Thursday, 4 July 2013

Buying your duty-free on arrival in Asia

This blog and our associate website receive numerous requests with regard to the inbound shopping facilities in airports, asking if and where travellers can buy their duty free after landing. We are also receiving an increasing number of enquiries related to Duty-Free Apple products.

Over the coming weeks we will provide a spot guide to the facilities available around the world, today we start with SE Asia, including some advice related to the purchase of  Tax-Free Electronics.

Thailand: Inbound duty-free shops can be found in all major international airports, including the two airports in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang. The latter mainly handles domestic traffic, particularly flights for Air Asia. Duty-Free is not available for domestic travellers on these routes.

BKK inbound duty-free store baggage hall
Cambodia: The main airport in Phnom Penh has two arrivals stores located near the baggage hall.

Singapore:  Singapore’s Changi is one of the world’s top airports with an attractive and efficient design. All international terminal areas have duty-free arrivals stores in the baggage claim area, or nearby. Tobacco products are restricted and even though you can buy them in these stores, you can only take in 19 cigarettes or the equivalent tobacco without paying tax. In effect, there is no point buying tobaccos to take into the Country.

Vietnam closed their arrivals duty free stores some years ago with an action in contradiction to the overall worldwide trend, which is to open duty-free shops on arrival in airports.

Malaysia: Both airports and the low cost airport terminal in KL have arrivals stores.

Myanmar: From what we understand there are arrivals stores in the two main airports.

Indonesia: Like Vietnam, this country banned the arrivals duty-free shopping procedure some years ago.

Laos: We are clarifying this information, but we believe that arrivals stores are available.

Ko Samui, lounge store
Some of these Asian countries, like Thailand and Singapore, also allow the Tax-Free Shopping refund facility, but this is not to be confused with duty-free shopping in airports. It is a completely different system, where you have to purchase the goods in the domestic market, pay the local tax on them, then through a banking service provider, re-claim this tax when you leave the country. Whereas, for those travelling internationally through airports, the tax has already been deducted on products sold in duty-free stores.

There are other websites and blogs out there offering duty-free and tax-free shopping information and comparisons, but some appear to have confused the two different Tax-Free systems when making their price comparison.

Some offer a global duty-free price comparison service for electronic goods such as iPads, iPods or iPhones, but appear to have assumed that stock purchased through the Tax-Refund service is available to everybody, when it is not. Each country and continent has different regulations and often certain Nationalities or Residents are actually excluded from this system and are not allowed to re-claim the Tax on goods. The European Union is a good example of this exclusion. 

Furthermore, Duty-Free electronic goods do not actually exist as there is no “Excise Duty” levied on such goods, only sales or import Taxes. In effect, such products should be described by these various sites as “Tax-Free” and not “Duty-Free”. Excise Duty, where the description “Duty-Free” came from, now only applies to liquors or tobaccos.

So, it is wise to check before you fly in relation to the varying rules for your trip and the best place to find this destination specific information is to search your duty-free shopping location at our associate site, duty free on arrival.

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