European Shopping Tips
Last Updated: 10th Mar 2014
Tax Free Shopping
Every country in Europe has different taxes on goods purchased within the specific country. This tax is commonly referred to as VAT. Usually stores will indicate that they offer ‘Tax Free’ shopping in their windows, if they do not, it cannot hurt to ask.
To qualify for the Tax Free benefit you must hold a passport from a country outside the county you are shopping in or a Non-European Union passport if shopping in the European Union.
When you make the purchase you must fill out the tax refund form supplied by the shop (simply a receipt is not enough). You pay the full price for the goods but when you leave the European Union (at London Heathrow airport for example) you will see something to the effect of ‘VAT Refund’ signs and booths after you have cleared security. You take the tax forms completed in the shop to the VAT refund booths and they stamp them, drop them in a box and eventually credit the tax back to your credit card.
For example, if you purchase a 200€ pair of shoes and tax in that specific country is 10%. When making the purchase you fill out the tax refund forms in the shop and pay 200€ for the shoes. When flying home, you take the tax form to the VAT refund booth, they stamp your form and drop it in the box and a few weeks later you receive 20€ credit back on your credit card.
Tax Free Shopping in Switzerland
Visiting Switzerland on a tour makes this style of shopping very easy. As most people spend less than 3 months in Switzerland, retailers can take the tax off when you make the purchase so you pay the tax free price on the spot. Tax forms must still be completed and dropped off at the Swiss border. Your Tour Manager can usually do this for you.
Often in Markets and in small private businesses you can bargain and barter for a better price. This practice is very much the case in Italy but also in other pales around Europe, particularly around some of the more popular tourist spots.
In places like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul as well as the markets and stalls of Egypt, it’s almost considered rude if you do not bargain at least a little bit.
Your Tour Manager will be able to help you out with some of the best places for bargaining and places where it is appropriate.