Friday, March 31, 2006

Free with the Duty-Free

Travellers arriving at the superb Gardermoen Airport, gateway to Oslo, will almost certainly have been warned that they are in for a period of alcoholic abstinence enforced by cost and restricted availability of alcohol in Norway. (You can only buy wines and spirits from Government controlled stores Vinmonopolet.) Although the winos littering the streets and parks don't seem to find the cost of booze or the absence of an off-licence on every corner a deterent.

It will come as something of a surprise to visitors to discover, as they enter the luggage hall, a giant Duty-Free store. Now isn’t that novel, Duty-Free in arrivals, eat your heart out Manchester. As you might imagine the store does a roaring trade. Dozens of disbelieving travellers stuff their trolleys full of booze and fags. The wine section does particularly good business. Hardly surprising when a bottle of what we would consider cheap plonk, £3.99 in Somerfields can cost you £9.00 in a Vinmonopolet. There may not be any wine at £3.99 in the Duty-Free but the prices are about 30% cheaper than in the wider world. I also discovered the cheapest gin anywhere at £6.00 a litre. You are supposed to be limited to 1L spirit, 2L wine, 2L beer, 250g tobacco, 200 fags and curiously 250 leaves of cigarette papers, although you would not think so from the look of most of the trolleys at the checkout. In addition to this unique perk Gardermoen Airport already has the largest Duty-Free store in Europe. Is that ironic or what!

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