It used to be so exciting, buying your grog or perfume at a big discount duty free – all part of the thrill of travelling overseas.

And then… it wasn’t so much.

After the GST was introduced in 2000 the government phased out a lot of the duties that attached to goods. So buying duty-free no longer saved you a mint. And then online retailers started offering amazing deals, as did a lot of discount stores, (e.g., Chemist Warehouse stocking perfume, Dan Murphys taking over liquor).

But they’re not dead, those glossy, over-staffed, duty-free dens. They’re still there at the airport, waiting patiently for weary passengers, preying on the stragglers like lions in the sub-Sahara.

Do they still offer good deals?

No, and yes. For instance, you’d have to be desperate to buy chocolate duty free, and lots of other goods – tech, skin care, wines, some perfumes – are not much cheaper than regular retail/online stores; sometimes they’re even quite a bit more expensive.

But here are some comparisons that work in the duty free stores’ favour, based on prices at Sydney’s Heinemann Duty Free at time of writing. Always bear in mind prices vary from country to country, city to city, day to day.

Alcohol

Absolut Vodka 40% 1L – Heinemanns’ price $34.90
SAVE $16 to $32 (compared to Dan Murphy’s and BWS)

Johnnie Walker Red 40% 1.125L – Heinemanns’ $34.90
SAVE $17 to $31 (compared to Dan Murphys, First Choice, BWS)

Bundaberg Red Rum 37% 1L – Heinemanns’ $36.90
SAVE $20 to $25 (compared to Dan Murphy’s and Woolworths)

Perfume

Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau De Parfum 100mL – Heinemanns’ $212
SAVE $48 over David Jones! And SAVE $19.50 over Strawberrynet

Calvin Klein Deep Euphoria Eau de Parfum 100mL – Heinemanns’ $107
SAVE $13 (compared to Myer) but Priceline has it on special for $99 – NO SAVE

Airport duty free - perfume

Many goods – tech, skin care, wines, some perfumes – are not much cheaper than regular retail/online stores

Electronic goods

Canon 200D Single Kit with 18-55 lens – Heinemanns’ $723
SAVE $75 over The Good Guys/Harvey Norman

Cosmetics

Dior Addict lipstick No. 976 Be Dior – Heinemanns’ $44
SAVE $12 (compared to strawberrynet, catch.com.au)

Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2 400mL – Heinemanns’ $37
SAVE $8 (compared to Myer)

Cigarettes

Carton of Benson & Hedges Classic Red PB 25/200s – Heinemanns’ $105
SAVE $156 over the best price listed at ifag.com.au

Yes. Sadly, the best savings are on tobacco.

A few extra tips:

Google the best price available at other retailers before you hand over your money, to make sure it is a seriously good deal.

This executive travellers’ site points out which international airports are best for various luxury products.

And as usual, CHOICE has some commonsense advice.