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Some of you may still remember the days when Apple products were star souvenirs for those traveling to the US. High ticket devices like MacBooks and iPhones could end up 20-50% cheaper than in Europe, especially when purchased in states with a low tax rate.
Those days are long gone. More and more, we’re seeing the prices of Apple devices even out across Europe, Asia, and Australia. It’s definitely not worth changing your travel plans just to suit buying your next phone or computer, but you can save a few bucks if you happen to be traveling to a country that sells cheaper Apple products.
Below we’ll cover how to find the cheapest Apple products abroad as well as the current cheapest countries to purchase the latest MacBook, iPad, iPhone, and AirPods.
Finding the Cheapest Country to Buy Apple Products
When it comes to getting a bargain on Apple gear overseas, fluctuating exchange rates is the most important aspect to watch out for. You could be headed to a country thinking you’re going to find a great deal on an iPhone only to find out the exchange rate has changed, making it even more expensive than it would be at home.
Exchange rate changes are unavoidable, and if the cost difference is only a few bucks, it’s not worth waiting until you get to another country to make your purchase. The exchange rate versus your own currency could change in the meantime, making the products the same price or, in some cases, cost even more.
Taxes are tricky, because some countries include the tax on the Apple website and some do not. Assuming you’re US-based, start by considering your own state and local taxes when figuring out whether to buy overseas.
If you live close to the border of a state with a lower tax rate, a short drive may get you quite a deal on pricey items. Wyoming (5.34%), Wisconsin (5.46%), and Maine (5.5%) have some of the lowest combined state and local rates in the country.
You’ll need to calculate the tax for each country you are considering purchasing from in order to determine if the end cost is cheaper than it would be back home. In Japan, for example, you’ll see 税別 if tax isn’t included in the price, and 税込 if it is.
Here’s where taxes get even more complicated. In many countries, including popular destinations like Japan, Australia, and Thailand, tourists are able to get a tax refund. For high-priced items like MacBooks, your tax refund could be over $200.
You will still have to pay the tax upfront, but you can generally then get it back at customs as you leave the country, or in Japan at certain shopping centers. You’ll need to show your passport at the time of purchase, too.
The restrictions on tax refunds are different for each country, so don’t assume they apply to you. In Thailand and Australia, for instance, you need to take the purchased product out of the country within 60 days from the date of purchase, which may be a problem for long-term travelers and remote workers.
Trying to claim your refund at the time of departure could be a headache you don’t want to deal with at a busy airport, especially for lower-priced products like AirPods. If you decide to do so, give yourself plenty of extra time to stand in line and fill out forms.
There’s a whole lot of mixed messaging about whether or not your standard Apple one year warranty or Apple Care is valid in another country. Some people claim to have saved money on warranties in other countries due to the store being unable to charge in a foreign currency. Others claim the process was exactly the same as at home.
In the worst cases, warranties don’t apply, or they require you to ship the item to the country of purchase for repairs, leaving you without your tech for several days or weeks. We’ve had first-hand experience of this in the past, due to Apple’s warranty containing an inconvenient loophole for iPhones and iPads bought in another country:
“IMPORTANT RESTRICTION FOR iPHONE AND iPAD SERVICE.
Apple may restrict warranty service for iPhone and iPad to the country where Apple or its Authorized Distributors originally sold the device.”
(from the Apple One (1) Year Limited Warranty policy)
Beware of product differences. Apple products may look the same on the outside, but depending on the language, culture, and legal restrictions of the country you’re purchasing in, the product may be different than what you’re used to.
The keyboard could be different, or certain applications may not be included. In the UAE, for example, most Voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps are forbidden, so Apple products don’t come bundled with Facetime. Always ask specific questions about keyboards, language settings, and anything else that might be different if you are purchasing an Apple product in another country.
After carefully considering exchange rates, taxes, warranties, and product differences, here are the best countries to purchase a variety of Apple products. Prices are based on data from February 2020.
Where Not to Buy
South America continues to have some of the highest-priced Apple products in the world. You’ll want to be particularly careful with your Apple products if you spend a lot of your travel time there, since finding a replacement will be a huge headache.
Brazil is among the world’s most expensive countries to buy Apple products, with iPhones costing up to 74% more than they do in the United States. You won’t be able to easily ship in a new phone or laptop either, since Brazilian import tax can be anywhere from 10% to 35% on tech entering the country.
The Cheapest Country To Buy MacBooks
You’re most likely to save money on the more expensive Apple products when purchasing them in another country. Saving 10% on a $2000 MacBook ($200) is much more worthwhile than saving 10% on $200 AirPods ($20).
If you’re in the market for a MacBook, the cheapest places in the world to buy them are Australia and Japan, depending on the model you’re looking for.
A 13-inch 1.4GHz 256GB MacBook Pro is currently listed in the US for $1499 USD. Once you add tax, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $1581 (5.5% tax) to $1641 (9.5% tax), depending on the state you live in.
In Australia, the list price (minus taxes) for a 13-inch 1.4GHz 256GB MacBook Pro is $1394 USD (A$2299 – A$209). If you qualify for and go through the process of getting a tax refund, you will save anywhere from $187-247 USD after you get your money back.
In Japan, the list price for a 13-inch 1.4GHz 256GB MacBook Pro is $1437 USD (¥159,800). If you qualify for and go through the process of getting a tax refund, you will save anywhere from $144-204 USD after you get your money back.
The Cheapest Country To Buy iPads
The cheapest place to buy an iPad depends completely on the model you’re looking for. Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan rank amongst the best across all the various models available.
A 12.9-inch 64GB iPad Pro is currently listed in the US for $1149 USD. With tax, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $1212 to $1258, depending on the state you live in.
In Australia, the list price (minus taxes) for a 12.9-inch 64GB iPad Pro is $1063 USD (A$1749 – A$159). If you qualify for and go through the process of getting a tax refund, you will save anywhere from $149-195 USD after you get your money back.
The Cheapest Country To Buy iPhones
The cheapest country to buy an iPhone is Japan, followed by Australia, South Korea, and then the United States.
A 64GB iPhone 11 Pro Max is currently listed in the US for $1099 USD. With tax, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $1159 to $1203, depending on the state you live in.
In Japan, the list price for a 64GB iPhone 11 Pro Max is $1076 USD (￥119,800). If you qualify for and get a tax refund, you will save anywhere from $83-127 USD after you get your money back.
The Cheapest Country To Buy AirPods
When it comes to AirPods, you won’t be saving nearly as much as you would on larger Apple products. The cheapest places to buy AirPods are Australia and Eastern Asia. That being said, the difference is minimal, so if you’re in need of a new set of AirPods, you can go ahead and buy them from home or from many other places you might travel.
Beware of some countries in particular that charge much more for AirPods, including Russia, Romania, Indonesia, Cambodia, Moldova, Israel, and the big one, Brazil. There, it will cost you about double for that same pair of earphones.
AirPods Pro are currently listed in the US for $249 USD. With tax, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $263 to $273, depending on the state you live in.
In Australia, the list price (minus taxes) for AirPods Pro is $240 USD (A$399 – A$40). If you qualify for and go through the process of getting a tax refund, you will save anywhere from $23-33 USD after you get your money back.
- The minimal savings available on Apple products aren’t worth planning a trip for the purchase alone, but regular or long-term travelers may be able to coordinate their Apple purchases to save up to $200 on larger items.
- As of February 2020, the best countries to purchase Apple products from are Australia and Japan.
- When purchasing a laptop from another country, always ask questions about keyboards, language settings, and other possible differences.
- On smaller Apple accessories, it’s not worth waiting until you get to a cheaper country. The wait time, coupled with the hassle of getting the tax refund, doesn’t justify the few bucks you’ll save.
- Beware of purchasing iPads and iPhones outside of your country of residence, since Apple is able to restrict the warranty to the country that originally sold the device. If warranties are important to you, saving $100-200 may not be worth the risk.
While we strive to provide you with up-to-date information, prices and currency exchange rates may be different at the time of reading. Head to Apple’s local stores for current prices, and check the exchange rate beforehand.
Images via Robert Pastryk (Hong Kong Apple store), William Iven (Macbook, iPad, and iPhone), Mostafa Meraji (Macbook in Istanbul Apple store), William Iven (iPad with map), StockSnap (iPhone taking photo), Howard Bouchevereau (Airpods)