Tips for Duty Free Alcohol Shopping at the Airport


After a recent holiday and some recent alcohol purchases to add to my increasing collection in cocktail corner, I thought I’d drop you a few hints on buying alcohol at the airport, where you can save a fair bit of money if you’re cunning.

Quick Tips for Buying Duty Free Alcohol at the Airport

Airport Alcohol Haul Myers's Rum, Havana Club, Absinthe

1. Know your limits

UK customs will allow you to bring back a certain amount of alcohol into the country from outside the EU for personal consumption or as gifts. The quantities for the UK are

  • beer – 16 litres
  • wine (not sparkling) – 4 litres

You can also bring in either:

  • spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol – 1 litre
  • fortified wine (eg port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol – 2 litres

You can split this last allowance, eg you could bring 1 litre of fortified wine and half a litre of spirits (both half of your allowance).

However, you’re not entitled to an allowance if you are under 18 and you can’t combine your allowance with someone else so that you bring back 2 litres of spirits and they bring back none.

According to www.gov.uk there aren’t any restrictions on bringing alcohol from another EU country to the UK as long as it’s for personal use. This is because these items are not be duty free at point of purchase. However, EU airport alcohol shopping often offer discounts on the standard RRP, so keep your eyes peeled.

What if I go over the allowances

If you go over your allowance, you will then be subject to 2.5% duty on products up to the value of £630, which will probably still make some of your purchases better value that just buying them off the shelf in the supermarket, however you may still have to pay the 20% tax. I have never seen anyone declare these purchases so I’m not completely sure how/if this procedure is followed.


2. Know what you’re looking for

Before you hit the shops, have an idea of what you want to buy. I knew that I wanted some rum, so I did a quick check on UK prices so I knew that the litre bottle of spirits I was lugging around actually was decent value for money.

I use www.mysupermarket.co.uk to do some comparisons.

3. Consider when to buy

This goes for any duty free products, not just alcohol. Some airports are better stocked than others. For example, I knew that Jomo Kenyatta didn’t have a massive shopping area on account of the fact that they burned down their duty free shopping area a couple of years ago. There are conspiracy theories, but I won’t go in to them now.

Jomo Kenyatta has a pretty good range of standard and well know rums, vodkas, whiskeys and some gins, but I knew I wouldn’t have the Absinthe or Frangelico I was looking for, so I waited until Schipol, Amsterdam as they’re a larger airport, especially for shopping and Absinthe is a European (French) product.

In the passed I’ve bought Lillet Blanc from Geneva, which is key to a good Corpse Reviver, but I’ve struggled to find it anywhere else.

I tend to buy perfume and make up on the way out usually. I don’t have a to mess about with the exchange rate and UK airports are pretty well stocked. I just found buy one get one free at Birmingham Airport on D & G The One 50ml (£47.50 each).

4. Understand the local offering

Now, I understand that most people don’t go on holiday solely because of the alcohol available, though I did kind of go to Barbados for the rum last November. Mount Gay anyone? However, if you find out a little about what’s popular their then you’ll know what to look out for on the return journey.

So, in Barbados the Cockspur and Mount Gay rums are so much cheaper on the island than in the UK, with 1.5 litre bottles of standard Mount Gay for around £16. However, both these dark rums are cheaper still at the airport where you’ll pay about £14. I know, I know, this takes you over your spirit limit, but, well, there is a 1.5 litre bottle of Mount Gay sat in my kitchen right now. Trust me, Mount Gay is one tasty rum!

Other bargains I’ve seen have been on Absinthe in France and Amarula Cream Liqueur in Kenya. So, a little research can really help you maxmise value for money.

Let me know if you have any tips on airport bargains. You can find out what I bought on a recent trip to Kenya here.

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