Duty and tax free shopping is not just confined to airports, airlines and cruise-ships/ferries. We’re all familiar with the duty-free status of popular destinations such as the Bahamas, Canary Islands, Caribbean/Virgin Islands, Tioman (Malaysia) etc (Mauritius is also now trying to gain duty free status to attract tourists and Mexico has dropped sales tax for tourists), but additionally you can find ‘downtown’ duty free shops in several leading Cities in the Far East, Australia, New Zealand, UAE and US.
In Japan, if your passport shows that you have been in the country for less than six months, you can buy duty free items - look out for particularly good deals in Tokyo’s Akihabar electronic shopping district.
One of the best known downtown shopping retailers is DFS Galleria which runs some truly magnificent outlets in 15 locations including Abu Dhabi, Australia, Bali, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Macao, North America, Taiwan and Vietnam. The shops focus on luxury items, primarily beauty, fashion and accessory products for men and women, while some also offer liquor and champagne (www.dfsgalleria.com). Products can be purchased online for pick up at the shop, with savings of up to 30% claimed compared to domestic prices in Japan, Korea and China.
Other notable downtown duty free shops are those run by King Power in Thailand and Paradise Duty Free in Busan, South Korea. In some downtown shops - particularly in Australia and New Zealand, you can purchase products and pick them up at the airport on departure, while for certain purchases a VAT refund may be claimed at the airport on departure. In the Philippines there are duty free malls throughout the country such as the Fiesta Mall, and SM Mall, Cebu City, while new outlets are opening up in emerging tourist destinations such as China and India.
If you visit a downtown duty free shop, make sure you have your passport with you as you’ll need it to gain entry and prove you are visiting. In addition to specific downtown shops and malls, more than 230,000 retailers in 35 countries offer a Tax Free Shopping service, whereby you can claim a tax refund at Global Refund Offices, found in all major airports. Look for the Tax Free Shopping sign in a blue square in shop windows or inside the shop.
And if you’re off to Mexico, since June 2008, foreign tourists who have spent at least 1,200 pesos ($115) in approved shops can go to specific kiosks at five main airports to claim back the 15% tax you will have been charged on souvenirs and other goods.