Buying alcohol duty-free

If you are sitting on the plane to Oslo and didn’t take my #UltimateCheapskate tip of bringing booze from home, don’t freak out. There is still hope. In September 2016, Oslo airport opened what is apparently the world’s largest duty-free arrivals shop. This gives you a little bit of an idea about how highly Norwegians value their duty-free shopping. Once you’re off the plane you’ll be swept through the airport until you arrive at the bright lights of tax-free heaven. You’ll find seemingly endless shelves of booze, cosmetics and sweets. And smokers, you’re catered for too, but it’s hidden away to make you feel really bad about your habit.

If you're alone at baggage claim it's because everyone else is in duty free. Photo:  Sean Hayford O'Leary

If you're alone at baggage claim it's because everyone else is in duty free. Photo: Sean Hayford O'Leary

You’ve never seen someone more excited than a Norwegian in duty-free. Stand back and watch as their eyes widen, they grab a basket (or two), and almost sprint for the booze aisles. Most are well drilled and will have a specific list of things to pick up. A standard businessman’s shopping list seems to consist of a few bottles of nice wine, a bottle of bubbly for the missus, and some sweets for the kids. We may only see Dad on weekends but I do love those big bags of M&Ms.

Make sure you don’t get too swept up in all the excitement. There is a limit to how much tax-free alcohol you can bring into Norway, so spend some time checking out the quota system. There's an app as well.

Assuming you’re not a smoker, your quota is 1 litre of spirits, 2 bottles of wine and 2 litres of beer, PLUS an additional 1.5 litres of beer or wine or a combination. If you’re a smoker, I’m afraid you’re on your own. The staff in the shop will certainly help you though.

Oslo Airport – an important entry point to Norway and cheap alcohol. Photo: Avinor Oslo lufthavn/Espen Solli

Oslo Airport – an important entry point to Norway and cheap alcohol. Photo: Avinor Oslo lufthavn/Espen Solli

Duty-free & Vinmonopolet price comparison

At duty-free you will find small cans and bottles of local and imported beers. Big bottles of local craft brew are also available. If you want big cans of commercial beer, you'll need to go to the supermarket. Full-size bottles of wine at duty-free start from 59 NOK . There are cheap whites in the 70 - 100 NOK range at Vinmonopolet but you might have to hunt around to find them. The same wine will always be cheaper at duty-free. With spirits, there’s no competition, duty-free is much, much cheaper. Here are some example products and their prices at both duty-free and Vinmonopolet.

Nøgne Ø India Pale Ale

Duty-free: 500ml, 7.5%, 49 NOK

Vinmonopolet: 500ml, 7.5%, 75.90 NOK

I’ve purposefully chosen a strong Norwegian beer, because you didn’t come to Norway to drink Heineken did you?

Yellow Tail Shiraz

Duty-free: 750ml, 14%, 79 NOK

Vinmonopolet: 750ml, 14%, 134.90 NOK

The bottles at Vinmonopolet are from 2015. The vintage isn’t specified on the duty-free website. But if you’re worried about the vintage, you might be on the wrong site.

Tanqueray Gin

Duty-free: 1 litre, 47.3%, 199 NOK

Vinmonopolet: 700ml, 43.1%, 369.90 NOK

Like I said, no contest.

As excited as you might be to jump on the train and get to Oslo, take a moment in duty-free to watch the locals go crazy and then pick up a few things for yourself.