Canada has plenty of restrictions on where you can buy alcohol. While in Quebec you can at least get a bottle of wine at the grocery store, here in BC we have our choice of government run liquor stores, and private liquor or beer & wine stores. In the US however, you can buy booze almost anywhere – the grocery store, the gas station, I’ve even seen it near the pharmacy counter at the drug store (I’m sure it’s someone’s idea of medicine). Alcohol in the US is usually quite a bit cheaper as well, so the likelihood is if you’re Canadian and you’re heading over the border, you’ll want to stop at the duty free.
Here are some suggestions to help you on your way:
Know how much you can bring back
If you’ve been away more than 48 hours, on returning to Canada you are allowed to bring in:
• 1 liters (40 ounces) of liquor or wine; or
• 24 containers, at 355 milliliters (12 ounces) each, or their equivalent, of beer or ale
You can bring in more, just make sure to declare it, if you are caught bringing in alcohol you haven’t claimed they can charge you a fortune and take it away.
Look for the deals
On a recent trip to San Francisco we brought home 2 bottles of Absolut Vodka (one regular and one flavoured) for $29 – we saved $19 off the regular duty free price, and at $35 a bottle back in town, it was pretty much buy one get one free!
Talk to the sales people
The duty free store at the Cancun airport has tequila company representatives all trying to get you to buy their products. While many are pushy and over the top, you can learn a lot from these people about their products, and when I have over 100 tequilas in front of me, most of which I’ve never heard of, I need all the help I can get.
Try something new
While it may be upsetting to then end up stuck with a giant bottle of Fireball Whiskey, this is a great opportunity to try something you haven’t had before, whether it’s a new type of alcohol or just a new brand. Try the local specialty, or bring home a liqueur you’ll only use it cocktails. If you’re in a really large store, look for premium brands – when you get back home, you’ll be glad you tried out the Tanqueray 10 instead of the Gordon’s Gin.
If all else fails, go for the free gift
If there are too many things to choose from and you can’t decide what you want, find the bottle with the sample attached, or even a free hat or T-shirt. Keep it for yourself, or give it away as a nice souvenir from your trip.