You’ve probably heard about duty free shopping, but you’re not quite sure why it’s a big deal or if you should even shop there. If you’re after something that’s expensive at home but cheaper in the country you’re visiting, go duty free. You save money and get a price advantage that you wouldn’t get if you were ordering from home. You also have the chance of buying on a day that the dollar is on the upswing against the local currency, giving you an even better deal. Read on to discover everything you should know about duty free shopping.

What Is a Duty Free Shop and Why Are They in Airports?

Duty free shopping means the product you’re buying is free from all taxes and import duties that would otherwise be imposed if it were bought outside the airport. There’s an implied agreement that you’re taking the product for use or consumption outside of the country. In fact, you’ll be asked to show a boarding ticket to prove that you are on your way out of the country and not going to re-enter with the items you bought. That’s why they’re in airports: to make sure you’re not avoiding paying local taxes on the products you’re buying. It’s a kind of perk that comes with flying internationally.

Are There Duty Free Bargains?

It depends on the exchange rate and the cost of the product at home. You might find a really good bargain on something you’ve wanted for a while. Or, you find the product, do the math on the exchange rate, and discover that there’s little difference in the price in either place. However, it’s safe to say that there are more duty free bargains than not, as the whole idea is to save money on goods that you would otherwise pass up because local taxes and exchange rates make them not worth buying.

The Drawbacks of Duty Free Shopping

There are limits to how much you can buy and bring back with you via duty free shopping. For Americans, those limits include one liter of alcohol and a carton of cigarettes. U.S. Customs calls this the duty free or personal exemption for merchandise you bring back to the U.S. from another country. How much you can bring back duty free depends on the country you’re visiting, with the average exemption being $800.

You are going to have to fill out a customs declaration form before you land in the U.S. It’s always better to declare than not declare and forfeit the item because you guessed incorrectly. Customs won’t punish you for declaring something that you didn’t have to. As long as you stay within your personal exemption amount, you’ll get the enjoyment of knowing you got a bargain for your merchandise.

It’s worth it to look for duty free bargains when traveling internationally. Make sure you know your personal exemption amount for that country, don’t buy things that you’ll wind up losing at customs, and always declare what you bring in to stay on the right side of the law.