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Most times when I've flown within the EU I've passed through the common airside area where people waiting to depart are. This enables fast transits within schengen. I know you have to show the boarding pass in the taxfree when buying alcohol. Will I be denied if I try doing that on arrival? Are you only able to do it on departures?

I guess you'll still have to pay taxes, but are you able to purchase anything?


I'm not asking about the special taxfree stores for arrivals that are by the luggage carousels, but the normal taxfrees you shop in (usually) on departure!

  • I’m surprised... unlike the US where this is quite common for arriving domestic flights, in Europe arriving passengers, even from other EU Schengen airports, are usually segregated from departing passengers. Did I miss something? – jcaron Dec 25 '19 at 9:53
  • @jcaron no, you get mixed with departing passengers in the air side area, usually. – Mikael Dúi Bolinder Dec 25 '19 at 12:25
  • We must not use the same airports... All those I can think of have separate flows for incoming and departing passengers. Do you have any examples? – jcaron Dec 25 '19 at 12:36
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    Zurich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, to name a few. Mixing arriving and departing passengers is common for intra Schengen flights. It makes short Schengen to Schengen transfers possibke. – Krist van Besien Dec 25 '19 at 13:55
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In the EU airports I am familiar with you either can not buy any of the 'taxfree' or specially priced 'buy before you fly' items when coming through the airport shopping area on your way out, as only with a valid boarding pass (and it will be scanned) you can buy. Or you are not coming through the normal shopping area at all.

There are airports with 'shops on arrival' but you discounted those.
There are also shops which advertise that you can buy on your way out and collect on your return, I assume you will not look for those as well.

But as there are very many airports and each has its own layout and rules, you may find the odd airport which does allow you to buy on arrival.

There is a way around 'not having a boarding pass' when you arrive by buying the cheapest ticket (and mostly you need to do that far in advance) or by having a hidden city ticket, throwing away your last leg after you have done your shopping.

Before you spend money in the airport, do check that the offers are better than you would get in the cities. For the items that I might buy I am not at all convinced they are cheaper in the airport, especially if you do include lower guaranty level or awkwardness of having to return to said airport to get service or replacements.
Airport prices are mostly aimed at street prices outside the country, and often to a specific country.

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There are at least some airports where you can do this.

In general tax free purchases are for people departing for international destinations, on the presumption that the goods will be exported. Checks are made to establish this.

There are airports which allow tax free purchases for those arriving from international destinations, on the presumption that the goods could have been purchased at the departure point, but were not. Goods bought in this way are counted against the import limits.

London Heathrow is one of the airports that provides this facility, but other UK airports also do. (Technically this only counts as an EU airport for the next month or so).

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  • Are the shops described in your second paragraph after Immigration and before Customs? – DavidSupportsMonica Dec 24 '19 at 23:25
  • They are before customs. – DJClayworth Dec 25 '19 at 1:21
  • @David, London Gatwick and London Stansted have duty-free shops after Customs and before the one-way doors to landside. They are only accessible to arriving passengers. – Peter Taylor Dec 25 '19 at 7:52
  • I’m far from convinced that some shops are actually “duty free” or “tax free”. They probably just give a discount (like shops in the departures area for passengers departing to other EU destinations, in fact), or even just try to lure passengers without actually providing any significant discount. – jcaron Dec 25 '19 at 9:56
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When flying, or actually travelling in general, within the EU, there are no tax-free sales at all, neither to departing, nor arriving passengers. There are still many stores at airports, harbours or ferries labelling themselves 'tax-free', 'duty-free' or perhaps more common 'travel-value' shops, pretending to offer cheaper products, but all sales are still liable to local taxes and duties. Since taxes and especially excise duties, e.g. for tobacco and alcohol, vary significantly between EU countries, buying taxed products in another country may still be a good deal compared to home.

Real tax-free sales are in the EU only available to passengers departing to a non-EU country and not available to passengers arriving to the EU from a non-EU country.

There are however a few non-EU countries in Europe, where proper tax-free sales are offered to arriving passengers. I know from experience that passengers arriving in Oslo, Norway can buy tax-free products. Wikipedia states that tax-free on arrival is also offered in Iceland and Switzerland.

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  • I find that only the last paragraph is related to the question. – Mikael Dúi Bolinder Dec 25 '19 at 15:07
  • @MikaelDúiBolinder In which case you should clarify your question. You are explicitly asking about shops you have seen when flying within the EU and I have tried to explain that these shops are not proper tax-free shops even if they might call themselves so. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Dec 25 '19 at 15:18

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