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What is Departure Tax?

Departure Tax

Have you ever been up at an airport without any local currency, only to discover that you need to pay a fee that you weren't expecting, in cash, in order to board your plane? If so, then it's likely you were being charged departure tax, a fee that many passengers overlook.

Our guide answers departure tax FAQs and will help you understand why departure tax is charged.

What is Departure Tax?

Departure tax is a fee charged by a country when a person leaves the country. ‘Departure tax’ can also be called ‘airport tax’, or a few other names depending on which country you are travelling from! 

Many countries will charge a departure tax only when a person is leaving by air - it is a tax that passengers have to pay in order to use an airport. Departure tax is charged for many different reasons but often includes a charge for maintaining the airport.

Various rules apply to the payment of the tax depending on which country you are flying from. In many instances, the airport departure tax will be collected by the airline you are flying with and will be included in your flight ticket. This is the model that many countries are moving towards.

However, there are many countries that require departure tax to be paid at the immigration desk at the airport, or directly to the airline you are flying with. Sometimes the tax will need to be paid in local currency - although many countries are increasingly charging departure tax in US dollars, rather than local currency.

Top Tip: For a full guide to airline taxes, check out our guide: Airline Taxes Explained

Will I need to pay departure tax when I leave my holiday destination?

You’ll need to pay a departure tax when you fly back from some countries. In many instances, many passengers will be unaware that they have paid departure tax, as it is often added to the price of a plane ticket. But in some cases, you will need to make sure you've got the correct money (in the correct currency!) ready when you arrive at the airport for your flight home.

Tax fare rules mean that different passengers may be required to pay a different tax value compared to other passengers on the same plane. For example, as of September 2019, air travellers from Malaysia flying to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and travelling in economy class will be charged RM8 ($1.90 USD) in departure tax, while passengers in other classes will need to pay RM50 ($11.90 USD).

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Departure Tax FAQs

Can I get a Departure Tax Refund?

In some instances, the departure tax fee can be refunded. This is usually the case if you are transitioning through airports. In many cases, the tax will not be applied unless you stay for a set duration within the airport or country (usually from 12-24 hours). For example, if you arrive and depart from Hong Kong on the same day, you will be eligible for a departure tax refund of $120 HKD ($15.45 USD).

Do I need to pay the departure tax when leaving Malaysia?

Passengers who are departing on a flight from Malaysia from the 1st of September 2019 will now have to pay departure tax. The tax value will range from RM8 ($1.92 USD)to RM150 ($35.92 usd). The details are as follows:

Passengers flying to ASEAN countries

(ASEAN countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam)

Economy Class: RM8

Non-economy Class: RM50

Passengers flying to non-ASEAN countries

Economy Class: RM20

Non-economy Class: RM150

Passengers who meet the following criteria will be exempted from paying the departure tax: babies and toddlers under 24 months; or passengers on transit flights through Malaysia (transit less than 12 hours).

Do I need to pay a departure tax when leaving the UK?

Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a tax charged by airlines on all economy flights that leave the UK. It is charged on all outbound flights from the UK, but not on inbound flights heading to the UK. As of April 2019, passengers will be charged £26 per person on short haul economy flights to most of Europe, and £172 per person on most long haul flights. From April 2020 this fee will be £26 per person on short haul economy flights to most of Europe, and £176 per person on most long haul flights. More information about APD can be found here.

Passengers pay APD as part of the ticket price. This tax is then passed on to the government.

Do I need to pay the departure tax when leaving Costa Rica?

The Costa Rica departure tax, or exit tax, is $29 per person. Costa Rica is introducing a new system, whereby the departure tax is paid in the air ticket, which has been phasing in since November of 2014. However, passengers travelling on many airlines from Costa Rica will still need to pay the tax at the airport, at the airport's departure tax collection desk. One major airline that, as of July 2019, still requires paying the fee at the airport is Lufthansa. Check with your airline before you travel!

Do I need to pay the departure tax when leaving Jamaica?

An airport departure tax of $35 USD is required when departing from Jamaica. For passengers flying to the USA and Canada, the departure tax is included in the cost of the airline ticket. Passengers flying to the UK on a scheduled airline may be required to pay the departure tax in cash at the airport before departing from Jamaica. Before flying, ask your airline if the tax has been paid in advance or not.