I am thinking of getting a ticket to Switzerland from the UK just to buy a couple of electrical items. I don't want to take the flight; I want to go to duty free with my Switzerland boarding pass then just walk out through immigration again. Is this possible, or would I have to get a day return to take advantage of the duty free?

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    In the UK airports I remember going through, there has not been any routine way to get from the departure lounge to the immigration halls. (Obviously, something needs to happen for passengers whose flights are canceled at the last moment, etc, but it looks like that involves getting special doors opened extraordinarily). Arriving passengers are herded towards immigration through special corridors that don't communicate with departures. There are routes in the opposite direction for connecting passengers, but they go through a transfer security check, so you can't just back up through them. Jan 11, 2019 at 14:49
  • @HenningMakholm Depends on the airport. If they have domestic arrivals, arriving passengers will sometimes end up airside with departing passengers, and obviously they need a way to get out. Edinburgh airport is arranged like this.
    – MJeffryes
    Jan 11, 2019 at 14:52
  • what about the cost of the ticket? Duty free is typically not that much cheaper (if at all)
    – Aganju
    Jan 11, 2019 at 16:27
  • You are aware that if you buy something without paying VAT, you need to declare it when you enter the country and pay VAT on it?
    – jcaron
    Jan 11, 2019 at 16:47
  • @jcaron This comment implies that you have to declare and pay VAT on duty free bought abroad when you arrive back in the UK. Of course, in most cases, you don’t.
    – MJeffryes
    Jan 11, 2019 at 17:07

1 Answer 1




The longer answer:

There are two parts to this answer.

If you can actually do it depends on if you airport has devided Departure and Arrivals. For example in Zürich, Basel and Amsterdam it's possible to go through security and then follow the signs to the baggage claim. In Paris CDG this is completely different. The incoming passengers are very carefully routed through strange passageways and even over home made stairs to avoid any danger of meeting the others before they are dumped almost on the street.

If I remember correctly, the UK Airports international departures are completely seggregated from the arrivals.

The second part is the question if it's legal.

Technically you haven't left your country, so it's not legal to buy duty free goods and then go back out of the airport without declaring them and paying the proper VAT. Probably they won't catch you but i wouldn't try it for the marginal better prices you get at the airport.

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