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A Toblerone costs €8.75 at Dublin Airport but €5.50 at Tesco: Why Duty Free isn’t always a bargain

The return of duty free when travelling to the UK means there are significant savings to be made

Who would have thought it? A giant Toblerone bar, an essential gift for many an Irish family when returning from abroad, is actually cheaper in your local supermarket than it is when flying or ferrying abroad. So much for holiday savings.

It’s not the only item you’ll find that’s cheaper down the road than it is when you’re travelling. Of course shopping while you travel is not just about saving money, for many it’s part of the excitement of heading off to more clement climes. Nonetheless, the return of duty free when travelling to the UK means there are significant savings to be had this summer.

Here we take a look at just where you can save money as you prepare to travel over the next few months, and where you might be better off adding the items to your big shop.

Personal finance 16_05_23

Alcohol and cigarettes

It’s the one silver lining of Brexit, according to Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, the return of duty free shopping between Ireland and the UK. And if you want to see just how much you can save on duty free since the UK left the EU, consider the price of a bottle of Gordon’s London Dry Gin.


If travelling through Dublin Airport this summer to a holiday destination in Portugal, Spain or France, for example, a 1 litre bottle will set you back a hefty €39 – pretty much the same as the €35 you’ll be charged in your local SuperValu for a 70cl bottle.

On the other hand, if you’re heading for Cornwall or the Lake District, or further afield to the US or the Middle East, you’ll be able to pick up a one litre bottle for as little as €12.60 on the ferry, or €13 at the airport. That’s a saving of some 67 per cent.

There are also considerable savings when it comes to whiskey. A one litre bottle of Jameson will set you back €44 in Tesco but you can pick it up for just €25 on the ferry or €27 at Dublin Airport.

Rum is another duty free winner. You’ll pay €15 on Stena Line or just €13 at Dublin Airport for a one litre bottle of Bacardi. This compares with €36 at Tesco (€32 with your clubcard).

And if you’re a fan of Aperol spritzes in the garden, you will be able to pick up a one litre bottle for less than what you’ll pay in your local off-licence.

You can also cut your costs even further by the various special offers at play.

On Stena Line, you can buy two spirits (gin, rum, etc) for just £20 (€23), bringing the cost per litre bottle down to just about €11.50.

When it comes to cigarettes, you can pick up significant savings when travelling via duty free. At Dublin Airport, you can buy a 200-pack of Silk Cut purple for €60 – the equivalent price here would be about €152, based on €19.80 for a box of 26 cigarettes.

Similarly, you’ll pay €67 for a box of 200 John Player Blue at Dublin Airport – or €149 for similar at Tesco, based on €26 for a pack of 35 cigarettes.

If you’re travelling by ferry, you’re likely to have a car with you, which makes those duty free purchases all the easier to carry. If by plane, remember some airports, including Dublin, will allow you to buy as you depart, and collect upon arrival, so you don’t have the effort of carrying the purchases there and back. However, this is typically only available when you’re travelling within the EU, and doesn’t apply for duty free purchases.

If you’re not going to a duty free destination, you’re probably better off sticking to making your alcohol purchases in your local off-licence or supermarket. A one litre bottle of Baileys (duty paid) will cost €24 at the airport – but if you use your club card, you can get it for just €20 at Tesco.

What to buy (duty free shopping)Dublin AirportStena LineTesco
Gordon’s London Dry Gin€13€12.60€34.50
What not to buy

Similarly, a 1 litre bottle of Jack Daniels will cost €50 at Dublin Airport – or just €28 (albeit for a smaller 70cl bottle) at Tesco, provided you have a club card.

If you’re a vodka drinker, however, you may find savings at the airport – a one litre bottle will cost €28 there, compared with €35 in Tesco.


A popular holiday purchase is a new bottle of perfume; and, as our survey shows, substantial savings can be achieved when travelling, but it may come down to the particular scent you crave. So do your research before stopping to shop.

YsL’s Black Opium retails for about €110 in a typical shop – but can be had for as little as €55 on Stena Line. Similarly, Giorgio Armani’s My Way is available for as little as €57 on the ferry, while it’s considerably more expensive, at €90, at Dublin Airport.

On the other hand, Dublin Airport has a much wider selection, and a number of travel exclusives.

You might be able to save on skincare. Rituals Sakura body cream (220ml) will cost you €21 in your local Boots. But you can get it for €15 on Stena Line, or €16 at Dublin Airport.

There are also some savings when it comes to make-up. Benefit’s They’re Real mascara has a typical retail price of €30 – but is €19 on the ferry, or €25.50 at the airport.


As mentioned above, there are little savings to be had when buying chocolate while travelling this summer. A giant Toblerone bar will set you back about €8 or €9 when travelling by ferry/plane this summer – but will cost you just €5.50 in your local Tesco. Similarly, a 300g box of Butler’s Chocolates costs the same in Dublin Airport or Tesco – although is a bit cheaper on a ferry.

How much can I bring back?

When travelling outside the euro zone, you are allowed carry certain goods back home, duty free, provided they are for your own consumption, or to be used as a gift.

A maximum value on the goods you wish to bring back applies. This is set at €430 per adult (15 or over) and €215 if you are under 15. This allowance applies regardless of where you made your purchases – so your purchases on the way out as well as on the way back are combined to reach this total.

In addition, further alcohol/tobacco allowances apply.

This means that you can buy 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars duty free, one litre of spirits (whiskey, gin, etc), two litres of other drinks such as liqueurs, four litres of wine (about five bottles) and 16 litres of beer.

And what if you buy a bottle of cut-price gin in your local Spanish supermarket or go on a booze cruise to France? Well, according to Revenue, limits also apply here – which typically are more than generous for household requirements, and are far more forgiving than duty free allowances. You’re allowed 800 cigarettes, for example, 10 litres of spirits, 110 litres of beer and 90 litres of wine (of which 60 can be sparkling).