Some tips for buying duty-free cigarettes include confirming that a potential vendor is in fact a purveyor of duty-free cigarettes, the vendor's location corresponds to locations where duty-free vendors are typically situated, and the desired cigarettes are actually duty-free. Not all duty-free shops are actually duty-free, and every brand of cigarettes is not necessarily cheaper in a duty-free store.
Duty-free stores are usually located in places where travelers are transitioning, such as airports, border towns, cruise ships and ports. This is because a consumer must purchase duty-free cigarettes and travel with the cigarettes to another country or beyond a national border for a stay of at least 48 hours.
Purchasing cigarettes online from a duty-free purveyor and having the cigarettes shipped to a domestic address does make the cigarettes duty-free. Duty-free exemptions allow a consumer to purchase a maximum of 200 cigarettes, and the consumer must declare the purchase to customs upon entering a foreign destination, complete with information about the related costs and taxes previously remitted to the duty-free vendor.
Laws in the United States do not require duty-free stores to pass duty-free savings on to customers. Consequently, asking the vendor if his cigarettes are actually duty-free helps prevent the purchase of items that are potentially duty-free, as opposed to truly duty-free.
It is also important to physically carry duty-free cigarettes into the destination country to maintain the duty-free exemptions. Mailing items across international borders automatically cancels out any duty-free exemptions, and a consumer must then pay all taxes and duties.