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Buy The Way

Time was when airports were places to catch a flight. Now you can leave carrying anything from a set of golf clubs to a diamond ring along with your boarding card. With the ever-more seductive malls luring the business traveller, Charmaine Fernz explores the world of Duty-Free with a special focus on ITDCís Indian Duty-Free Shops

You’re in the airport, all formalities completed, you have time to kill, you haven’t quite maxed your credit cards. So, you meander through the duty-free wondering what should be picked - a Mont Blanc pen or a Gucci hand bag - the prices are great, bargains mind-blowing...

Duty-free has been an enduring mystery for travellers the world over. Although, it is not a nouveau concept, it has undoubtedly captured the minds of one and all. Airports perceive duty-free to be one of the ‘hottest-selling’ avenues, hence of late, it is being emphasised advantageously. But, before we proceed through the most sought-after duty-free airports globally, let’s first look at what duty-free really means?

Basically, a confusing term; it is a perk for international travellers only. It means that the price you pay at the duty-free store, does not include the additional costs of duty and taxes.

Without getting into its intricacies, the fact remains that of the 600 million passengers who fly internationally every year, 20 per cent (about 120 million) shop at duty-free. Let’s start our sojourn amongst the who’s who, each one unique in its own right. So, set your priorities and take your pick.

Fly, Buy, Dubai
Dubai duty-free - should I say more? The name says it all. I don’t want to sound cliched, but you’ve got the world in your hands at Dubai duty-free, from the latest in high-tech electronics and cameras to luxury goods from around the globe, at unbeatable prices! This humongous mall is a city by itself. The most popular items are chocolates and liquor, followed by electronics that are very affordable and a must buy. But BEWARE! clothing and sports items are extremely expensive. Being an Arabian country, you would also find dry fruits in abundance of all sorts, shapes and sizes.

Getting down to business, if I were to compare the Dubai duty-free prices to the European ones, it is unquestionably a bargain. The environment is especially conducive to shopping (I guess its the Asian culture). Even though, it basically caters to an international clientele, it has much for the Asian in mind. Therefore, the pricing factor, which varies from the exorbitant to the affordable.

There’s a treat in store for beauty enthusiasts with the works in cosmetics available at amazing rates. And what better place than Dubai for the ‘Gold Rush’. The special gold counter with its sleak Turkish gold jewellery, has definitely caught the fancy of Asians. Next on line are cell phones that are competitively priced, and you can pick up a genuine piece without tampering.

An exceptional value-add at the airport is the ‘cling-wrap’ machine near the check-in counter. This facility though available in other airports as well is the most availed of in Dubai (It’s indeed an alluring shopper’s paradise). This machine certainly facilitates passengers checking in.

Widest Range, Lowest Prices
Being a major aviation hub in the Asian market, Singapore’s Changi airport has been built to cater to the demand of travellers. The duty-free is on par with its Asian counterparts, but what sets it apart is its infrastructure. Being a frequent traveller, I am sure you’re aware that the Singapore airport authorities are very strict about the intake into the country, but one could carry any amount on departure. Though remember to avoid carrying deodorants in your hand-baggage, they will be confiscated. Your best bets are garments, perfumes and most o all - Swarovski crystal, I know it sounds a bit surprising, but its true! The Nike and Versace showroom are worth a visit. Though Changi offers an interesting collection of cigars, cigarettes are over-priced and are available cheaper at other duty-frees. Handycams and digital cameras are not advisable to buy here because of the high duty payable at the Indian airports. People with palm tops can buy excellent accessories at the airport. Palms has a special counter offering a wide range of accessories. The ideal time to visit Singapore is between May and July, the sale months when practically everything under the sun is discounted. For those on a holiday, the interactive kiosks are a ready-reckoner on any information on the city or airport.

The Kuala Lumpur International Airport, better known as KLIA, is worth a look for its greenery not only within the airport but also outside. I am not diverting here, my topic remains the same. Being my first visit to Malaysia - Truly Asia, the airport took me by surprise and brought to mind a jungle canopy. Tropikul (interesting name) - The Malaysian duty-free - though not extensive has everything one needs. If you’re looking at picking up a memento or souvenir of this country, the cottage industry shops that sell handmade hats, spoons etc, so typically Malay, are your best bet.

The aero train is another unique experience by itself. You have to take the train to get to the duty-free. This aero train commutes between one check-in terminal to the boarding area. Perfumes and watches are good buys here. If you are looking for an interesting gift, pop by Roset for a pearl necktie or Royal Selangor for intricately carved pewter pieces, from desk clocks to chess sets, goblets etc. However, the best place to shop is the Golden Boutique owned by the Malaysian Airport Authorities and the Malaysian Airlines. For chocolate lovers, there’s the Choc Stop International, but prices are a little steep. KLIA is also not the best place to indulge in electronics. Unlike Dubai, there are no raffles conducted at KLIA, since it is considered gambling, which is an offence in Malaysia.

Travel Value
How do I begin? Confusing ahh! Travel Value - the duty-free at Frankfurt Flugafen - is not amazing at first glance (especially when compared to its Asian counterparts), but it has everything most duty-free outlets stock. Frankfurt Airport has more than 130 shops offering fine arts and crafts items, books, gift foods, clothing, jewellery, electronics, leather goods and more. The airport also has three adult bookstores, selling erotica and adult movies.

Street pricing is in effect here, which means airport stores may not price their wares above what they charge at their outlets in-town, so you can confidently shop around for German wines, Steiff bears, Hummel figurines, beer steins and other specialties. Highlights in Terminal 1 include Harrods of Knightsbridge, the Caviar House, Bally, Boss, the Art & More International Museum shop (also in Terminal 2), the Porsche Design shop and Behaghel, which stocks Hummels and other gift items. In Terminal 2, look for Boss and Zimmerman (costumes, toys, games etc). If you’re at the airport in December, you’re in for a treat. While less elaborate than Frankfurt’s in-town Christmas Market, a nonetheless gift-filled market is held at the airport in December (including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). The best souvenir under US$ 10 is a tote or T-shirt adorned with Fluggi, the airport’s mascot, available at the Fluggi shop. Other good options are liquor and chocolates. Boasting an immense variety of liquor, make sure you look out for the discounted offers.

World At Your Feet
Being an ‘English’ city, I guess it percolates down the order. The duty-free at London Heathrow airport is as businesslike as the city, need I say more. The duty-free offers everything under the sun, though not all necessarily guaranteeing value for money. You can shop for jams and jellies to fine jewellery at Heahrow. For a complete list of shops and their terminal locations, pick up a current Heathrow Flight & Travel Information Guide at any information desk. And don’t worry if one of the duty-free shops you want to visit isn’t in the terminal you’ll be using: Heathrow has a free ‘personal shopping service’, with escorts to take you between terminals so you can shop in whichever store strikes your fancy. Before you pass through security, the following shops will tempt you: Virgin Music Store (Terminal 1), the Sock Shop (Terminal 2), Glorious Britain (Terminal 3) and the Body Shop (Terminal 4). Post-security, you’ll find branches of Harrods, the Caviar House, the Chocolate Box, and the World of Whiskies in each terminal. Don’t miss the Tie-Rack stores too. Besides, many favourite brands are available exclusively at the airport for a limited period, and many products are launched by World duty-free before they are available anywhere else in the world. Attention! This is a must see ‘n’ catch. Every month at the airport you will find a range of special offers, look out for the ‘Red Hot’ offer sign and save even more over and above the tax-free prices!

As you can see, the airport shopping mall is becoming a highly profitable part of the aviation scene with everyone, it seems, anxious to get at your credit card.

Handy Hints
  • Liquor is cheaper at the Indian duty-free than anywhere else.
  • Heathrow has a free ‘personal shopping service’, with escorts to take you between terminals so you can shop in whatever store you like.
  • A gift-filled market is held at the Frankfurt airport in December.
  • The best place to shop in KLIA is the Golden Boutique.
  • An exceptional value-add at the Dubai airport is the ‘cling-wrap’ machine near the check-in counter.
Prices At A Glance (in US$)
Ashok international trade division
Product Dubai Colombo Singapore India
Black Label 23.68 26 23.06 25
      (Chennai) 24.00
Chivas Regal 24.23 27.5 23.11 (Delhi) 25.00
Red Label 13.07 13.5 11.56 13
Glenmorangie 10 Y.O. 31.13 23.5 28.07 32
John Haig 11.16     10
Teachers 11.43 12 10.47 9
Cutty Sark 13.07   9.98 11
Grand Macnish       9
Hankey Bannister 8.17     8
Bacardi Rum 10.34 12 10.96 10
Finlandia Vodka 8.17 10 8.94 6
Smirnoff Vodka 8.71 10 10.74 8
Bombay Sapphire Gin 11.71   11.72 11
Ballayís Irish Cream 17.7 19.5 13.63 15
Old Smuggler 100cl       9
Black and White 100cl 11.98 12.5   12
Passport 100cl 11.98     10
VAT 69 10.07 11   9