets which are exempt from certain taxes and duties, because the customer buying goods at these stores will be travellers taking the goods out of the country. The taxes and duties exempt from the goods will depend on which country you are visiting, and each country will have a different way of calculating and refunding the duty itself.
What are the limits and allowances?
The duty free allowance and duty free limits you will be subject to depend on where your final destination is. Your luggage is usually exempt from duty free limits, but if you've purchased items from Sydney airport duty free, for example, and have carried these extra items onboard your plane to Dubai or Thailand, these items will have to be compliant with Dubai or Thailand's duty free laws.
Let's use Dubai as an example. According to the Dubai government website, you can bring in
- Gifts that do not exceed AED 3,000 (United Arab Emirates Dirham)
- No more than 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 500 grams of tobbacco
- No more than 4Litres of alcoholic beverage.
In comparison, you are allowed to bring in 2.25 litres of alcoholic beverage into Australia and if you are aged 18 or older, you can bring in up to AUD 900 of general goods into Australia duty free (general goods are things like gifts, souvenirs, cameras, electronic equipment, leather goods, perfume concentrates, jewellery, watches and sporting equipment).
So be careful how much you buy according to your final destination. There is no blanket rule that covers all countries, and if you go overboard in the Sydney airport shops it could prove to be a very costly error when you're next in line at customs.
Can you only shop for duty free goods in airports?
The majority of duty free shopping takes place in airports. The world's first duty free shop was established in Shannon Airport in Ireland in 1947 and still exists to this day! There are other places you are able to buy duty free goods. During your flight itself, there is usually a duty free shopping channel that comes with the flight entertainment, or a magazine in your seat's front pocket that you can browse through. You are able to purchase items straight from the cabin crew before your feet have even touched the ground.
You can also find duty free shops in international sea ports, on cruise ships and in the international zone of train stations, like when the Eurostar opened up a new World Duty Free store in St. Pancras International. You can also shop for duty free if you are driving over boarders, but this is very rare. The borders between the United States, Canada and Mexico offer some duty free shops to drivers, but this is fairly uncommon. Think of international airports are the most common place for duty free, and think of border crossings as the least.
Technically you can shop duty free outside the international zones of airports, but it's slightly different. This is when you spend a certain amount on goods in the country that you're visiting, and this certain amount means you are entitled to a refund on the GST (goods and services tax) and WET (wine equalisation tax) because you and your purchases are leaving the country. In Australia, GST is a value added tax of 10% and WET is 29% of the wholesale value of wine. This process is known at the Tourist Refund Scheme.
Where to shop duty free before arriving at the airport?
As a tourist visiting Australia or an Australian citizen heading overseas for an extended period, there are many great opportunities to buy duty free in Sydney before you reach the departure lounge. This two city-central stores are designed to cater to duty free shoppers.
- Located on 155 George Street with a view of Sydney Harbour, this duty free store has an impressive range of luxury fashion items and accessories for you to chose from.
- The name says it all! Sydney Duty Free is conveniently positioned in Sydney's City Circle just opposite Museum Station and stocks brands and gifts that really showcase what Australia is all about.
Additionally, because of the Tourist Refund Scheme, it may be more economical to purchase expensive items in Australia before returning home. Visitors cite the Apple Store and The Queen Victoria Building as two places they like to take advantage of TRS. A new Ipad and some designer clothing minus GST? Who wouldn't want to hand over their credit card!
- Purchased goods have been made within 60 days of departure
- Your purchases is AU$300.00 (inc. GST) or more in one store
- As the travelling passenger, you have paid for the goods
- Present an original copy of the tax invoice to the ABF officers
Where to claim duty free as you depart
In Sydney Airport, the Tourist Refund Scheme office is located just after you are given the all-clear by customs to enter the international departure lounge. It is not a large office and people often struggle to find it first time around because it's a case of 'blink and you'll miss it". You can find the Sydney TRS office to right of the Heinemann Duty Free entrance. You must make sure to s be there at least 90 minutes prior to your flight departure to allow sufficient time for the TRS Officers to complete your claim.
How does duty free shopping in Sydney compare to other cities?
If Sydney International Airport's duty free shopping is good enough for Elle MacPherson, then it's certainly good enough for us! The supermodel was spotted doing some serious Christmas shopping in December of last year
There are over 30 stores to shop after you pass security in the international terminal, which is great considering the relative size of Sydney's international airport. The heavy hitters are Incheon Airport in South Korea and Dubai International. Incheon Airport is the world's largest airport by duty-free sales, making US$1.85 billion in 2016,[narrowly overtaking Dubai, in second place with 2016 sales of $1.82 billion
What to expect at the duty free shops in Sydney airport
If this is your first time duty-free shopping, don't expect it to be like browsing a regular store. Duty free shops will not usually have the entire range available like a flag-ship store would. There just simply isn't room for full size stores to cram into an airport! However, what makes duty free shopping great is when you're on the look up for new releases. The more compact duty free shops generally give priority to the brand's new lines.
What are the best shops in Sydney airport?
The following are some of the best shops in Sydney airport:
Downtown Duty Free
Popular products to buy duty free
Perfume remains one of the most popular products to pick up duty, so if you're due to stock up on your DKNY or Chanel No.5, now is the time. Jewellery, accessories like handbags and shoes, and designer watches are other great duty free buys. They are small enough so they won't hinder you as you continue your journey, but expensive enough that it's worthwhile getting a discount.
This should clear up any confusion you may have about what duty free is and all the rules and regulations surrounded limits and allowances. Don't forget to research the restrictions relevant to your journey each time you travel if you want to avoid making a costly mistake!