How to shop tax-free, where to buy essentials and what to bring home as souvenirs
Going shopping doesn’t differ much from one country to another, but here are some helpful points to keep in mind when picking up goodies to commemorate your time here.
POPULAR SCOTTISH SOUVENIRS
Noteworthy souvenirs include clothing made from the world-renowned Harris Tweed, woollen fabric that for generations has been dyed, spun and hand-woven by local residents of Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. Other popular Scottish souvenirs include silver jewellery, Scottish music, locally made shortbread biscuits, handmade ceramics and glassware and, of course, traditional tartan clothing such as kilts.
Single malt whisky is widely available, both in supermarkets and specialist whisky stores. Of course, you may find some special blends or personal recommendations if you purchase a bottle during a Scotch malt whisky tour.
For books, we recommend visiting bookstores like Waterstones (Princes Street and Georges Street) for art/photography/travel books of Scotland. Some of the more popular books may also be published in German or French.
As for Scottish music, you will find the biggest selection of folk and traditional music at Coda Music (12 Bank Street, on the Mound). Some tourist shops also carry a small selection of CDs.
Keep your receipts for VAT refund!
The Value-Added Tax (VAT) rate in the UK is 20% for most goods and services.
TAX FREE SHOPPING
A refund of local VAT is available to all visitors from outside the EU. The refund results in a reduction of the 20% VAT, which only applies to goods of above a certain value, purchased at participating stores.
At a participating store you will need to present your passport at the time of purchase. When departing the UK (if it is your final departure from the European Union) you must bring your receipts and merchandise purchased to the British Customs booth at the airport—before checking your bags—in order for them to process your VAT refund. Please allow extra time, as there can be long queues.
IF YOU FORGET SOMETHING
No worries, you’ll find what you need in downtown Edinburgh. Princes Street, the main shopping street, is well stocked with various clothing shops, and in the Waverly shopping centre, near the train station, you will find Tiger, a budget variety store with cheap accessories like sunglasses, gloves, ear plugs, batteries and much more.
Another good option for cosmetics, clothing and other general items is Marks and Spencer (M&S), a large grocery/department store on Princes Street (open 8 AM – 7 PM most days).