There are many things you’ll consider when choosing which foreign country to visit but I bet one thing you usually wouldn’t think about is how much you’ll need to pay to leave the country and return home. Yep, governments have realized that an easy way to collect money from tourists (and their own residents, as well), is to charge a fee when leaving the country. Sure in some countries it’s called a tax, in other’s it a duty and you’ll even see it referred to as a fee, but make no mistake, they’re all ways to have you pay money so you can leave the country.
The amount of these, let’s call them fees, varies greatly from country to country. Japan recently added a departure fee of ¥1000, (about $9 USD), for people leaving the country. Australia charges a fee of A$60 ($42 USD) and Fiji charges a F$200 ($93.68 USD) fee to all departing passengers.
One reason you need to know the departure fee is that airlines will often charge you this fee when redeeming miles for an award ticket. Since it’s not considered part of the airfare cost from the airline, they pass the charge onto you.
Otherwise, you may not even realize you’re paying the fee because the charge is included in the price of your airline ticket; it’s just another of the multitude of fees on a ticket. You could always use Google to figure out what the fee is for the country you’re visiting but it’s not always easy to figure it out.
I like to use the ITA Matrix airfare search tool for finding out the taxes and fees on an airplane ticket. Here’s a breakdown of fees on a flight from Fiji to Los Angeles. See the FJD200.00 Airport Departure Tax?
These are the fees on a ticket from Australia to Los Angeles. Here the fee is called the Australia Passenger Movement Charge, whatever that means.
I will say it was worth paying the fee to get to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge 😉
Mexico charges a departure tax as well, and call it exactly what it is, the Mexico Airport Departure Tax. That MX$1084 works out to be about $55 USD.
You’ll note that these fees are charged in the currency of the country you are leaving so there may be some fluctuations of how much you’ll need to pay due to changes in exchange rates.
While many countries charge a flat fee, others charge different amounts based on several different variables. For countries that have this form of tax, the things that determine how much you’ll pay are:
- The distance of the flight
- Class of service (economy, business)
Germany charges a Luftverkehrsabgabe (departure tax) based on the distance of your flight. The fee ranges from €7.50 ($8.47 USD) for the shortest flights, €23.43 ($26.45 USD) for mid-range flights and €42.18 ($47.61 USD) for all other flights. The class of service doesn’t matter so you’ll pay the same for a flight in economy or first class.
The Worst Offender
The most complicated, and often the most expensive fee, is imposed by the United Kingdom on departures from their airports. Here’s the Gov.UK website with the full description of the Air Passenger Duty. The first parameter is the distance of the flight:
There are 2 destination bands:
- A where the distance from London to the destination country’s capital city is between 0 to 2,000 miles
- B where the distance from London to the destination country’s capital city is over 2,000 miles
Duty is charged on each passenger at the rate for the place where their journey ends (their final destination).
Band A destinations are:
- all countries in the EU and EEA including Corsica, Gibraltar, Madeira, Sicily, Svalbard, The Azores, The Balearic Islands, The Canary Islands and Western Sahara
- non-EU countries – Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia
- independent regions – the Channel Islands, Isle of Man
- non-EU countries – Albania, Andorra, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, Russian Federation (west of the Urals only), Greenland, Faroe Islands, San Marino, Serbia, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Kosovo
Any other destinations fall into band B.
Then there are three different rates for each zone. Unless you’re on a private jet, you’ll only have to worry about the reduced rate or standard rate.
- Reduced rate – For travel in the lowest class of travel available on the plane for seat pitches less than 1.016 metres (40 inches).
- Standard rate – For travel in any other class of travel or where the seat pitch is more than 1.016 metres (40 inches).
- Higher rate – For travel in planes of 20 tonnes or more equipped to carry fewer than 19 passengers.
Since the reduced rate is only for the lowest class of travel, you’ll pay the standard rate for seats in premium economy, business and first class. Here’s the breakdown of the price for each category:
When redeeming miles for our flight on Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, we had to pay $201.50 USD per ticket for the United Kingdom Air Passenger Duty.
So when planning a trip, particularly one where you were looking forward to getting a free flight with your miles, remember to take these departure fees into account when making your budget. You can check out this Wikipedia page to get an idea of all the countries that charge some sort of fee. I found that the currency exchanges were out of date but it’s as good of a place to start looking as any I found. If you need to pay a departure fee on an award ticket, it pays to have a card that earns cash back, like the Barclays Arrival Plus or even the Citi Double Cash, where you can use the cash you’ve earned to pay these fees and still get a “free” flight.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary