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Is the drinking age in the tax free/duty free area the same as in the country you are in or is there no real drinking age? Can I buy spirits in the tax free even though the country's law doesn't permit me?

Are there ID checks in the duty free area?

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    I would assume it should be the same as the country's law. Also note that even if you were able to buy it there, you probably won't be able to import it legally if you are under age. Are you interested in a specific country? Are you planning on bringing the alcohol to the same country, another country or to drink it at the airport/ on the plane? – drat Dec 18 '14 at 2:34
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    Hi Mikael - what makes you think that the country's laws might not apply there? Or that they might not be enforced? – A E Dec 18 '14 at 11:03
  • Can't really think of a reason, but for example Dresden stayed at the airport until he was permitted to enter the country. Also everything is tax free so the tax laws doesn't apply. – Mikael Dúi Bolinder Dec 18 '14 at 14:51
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    @MikaelDúiBolinder The tax law fully applies, down to the provisions creating a duty-free area. Sales in a duty-free area are not freed of duty by virtue of a general exemption that would preempt local law but only because the state hosting it and its tax law wants them to be. – Relaxed Jun 3 '15 at 18:44
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In general the laws pertaining to age for consuming alcohol and purchasing alcohol apply to people within the international departure area of an airport. You are within the territory of the country the airport is in, so you are subject to that country's laws.

Some countries do waive specific rules within an international airport, such as allowing consumption of alcohol within a country that otherwise prohibits that. But rules regarding being of adult age to purchase or consume alcohol still apply.

Do IDs get checked? Yes I have seen it done, but I have also seen lots of places that didn't check as well. I think this is something that depends on the clerk you deal with, and their desire to make a sale vs make sure you are legal.

Expanding on the logic that likely generated the question ... when you are traveling between countries, all of the laws of those countries still apply to your acts. You are not in an empty legal zone. When passing through an airport your acts are governed by the laws of the country the airport is located in for everything from drinking to theft to assault, etc. While you are flying on a commercial plane, your acts are governed by both the laws of the country the airplane is registered in, as well as international agreements. If you are driving from country A to country B, you are governed by traffic laws in A until you physically cross the designated borderline of B, even though you may have passed the A border station 30 kilometers before.

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    Your first paragraph is not correct. Duty free stores at airports are located after you have passed the "customs line" (that is, left the country for the purpose of tax and duty collection), but they may be located before or after any immigration control. On intra-schengen flights, you may even be entitled to duty-free purchases without having anything to do with immigration. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Dec 18 '14 at 12:37
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    "Some countries do waive specific rules within an international airport, such as allowing consumption of alcohol within a country that otherwise prohibits that." - do you know of such a country? Saudi Arabia prohibits alcohol everywhere, and there is no such waiver given at the international lounge (otherwise, no one would board any plane, all would be merry in the lounge). – Burhan Khalid Dec 18 '14 at 13:27
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    Tor-Einar - In most countries of the world duty free is After immigration. The fact that member nations of the EU tend have different rules, doesn't make my answer incorrect. You have simply found an exception. The level of nitpicking on this forum is mind boggling. – user13044 Dec 18 '14 at 15:19
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    @BurhanKhalid I'm a bit late to this party, but UK alcohol licensing law presently does not bind post-security part of airports. legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/17/section/173?view=plain It is still illegal to buy alcohol under age, but the effect of the provision is that it is legal to give it away for free to an under 18! (in an airport lounge for example) which would normally be prohibited. – Calchas Jun 3 '15 at 18:41
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    @Calchas Cool, so you can’t buy your booze but you can get free booze. I approve =D – Jan Dec 28 '16 at 23:43
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Tom (above) is right. Depending on what country governs which airline, the drinking age adheres to that country's policies.

However, there are some nuances to watch out for, for example, the airport you are flying out of. Depending on the airline, the entire flight (not just when you are in the country's general boundaries) can be bound to the laws of the airport you are flying out of.

From: http://maphappy.org/2014/12/is-there-a-legal-drinking-age-on-planes/

But there are exceptions, depending on where the plane is leaving from. Some flyers from a bodybuilding forum (hey, everyone loves to travel) report that airlines will follow the origin country’s rule. So even if you’re on Aeromexico going to Puerto Vallarta from Los Angeles, you might not be able to drink booze on the outbound but would be able to on the return trip. At least you get to somewhere, right?

tl;dr It really depends on what airline you're flying.

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    I don't understand what an Airline has to do with a Duty Free shop? – CGCampbell Jun 4 '15 at 1:05
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Is the drinking age in the tax free/duty free area the same as in the country you are in or is there no real drinking age?

The same laws of the country apply; but there are some exceptions as @Calchas pointed out - there is a loophole in the UK law that allows giving away alcohol but restricts the sale of alcohol.

Can I buy spirits in the tax free even though the country's law doesn't permit me?

No, you cannot as you are still subject to the laws of the country.

Are there ID checks in the duty free area?

The merchants there are licensed by the same authority that licenses their counterparts that are on the other side of the immigration line. So, if you appear underage you will likely be "carded" (requested to show an ID or other proof of age) when buying/consuming restricted items like cigarettes, energy drinks or alcohol.

In short - the same laws of the country apply in the tax/duty free zone of the airport; since the airport is the legal jurisdiction of that country.

  • I didn't get carded in the lounge in an airport of a country where I was under the legal drinking age. – Mikael Dúi Bolinder Jan 30 '18 at 18:23

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