Heathrow Airport VAT refunds

Posted by Mark

Just a tip. If you’re traveling to London and are planning on getting VAT refunds at the airport on your way out then make sure you get to the airport 5 or 6 hours early. Seriously. It seems Travelex, the company that handles the VAT refunds at the airport actually deliberately try to be very slow so that you give up waiting and leave without collecting your refund. I arrived to the airport 3 hours ahead of my flight and first thing I did was stand in a super long line before check in to get my refund but the line wasn’t moving. I spent around an hour and moved only 2 or 3 spots and I estimated I had at least another 2 to 3 hours just get to the front of the line. In the end I gave up and decided to get the refund as credit on my credit card, a simpler process which involved passing the forms to the manager stationed there but not receiving any kind of delivery proof or even a carbon copy of my forms. According to other people who were waiting in line they tried the credit route before and never got the refund. I didn’t really have another option.

I had a new laptop with me as well so to get a VAT refund for that you need to do it after passing immigration. Once inside I got my laptop VAT Refund document stamped but then had to wait another hour and half in line to get the cash refund for that. It’s the same line you need to stand in by the way once you get your forms stamped in the first super long line before immigration. I ended up collecting my refund just as they were announcing the final call for my flight. So make sure you get to the airport a lot earlier then you think you need.


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28 comments, add your own...


  1. NO.22 says:

    A lot of people go to London specifically at this time to do their ‘SALE’ shopping. Bags and bags full of shopping. I assume that is why the line is so long.
    My Vat refund process (at Terminal 5) only took 5 mins back in July and they were very friendly and helpful.

  2. SQ says:

    don’t worry, i had the same incident back in Nov .. the queue was too long and moving very slow ,and frankly i wanted more time to spend in duty-free shops .. so i gave them the forms to get the refund back in my credit card ,Ive received the refund money in exactly 6 weeks

  3. Haitham says:

    What about the huge commission they take for receiving the VAT refund? It’s absurd how much they take, I don’t remember exactly but it was 20 or 30%.

  4. Marzouq says:

    I love their Duty Free! So I end up going a lot earlier to get things done! Like you I go at least 4 hours earlier and got my VAT refund done quickly!

  5. Othman says:

    Happened to us too. Wasn’t the first time either and the queue wasn’t even that long to justify the time spent waiting.

  6. T says:

    You guys are crazy, flying to London to “shop”. Fly another 6 hours and go to the TRUE shopping mecca–AMERICA. You don’t get any VAT back (because there is no VAT), but the prices–with sales tax–are half the prices in the UK and Gulf.

  7. This is what you should do.

    Always get a paid envelope from the shops when you request the VAT refund forms. Fill in your details including credit card number before hand. Then only have them stamped by customes directly if you can even before security. If you ask them nicely, you can skip the processing contractor all together. Then take photos of your stamped forms with your mobile, put them in the paid envelops and drop them yourself in the mail box.

    If you don’t get credit back on your card, just contact the respective processing firm and email them the photos of the stamped forms. I did that once after 6 months and they credited my card within a week of getting my email. I was told tnis tip by a friendly camera store guy in london and always managed to get the vat back on mycredit card ever since.

    • Mark says:

      Thats the problem, to get them stamped by customs I would have had to be in line for 3 hours. I asked some people about posting the forms after getting stamped and the two people i asked told me they tried that and never got any refund which is kinda similar to your situation except you followed up on it “6 months” later with photos and stuff for them to refund you the amount.

  8. JM says:

    Pssht London. Enjoy your shopping and VAT’s, I’ll enjoy my Amsterdam.

  9. ramo says:

    I only use Gatwick for my flights from Dubai although Heathrow would be closer to me…reason:

    - NO ONE at the VAT refund.
    - Staff are friendlier
    - Airport less busy
    - No Etihad, Qatar Airways, EK, Kuwait Airways, etc. all departing within a a few hours (now you can guess why the long wait at VAT!)

  10. A says:

    Same story in CDG Paris

  11. Proud Kuwaiti says:

    Airports in German-speaking countries are better!

    • aaa says:

      The airport in Frankfurt is shit, it’s a prison. You have to go through checkpoints to go from one section to the other and the guards are extremely rude.

  12. enigma says:

    Which terminal was that? It usually takes ages in Terminal 3, but a fraction of that time in Terminal 5.

  13. Zainab says:

    I’ve tried both Terminals 3 & 4 and never faced with any delays. The longest time I had to wait was 45 minutes and they were very friendly. It’s quite strange you had to wait that long. I usually go 3 hours before my flight just in case the VAT takes longer than expected.

  14. chuknum says:

    my suggestion, Westfield mall in london has a VAT equivalent to the airport so I guess less lines, less waiting.

    • Emily Silva says:

      Where is this vat refund office in Westfield? And which of the Westfields? Please I’m interested because my flight leaves very early on Saturday. 7 am to be precise and this may pose a challenge.

  15. aaa says:

    Yeah this is why I hate buying things in Europe, you think “Oh with the VAT refund it’s cheaper than Kuwait” then you don’t get the refund because you’ll be late for your flight.

    And then you get back to Kuwait and realize it’s in Kuwait and it’s CHEAPER :I shopping in EU is horrible

  16. 360Dewan says:

    Thanks for the tip man i’ll tattoo that in my brain

  17. Haha I don’t get VAT refund

  18. Randy says:

    are there no VAT refund or processing centers around London other than at the airport?

  19. Iman says:

    there are counters and offices inside the terminals AFTER security (if in doubt always check the website http://www.heathrowairport.com/heathrow-airport-guide/services-and-facilities/vat-refunds , I never tried them because I’m a UK resident but I am sure they have much shorter lines) you may need to keep the items with you so they cant go in your baggage and you have to take them with you on board the plane

    • Mark says:

      thats where the problem is. 1 counter with 1 people serving ALL the tax refund customers. U needed at the very least 1-2 hours in that line when i was there.

  20. Owolabi Oriola says:

    What is the opening hours of Travelex at Heathrow for VAT refund?

  21. Owolabi Oriola says:

    My flight is at 7am on Friday, 31st August, 2012, what do you advise I do to claim my tax refund in view of the early morning flight?

  22. Emily Silva says:

    How did u resolve this please? I have the same problem.


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