As you might imagine, the Grand Opening of Duty Free City was a huge success. The store is absolutely beautiful and they do know how to throw a party. While there are plenty of places to shop duty-free in San Diego near the border, this would be my store of choice for the following reasons.

I’ll also go over what is required to take advantage of tax savings should you be crossing the border, but as I’ve stated before, Duty Free City is a nice place to spend a few hours away from home because it’s not all about shopping.

Duty Free City Is Easy to Find

The store is just a few minutes off the Camino de la Plaza exit of the I-5 (the very last exit before crossing the border) or the San Ysidro Blvd exit from the I-805.

Plan to valet park your car as street and lot parking might fill up quickly. Plus, why search for parking when you don’t have to and valet is complimentary.

Well-Laid Out Shopping

The are near the entrance is where you’ll find cosmetics and fragrance. I wish I would have spent more time shopping versus socializing because the variety of brands (L’Occitane, Shiseido, Natura Bisse and more) is pretty robust. I thought the pricing seemed good whether you were crossing the border or not.

The Pulse at Duty Free City conducting an interview

(Cindy of The Pulse SD conducting an interview in the fragrance area. Photo credit: The Pulse SD)

High ceilings and well-lit, uncluttered displays provide serene shopping ambiance similar just like other upscale department stores. Step up into the central rotunda to grab a coffee. The seating here gives you a bird’s eye view of the gorgeous Furla handbags. That Candybag is really a must-have. Or, you could opt for something smaller like this.

Buy Furla handbags duty-free at Duty Free City in San Diego
Wine, Spirits and Cigars

The interactive wine area features American producers as well as San Diego microbreweries. Tastings will feature on the store’s weekly programming. Discounts on premium spirits, I can tell you, are significant.

There’s Always Time for a Beauty Treatment

Duty Free City beauty services include nails and hair

Schedule a blow-out or a manicure. Men can pop in for haircuts and even hair styling training, too.

The Kids Will Love It

Kids Town at Duty Free City in San Diego

As the mother of a 7-year-old, I could certainly tell that each item had been deliberately selected. What I mean by that is that the toys, books, arts, crafts and more included unique items from recognizable brands… not the same old, same old. There was a Rainbow Loom gadget that I’d never seen (hard to believe), Alex crafts that my daughter doesn’t already own among other cool kits geared toward edutainment. And, that’s for elementary school kids alone. It isn’t a huge space but there’s plenty to keep the kids occupied while you sip coffee within eyeshot.

It’s Pet-Friendly

Duty Free City welcomes leashed pets

Pets must be well-behaved and leashed, like miss Chloe Bisou in her fabulous skirt. She also had a blast at the Grand Opening–see what her mom Heather has to say about Duty Free City over at The Stylish Bisou. Find another awesome recap of the event written by fashion blogger Cyrillynn at Any Second Now (she has a turquoise Furla Candybag that is to-die-for especially because it matches her hair).

It is also worth mentioning that in addition to the fabulous company at the event, the music by the Gypsy Band (flown in from Miami to the event) was outstanding.

The Gypsy Band at Duty Free City

Duty-Free Savings Can Be Significant

If you are crossing the border, the savings enjoyed by shopping duty-free are worth a stop. In fact, they can be significant. According to Duty Free City, here is an estimate of savings compared to retail price at U.S. retailers.

  • Fragrances and Cosmetics: 10% to 25%
  • Luxury Gifts, Accessories and Watches: 10% to 25%
  • Confection and Other Edibles: 10% to 15%
  • Wine & Spirits: 20% to 30%
  • Tobacco: 25% to 50%

 How to Shop Duty Free

Duty-free shopping is available to people traveling internationally. A duty free product is absent of tax and duties implemented by the home country, in this case the United States.

So, in a nutshell, if you were crossing the border at San Ysidro and headed to Mexico for more than 48 hours, you can purchase goods at Duty Free City at the duty free price as long as you are taking the goods into the foreign destination. Yes, this is possible even if you’re a U.S. citizen. Per U.S. law, the items are delivered to you at the border crossing for you to take across. (It is always best to check customs regulations before purchasing, however.)

But, then again, you don’t need to cross the border to enjoy Duty Free City.

Have you shopped duty-free in San Diego? What was the savings like?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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One Comment

  1. As always, fantastic article Katie! And holy cow, what an honor to be featured- thank you so much! I loved that you got the shot of the penguins in the kiddie section— and of course, the Furla bag wall!! I’m in love!