Sky-high prices at duty free

No international trip is complete without a browse through the duty-free shop, especially if you’ve got hours to kill at the airport. However, while we might think of airports as shopping havens, some items can be up to 177% more expensive than local retail prices. So what should you buy before you fly? We’ve analysed 17 products across 6 categories to help you make a more informed decision.

The best and worst “bargains”

Of the six categories analysed – spirits, wine, skincare, makeup, perfume and chocolate – three were cheaper to buy at duty free on average, and three were more expensive.

Analysis suggests that the biggest savings can be made from buying spirits at the airport, with an average saving of 18%. This is particularly good news for frequent flyers with a penchant for Johnny Walker Red Label, as purchasing a bottle at the airport for an average price of $32 will save you $10.99, or 26%.

On the other hand, if you’re a value shopper, you should stay away from airport chocolate, which was found to be 118% more expensive than equivalent retail prices. Research has found that a duty-free 360g Toblerone Gold bar will set you back an average of $14.25, while you can make the same purchase at Dizin for $8.99. A Lindt Gold Milk Raisin Hazelnut bar (which you can purchase at Walmart for $5.77) costs $16 duty free – a whopping 177% more!

Perfume was also found to be significantly more expensive at the airport than through other retailers. On average it was 52% more expensive, with men’s scent Calvin Klein Obsession costing a shocking 124% extra compared to online retailer Perfume Online. Not all airport perfumes were that costly, however, with Marc Jacobs Daisy and J’Adore Dior a more reasonable 14% and 17% more expensive than other retailers.

Wine was also found to be more expensive duty free. On average it cost 5% more than regular retailers. However, some duty-free wines are bang on good value, like a bottle of Moet, which has an average airport price of $65.50.

Our findings suggest that skincare is a good duty-free airport bargain. On average it was found to be 14% cheaper than equivalent retail prices. In particular, duty-free stores were found to offer skincare packs, which can equate to decent savings. For example, the Clinique Moisture Basics Combination 125ml duo came in at an average duty-free price of $59, whereas purchasing two single products from Sephora would cost $72. Other skincare products, like Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Complex II 50ml and Clinique’s men’s cleanser and moisturiser, were also found to offer solid duty-free savings of 10% and 13%.

Unfortunately, makeup doesn’t appear to have the same savings potential, with research suggesting it’s just 2% cheaper duty free. However, if you’ve got hours to kill in transit, you certainly don’t need to feel bad about purchasing Estée Lauder’s Sumptuous Extreme Mascara that would cost you same at your local Shoppers Drug Mart.

If you are looking to make some purchases you can catch our latest deals here.


Duty-free prices are the average of two Canadian duty-free stores. Retail prices used were the cheapest found online, meaning the prices here may not be the same at all retailers.

All prices as of 12/03/2019

Go to site