11 Singapore Shopping Tips for Visitors
"Remember to get your GST refund
before checking in your Singapore shopping!"
- Visit at least one 'heartland' shopping spot.
There's really more to Singapore shopping than just Orchard Road. Venture into one of the housing estates where 85% of Singaporeans live. Even if you never bought anything there, you'll get to see how ordinary Singaporeans really go about their lives.
Then, there are also those bargains the travel guides don't tell you about. For example, you may get 3 pairs of pants tailored for only S$88 at some of the 'corridor tailors'. That's about US$65 for 3 pair of pants or US$22 for a pair! If you have tried to get anything tailored in Thailand recently, you'll know that this is an even better deal.
Also, the heartland shops are, IMHO, more generous when it comes to bargaining.
3 heartland spots worth visiting are Tiong Bahru, Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio.
- Take your pre-teen kids to shop at the adult sections. Compared to Caucasians, Asian size is 'petite'. And the clothes you find in Singapore will reflect that. Here, some adult-size clothes fit very nicely on a 10-year-old Caucasian boy or girl.
- Look out for discounts on the bigger sizes during sales. At the end of the shopping season, you'll often find leftover stock for the bigger sizes of clothes and shoes. Take for example, men's shoes. Not many Singaporeans wear US size 10, 11, 12 and upwards. But the stores do stock them and mark down prices when new models are coming.
Look for these bargains especially at the Great Singapore Sale in June/July.
[Note: Points 2 and 3 only applies to people with bigger build than the average Asian Singaporean.]
- Look out for shops that show the 'GST Refund' sign. Tourists may claim GST refund if they spend S$100 or more at any shop participating in the GST Refund scheme. (Not applicable if you are exiting by land or sea)
So do look out for those shops with the 'Tax Free Shopping' or 'Premier Tax Free' logos. Remember to fill up relevant forms and get them endorsed at the shop. Claim your GST refund before checking in your Singapore shopping at the airport.
- Check that your purchase comes with an international warranty. Don't assume that an international warranty is always issued. Often, there are some funny clauses involved. Check before you even bargain with the shopkeeper.
- Ensure that the voltage for your electronics is correct. Singapore uses 220V electrical appliances. If your home country uses 110V, check that whatever you buy home can be used. Not all the salespeople will tell you this.
- If you plan on buying big-ticket items, make a list of desired models and check prices back home before you arrive. Singapore is one of the best places on earth to buy high-tech stuff. But if you don't know the market prices, the 'sales-predators' will eat you up when you enter their shops. (Few they maybe, but unscrupulous salespeople exist in Singapore.)
- Wise up to dishonest salespeople. A favourite strategy among these dishonest fellas is to say that they don't stock the model you're looking for. Then they'll tell you that they have 'something better'. They are basically trying to sell you something you are unfamiliar with (read: you don't know the market prices) so that they can mark up prices on you.
Another gimmick? They'll try to upsell. You know those add-ons they claim will make your MP3 player sound better? So watch out for these tricks when you do your Singapore shopping.
- Take a spare bag with you. Some say we are a nation of shopaholics. Bring along one of those foldable bags that slip easily into your main luggage, just in case you get addicted too.
Don't be surprised by a burst-open carton or plastic carrier when you collect your luggage back home.
- Ask for receipts, even in the mom-and-pop shops. Some travel insurance doesn't cover lost or damaged items without receipts. Either get travel insurance that covers everything. Or keep the receipts at least until your Singapore shopping is home safely.
- If you have been scammed... There are tourist helpdesks you could turn to. If you believe that somebody has cheated you, make a report at one of these places:
- Small Claims Tribunal
Level 1, Subordinate Courts, 1 Havelock Square, Singapore 059724
Tel: 6435 5937
- Any of the Singapore Visitors' Centres
- Small Claims Tribunal
Singapore shopping is generally a pleasant experience. I hope these tips will protect you against the occasional scammer and make your Singapore shopping experience more enjoyable. And, yes, remember to take that spare bag when you come ;-)