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Crossing a Border for a Bargain

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Chris Osburn
Written by Chris Osburn

Visiting one country but close to the border with another? It might be worth taking a quick trip to the other side for some cost-effective shopping. Lots of travelers and locals do this all the time to take advantage of cheaper prices, lower or no sales tax, and access to what one country does better than the other.

If you’re thinking about taking such a cross-border trip, make sure you’re aware of any limits on quantity of purchases or outright restrictions on buying certain things.

Some of the better-known border crossings for bargain hunters are listed below.


Russians go west to indulge in lower prices and access the EU products. Finns go east for considerably cheaper gas. Both Helsinki, Finland and St Petersburg, Russia are within four or five hours drive of each other. To the north, and roughly five miles from the border, the Finnish town of Imatra caters to Russian shoppers and has huge supermarkets set up for buyers who are stocking up.

What are border shoppers buying in …

Russia: Alcohol

Finland: Luxury and high-end brand name items

Hong Kong/China

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About an hour’s train ride from Hong Kong, the Mainland China city of Shenzhen is a discount shopper’s paradise. If you don’t mind haggling and can tell a knock-off from the real deal, you’re sure to find great bargains on fashion brands, electronics, and more in Shenzhen.

What are border shoppers buying in …

Hong Kong: Everyday items like Nappies, baby formula, and medicines (Mainland shoppers believe Hong Kong products are of a higher quality and can be trusted)

Shenzhen: Electronics


Norway is notorious for being one of the most expensive countries in the world. Taking a trip across its long border with Sweden for a shopping excursion can save you up to 20%, with even bigger savings if you’re buying alcohol. The Norwegian capital city of Oslo is only about an hour and a half drive from the Swedish border. Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, is about 100 miles south of Norway.

What are border shoppers buying in …

Sweden: Alcohol, and if they’re close anough to the border, even day-to-day groceries

Switzerland/France and Italy

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The Swiss franc is worth slightly more than the euro, and practically everything in Switzerland costs a good bit more than in the countries it shares a border with. The Swiss tend to find the biggest savings by crossing over to France and Italy.

What are border shoppers buying in …

France: Cosmetics, alcohol, toys, and groceries

Italy: Alcohol and designer brands


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Brits cross over and under the Channel to France for lower prices and better selection of French food and drink. Eurostar trains between London and Paris take about two and a half hours either way. The English cities Ashford and Ebbsfleet (southeast of London) and the French cities of Calais (on the coast) and Lille (north of France) are even nearer. Ferries crossing from Dover to Calais are relatively quick at around two hours. The ferry between Dover and Dunkirk takes two hours.

What are border shoppers buying in …

France: Win, wine, and more wine!

US/Canada and Mexico

Border shopping is big business for America, Canada and Mexico. Americans head north to buy quality items for which Canada is best known, such as maple syrup and beer. Canadians come south to enjoy the huge savings for bigger economies of scale, more locally based brands, and lower taxes in the US. For cheaper prices for alcohol, certain foods, and handicrafts, Americans go south to Mexican border towns. Mexicans cross into the US to shop for better bargains at outlet malls on the border such as those outside cities like San Diego, California and Brownsville, Texas.

What are border shoppers buying in …

America: Alcohol, electronics, clothing, furniture, fuel, and cosmetics


Do you know of any other border crossings that offer great bargains? We’d love it if you shared your tips in the Comments section.


About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.
Chris has been nominated for Best Travel + Food and Drink blog in the 2016 UK Blog Awards. If you like what you see at - cast a quick vote for Chris!

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