July 9, 2010

Duty Free, etc.

You know, duty free may be a good deal in Western Europe, Japan or the US, but for the life of me, I have no idea why anyone would want to buy anything except only a few items in the duty free areas in most of the world countries.

Take souvenirs, for example. Why would you want to buy them in the duty free section if you can get those three or four or five times cheaper outside the airport, in town? The same goes for bags. Gee, why would you want to buy a bargain $200 bag at the Duty Free if so many stores in town will sell it to you for $30 or less. Admittedly, it may not be exactly the same bag, but it will be pretty darn close and you can then use it for the same purpose as you would have used the more expensive ones.

Electronics for some reason do not look so cheap, either. You can scout the Internet and get them much cheaper. The only good thing the Duty Frees are good for is items that are simply not available anywhere near where you are heading to. For example, caviar may not be available in many places in the Middle East or SE Asia. Plus it ‘will’ be cheaper if you buy it there. Some famous alcoholic items will be cheaper, for example Black Label- it is, in fact, cheaper. Chewing tobacco or snuff can be unavailable in many countries except in some big duty frees. However, outside of those items, I do not see much benefit in the Duty Free sections.

By the way, neither Australia not New Zealand seem to have chewing tobacco or snuff as they simply do not form part of the culture there and will not have a market. Dubai and Bahrain Duty Frees, on the other hand, are excellent for such items as well as for caviar.

Caviar needs to be declared when you come out as it falls under “food” but chewing tobacco is not considered ‘plant product’ by many customs. I have, on numerous occasions asked customs officers about that, but it’s still worth asking when you go through the customs. You never know what they have in mind.

Anyway, outside the occasions when I wanted to buy those items, I do not spend much time in Duty Free sections. And, by and large, I would not buy anything since often I would see huge lines in the Goods to Declare lines formed by those who had bought something in those.

By the way, on several occasions Custom Declaration forms seemed to be confusing. When I was in Australia this year, I checked “yes” on the form where it asked me if I acquired certain items abroad over a certain sum of money. I can’t recall how much it was, but I was worried about my gold jewelry which was in access of US$ 1000. Would I have to pay duty on it? It turned out that since I was going there as a tourist and was not going to keep it in Oz, I did not have to declare it in the first place. Then, also, when I was going through the New Zealand customs the form asked me something to the effect whether I had been near animals or in rural areas recently. Well, I had been, as a matter of fact. I was in a national park in Oz and then I was in contact with kangaroos and koalas- yes, I petted them. When I put ‘yes’ on the form and talked to the NZ customs officer, he began to smirk, asked me to show him the soles of my shoes and let me through, changing the ‘yes’ on the form to ‘no’. Go figure what they have in mind. Weren’t those rural areas and animals respectively?


Expats Cheating Other Expats

Very often one gets cheated in a foreign country by someone who is another foreigner and who is often from either your country or the one near yours. As a matter of fact, in many places it is far more common for expats to be cheated by another foreigner than by a native. After all a native often feels guilty about cheating a guest while a foreigner living there rarely feels guilty about cheating another foreigner. Would a German in Thailand be guilty about cheating an American? Or would one American feel guilty about cheating another in a far away land? Not always. Watch out for “business offers” coming from mealy-mouthed foreign residents who had been in the country longer than you. They may be trying to take you to the cleaners.


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