Duty free shopping in Sri Lanka

Duty-free shops are retail outlets that do not apply local or national taxes and duties. In the first place, whenever someone travels to Sri Lanka by air, the first thing on the bucket list is “What can I buy from the Duty Free?” Although one can buy only in limited quantities, Duty free shopping in Sri Lanka has many benefits by way of reduced prices. Incidentally, this is a great deal for passengers arriving into Sri Lanka as they can shop for their favourite goodies at the airport before clearing off their baggage.

Guide to Duty free: Departures

There are two separate Duty free shops in Sri Lanka. One for the departure lounge and one for the transit. Particularly if you are a local, jetting off to some other country, we suggest you don’t buy any liquid from the departures duty free. In particular, more often than not, there are instances where the plane crew have asked to keep aside liquid items from the hand luggage before boarding. For one thing, in such a scenario the money you spent on that tempting bottle of wine would go waste. Yes! You can buy a classy tee shirt from Odel along with some cashew nuts or chocolate. Specifically, that’s about it, as far as the departure duty free attractions goes. However, if you are on transit or you are too early to catch the flight, a duty free window shopping is sure to way to kill some time.

Kapruka tip: Some of the Sri Lankan souvenirs at the departure lounge is really overpriced. Suggest you shop for your Sri Lankan souvenirs at Lakpahana as the prices there are reasonable and controlled.

Guide to Duty free: Transit| Arrivals

Once customs stamp your visa as the immigration passport counter you have a choice of shopping for duty free items within your duty free allocation. Comparatively, duty free shops at the transit lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport has an extensive range of well-known brands of liquor, hi-fi equipment watches, cameras, perfumes, cosmetics electrical appliances and souvenirs and more. Of course, for most, favourite buys are purchasing liquor brands and electronics.

As far as promotions go, at the Sri Lanka duty free they have a few. Meanwhile, now there are the Buy 2 products from your favourite brand and you will also receive a third item from the same brand for FREE promotion. All in all, this promotion applies to liquor, food and beauty products at the Sri Lanka duty free.

Shopping for Electronics

Some duty free shops selling electronics allows you to select & reserve products for your convenience. Most often the items reserved via their website will be ready for collection upon your arrival at the airport. Under those circumstances, it is advised to make your reservation before 7 days of your arrival to Sri Lanka. (Sri Lankan Passport Holders Only). For example, popular electronics duty free shops include, Abans, Singer, Singhagiri and Softlogic. Consequently, pricing varies by shop, but shoppers shouldn’t expect deep, deep discounts.

Dutyfree allowance (residents)

2.5L of spirits and 2L of wine. Up to US$125 personal items annually if the period abroad is less than 90 days. Up to US$500 of personal items annually if the period abroad is between 90 to 365 days. Furthermore, up to US$1000 of personal items annually, if the period abroad is over 365 days.

Benefits of Duty free shopping in Sri Lanka

For one, the prices are really cheap if you are a Sri Lankan. You cannot, I mean you simply cannot buy most products sold at the duty free cheaply outside. Especially, imported liquor and electronics are comparatively more costly in the outside market as it includes all taxes and duties. For instance, it makes sense to buy a major electronics item like a fridge or a large LED TV from the duty free.

Depending on the local tax structure, though, the savings can be significant on certain items – up to of 20% or even 30%, in products with high tax rates. Further, savings are especially noticeable on ‘vice’ goods such as alcohol and cigarettes, since those items tend to be taxed at higher rates. Incidentally, cosmetics, clothing and other luxury goods may actually be more expensive at duty-free shops than at local shops.


Duty-free shops are taking a beating as travel restrictions to contain the coronavirus leave aeroplanes grounded and airports closed.  In contrast, this is a sharp turnaround for what was a growing and lucrative industry before the pandemic. However, when the ‘normal’ return duty free shopping is a worthwhile exercise as there could be considerable savings on some products. Although, the question of everyone’s lips is; When will the pre covid -19 days come back?    

Kapruka snippet: Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) has reopened its duty free facilities for arriving passengers. Accordingly, the repatriation passengers are allowed to order duty free items and make payments on arrival at BIA.