In transit: How far do you have to go to get a bargain?

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The Independent Online
The non-stop flight to Australia has yet to be launched. So, to make the inevitable stopover more fruitful, Diana Pepper checks out the check-ins - comparing duty free prices for one litre of Smirnoff vodka, a carton of Marlboro cigarettes and a 60ml bottle of White Linen perfume.

Dubai International Airport is close to the city. Taxis cost pounds 2-pounds 3 and take 15-20 minutes. Look for the official Dubai transport cabs, cream- coloured with a green circular logo on the side, as they are the only metered ones. There is no departure tax, so a quick journey to the souk is worthwhile.

Dubai's reputation as a great, albeit small, duty free airport still holds good. It offers a wide selection of perfume and cosmetics as well as electronic goods and gold jewellery. Toys are also reasonably priced but check the quality, as some don't match up to British safety standards. Perfume cost pounds 27.93, cigarettes pounds 8.92, and vodka pounds 5.05.

Chill out at the Transit Hotel bar and restaurant which provides a quieter area for a nap. A beer and sandwich cost pounds 1.61.

Kai Tak International, Hong Kong. A bus ride from the airport on to Hong Kong Island is a snip at about pounds 1.70. A taxi costs pounds 10 for the four- mile journey; from next year, the new airport out at Chek Lap Kok will require a much longer journey.

With Hong Kong's reputation for bargain buys, you'd think its airport would be well stocked. Sadly not. Things have improved in recent years but the range of goods is still limited. I was unable to buy my choice of vodka or perfume. Cigarettes cost pounds 8.47, Absolut Vodka pounds 8.90 and 100ml of Pleasures perfume pounds 47.67. It is likely to take over an hour just to clear customs and collect luggage on arrival and you need the same again to check in.

Departure tax is pounds 8.47. There is a large departure lounge with sleep- friendly bench seats. Showers are available. A beer and sandwich costs pounds 5.97, and a coffee pounds 1.86.

Don Muang, Bangkok is 14 miles north of the city centre, but travel time depends on the traffic which is among the worst in the world. Best to take a pre-paid taxi from the airport as many drivers don't speak English or know their way around. Offer to pay extra (50p) on the set fare of pounds 4.50 to take the tollway and speed things up.

Unless you have half a day to spare, stick to the clean, large and well organised airport. A beer will set you back pounds 9 plus tax so best check into the First Class Lounge for pounds 12.50 per person for two hours' worth of complimentary refreshments. Comfortable, quiet surroundings, with television, magazines and an electronic massage chair. Similar facilities are available in the Business Class Lounge for pounds 7.50. If you fancy a proper sleep, hotel- type day rooms with en suite bathroom and television are available at pounds 28.13 for up to six hours.

Shopping here is not great. My choice of vodka and perfume were not available and goods were limited. Cigarettes cost pounds 7, Absolut Vodka pounds 8. Departure tax pounds 6.25.

Sultan Abdul Azis Syah Airport, Kuala Lumpur. It only takes half an hour to travel 15 miles into central KL, but the Malays are modernising the airport approach so allow longer on return as traffic can be congested. Taxi fare costs pounds 7.50 each way.

Yet why leave? There may be no day rooms and only basic shower facilities, but this airport was my favourite. The shopping centre in departures is large and impressive. You can buy cheap shoes, toys, gold and Batik wear. There are also Malay delicacies and cooking ingredients. Real shark fins range from pounds 30.53 to pounds 72.01, an essential but cruel ingredient for soup. A beer and sandwich cost about pounds 4. Perfume pounds 32.57, cigarettes pounds 6.36, vodka pounds 7.63.

Malaysia is keen to promote it's dedication to new technology - check your e-mail upstairs at the modern Internet cafe at a cost of 51p for the first two minutes. (I should add, though, that the message I sent to The Independent failed to arrive.)

Brunei International Airport is 10 miles outside the capital, Bandar Seri Bagawan. The trip into town takes only 15 minutes and costs pounds 12 - a pleasant change from the chaos of some of the cities above. There's little traffic, no pollution and plenty of trees, gardens and an unobscured view of the local architecture without a skyscraper in sight. The airport is quaint and the shopping area tiny. You can't buy any alcohol anywhere in Brunei. The small selection of perfume didn't include my choice, but Chanel No 5 100ml cost pounds 40.79. Cigarettes cost pounds 5.95. Still got time to kill? Check into the day room downstairs at pounds 4.29 for a minimum 2 hour stay or pounds 17.18 for up to twelve hours.

Ninoy Aquino airport, Manila is a nightmare; the crowds in arrivals are three deep. Apparently it is always like this. You're hustled from the moment you step outside to take an airport car or a limo. These are expensive (pounds 20) but if you are in a hurry are more reliable and quicker than cabs. Metered taxis, you are told, do not exist but, with perseverance they can be found outside arrivals. The fare to the city is about pounds 5-pounds 10. Departure tax is pounds 14.

Traffic is mad here, too. You also need at least two hours for check in. The transit lounge is incredibly noisy with a TV at one end competing with blaring music at the other. Upstairs is less rowdy but it is impossible to find a quiet spot. A sandwich and beer from the takeaway counter will cost pounds 1.89 but you've got to queue. Shopping is quite good and well priced. Vodka cost pounds 5, cigarettes pounds 6.88, perfume pounds 32.50.

Changi airport, Singapore is pounds 2.23 and 30 minutes along the 12-mile motorway from the city centre. The cost by taxi is approximately pounds 6.70. Departure tax is pounds 7.

Singapore airport proved cheapest for duty-free shopping in this survey. Vodka cost pounds 6.83, cigarettes pounds 6.38 and perfume pounds 22.54. A beer and sandwich cost pounds 5.56. Day rooms with en suite bathrooms and television are available for six hours at pounds 21.25 per person. A soothing shower costs pounds 2.30.

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