Otopeni Airport Duty Free Warning

One of team traveled through the new look Henry Coanda airport at Otopeni recently. The international section of airport is transformed once you get past security and passport control, although getting to this point is still a challenge. The manager / supervisor that decided that two check in desks area adequate for a full flight, including one willing but inexperienced trainee should be made to stand in the same queue on a daily basis.

Once in, however, the experience is a revelation. Modern and tasteful décor, a choice of places to sit and drink coffee and snack, and finally a proper duty free section with a good selection of wines and spirits (the Bucharest Expat team are not enthusiastic about cosmetics or chocolate but we do know that these are particularly popular purchase items for members of the fairer sex).

Having tried to buy wine at the old store but been deterred by the adventurous prices, we were keen to see what was on offer. We were shocked to discover that prices were still significantly higher than you will find in any Romanian supermarket. As background to this we would like to point out that the underlying concept behind Duty Free is that you pay the price of the goods minus local sales tax, so they should be lower priced than you can find in local retail stores.

As time was short (boarding called) we focused on our favourite grape – Feteasca Neagra and threw in a Chardonnay as a control. We saw bottles that we have seen in stores and quickly took a couple of prices with a view to checking them again when we got back. We went online to check the prices, including the Halewood Winery Outlet, and the table below shows the comparison. We used an exchange rate of 4.25 Lei to the Euro, which is probably about as good as you will get after the bank takes its FOREX skim.

It is quite striking that in the Duty Free Store, the wines cost twice what they would cost you if you bought them in Romania. This makes it very likely that tourists are being gouged as they seek to buy last minute souvenirs. Maybe this is how they are financing the airport improvement but ripping customers off seems to be an odd approach.

In light of this extortionate pricing policy, if you want to take some good Romanian wine to friends outside Romania, buy before you go. If you are traveling light with only hand luggage, you have little choice other than to pay an excessive amount to do so…