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6 Things You Should Never Buy At The Airport When Travelling Overseas

All of these items can be purchased from a shopping mall in the destination country.


Flights get passengers to check in well before the boarding time so as to ensure that there is sufficient time for baggage to be loaded and for passengers to walk to the gates. Most airports capitalise on this by opening retail outlets, which are intended to improve the airport experience of passengers, but also to capitalise on their boredom while waiting for flights.

Aside from F&B outlets, airports also typically have stores selling souvenirs, or items which travellers may realise they forgot to pack. However, since these items are typically sold at a high markup, it is best for travellers to avoid buying them. Here are 6 items which you should never buy at the airport when travelling overseas.

#1 Travel Comfort Items

Unless you intend to wake up with a neck ache, neck bolsters and pillows are a must-have for long-haul flights. These are very commonly sold at airports. Neck pillows sold at Changi airport range from $26 for basic ones to $100 for more elaborate products. In comparison, neck pillows of similar types sold on Shopee cost between $2 – $25.

Travel comfort items like neck pillows or eye masks are sold because travelers who forgot to bring theirs are likely to purchase an expensive one rather than endure an uncomfortable flight.

Read Also: 10 Popular Travel Destinations For Singaporeans And The Best Time To Book For Cheaper Flights

#2 SIM Cards

For some countries, prepaid SIM cards provide much cheaper calls and data as compared to roaming, which will typically be costly. While many mobile plans in Singapore provide affordable roaming, the amount of data provided at this rate is usually quite limited, and users who wish to have more data may find the charges to be more expensive.

With that said, given that internet connectivity allows people to book cars, navigate and even translate speech, being stuck in a foreign country without data can be quite a harrowing experience. There are usually many stalls selling SIM cards at airports, however, these are typically more expensive at airports, which may make the cost of data to be little cheaper than paying for roaming services from your telco.

The trick is to purchase SIM cards online before the trip, where you can compare prices and you do not have any pressure to buy. For instance, at time of writing, this SIM card from Malaysia provides 10GB of data for 7 days in Malaysia and costs only $9.90.

Alternatively, you can also use the limited roaming data you have and make a pit stop at a local shopping mall to purchase your SIM card. This would usually result in some savings.

#3 Souvenirs

Souvenirs are typically a tourist trap, and those sold at airports are sold premised on helping tourists expend their local currency while doing last-minute shopping for gifts for friends, making them pricier.

Aside from the fact that souvenirs at airports are typically overpriced, they also make for unmemorable gifts since they are usually keychains or fridge magnets, with little local culture. It is likely that you will be able to acquire better gifts during the trip, whether it is purchasing some local delicacy, or some item of clothing from a village shop that you have visited. Aside from being able to bring home an item that cannot be readily purchased in Singapore, you also avoid spending inordinate amounts on souvenirs at the airport.

#4 Entertainment Materials

Some flights may not have in-flight entertainment, and this may prompt users to do some last-minute shopping for books or other entertainment materials while waiting for their flights. These books or magazines are typically more expensive as compared to local shops outside the airport.

The easy fix to this problem is to prepare before boarding the flight. Netflix users can download shows onto their device beforehand. Doing this the night before allows you to download shows and movies onto your device using your Wi-Fi connection at home or at the hotel.

If a book at an airport store interests you, it is likely that you will be able to find and purchase an audiobook or e-book version of this online and have it downloaded onto your device before boarding the flight.

Read Also: Price Guide To Flight Meal Options On Popular Budget Airlines Departing Singapore And Are They Worth It

#5 Electronics

Phone chargers, travel adapters, powerbanks and earphones are typically items which may be hard to do without for a few days, especially in a foreign country. While it may be extremely inconvenient to live without a travel adapter or charger, necessitating an emergency purchase at the airport, unless you urgently need it, it is usually far more worthwhile to simply try and find these products at a local shopping mall, where they are sold for more reasonable prices.

For reference, universal travel adapters sold at Changi Airport cost between $40 – $100. In comparison, they only cost between $5 – $25 on Shopee. While these items are still likely to be more expensive at a local brick-and-mortar store as compared to Shopee, it is still likely that they will be significantly cheaper than the products sold at airports.

#6 Cigarettes

Singapore does not have any duty-free concession and GST relief for cigarettes and tobacco products. While you may have purchased these products in Singapore, or even purchased them at the airport duty-free store while waiting for your returning flight to Singapore, they are subject to duty and GST when brought to Singapore.

Nevertheless, it may still be worthwhile purchasing cigarettes at Changi Airport’s duty-free stores as a gift for overseas friends, or so long as you consume it before returning to Singapore.

Being Prepared Is Key

Most of these items are charged at a premium because the unprepared traveller is more willing to pay the stiff markup in order to not suffer the inconvenience of not having some of these items.

However, even if you forgot an item, it is usually cheaper to get it from a local shop. Unless your phone is running dangerously low on power, it is usually advisable to wait till you can get to a local shop to buy the items that you need.

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