You can always spot a Singaporean in a shop overseas by the twinkle in his eye as he remarks, “This is cheaper than in Singapore!” When a war is about to break out, people start raiding supermarkets to stock up on supplies. Well, that’s how some Singaporeans look when they go on overseas holidays, with rising domestic prices and most products being marked up due to a lack of domestic production.
Here’s a list of the things Singaporeans just love to buy overseas, all of which are available locally too—not because they’re a reflection of the unique culture of their country of origin, but simply because they’re cheaper.
1. Designer products
A foreign friend once commented that she’d never seen so many women carrying real Chanel handbags as she had on the Singapore MRT. While regular people in Europe don’t amass collections of Gucci, Prada or Louis Vuitton bags, this suits Singaporeans just fine—don’t need them driving up the prices, right?
For designer handbags and shoes, Italy and France are Singaporeans’ top destinations. Gucci, Prada, Tods or Ferragamo products can be as much as 30% cheaper in Italy, while Louis Vuitton and Chanel are the most sought after items in France.
Finally, there are the outlet malls, the most popular of which are the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, located about an hour from New York City. I have friends who managed to spend more than double their monthly salary at this place, so beware.
2. Fast fashion
Anyone who’s reasonably well-travelled knows that most of the no-brand fast fashion at Far East Plaza is from Thailand, Korea or China. But why pay marked up prices when you can fly there yourself?
Step into Platinum Fashion Mall in Bangkok and you’ll soon realise that Far East Plaza could never rival this place in a million years. Dresses that would ordinarily cost you at least $40 at retail shops in Singapore go for 2,000 baht or less.
In Seoul, shoppers make a beeline for shopping areas like Dongdaemun Market or big deparment stores like Migliore, where all the latest styles are available months before they hit Singapore, at a fraction of the price.
If you’re into camera equipment, household appliances or audio equipment, head to Japan for cheaper prices and more up to date models. For instance, the latest Canon cameras and lenses get released months earlier and tend to be cheaper. You can save almost $1,000 on a Sony RX1 in Japan at a big chain like Bic Camera. Headphones from Audio Technica are also cheaper.
It is worth noting that not every single item is necessarily going to be cheaper, so you’ll need to do your homework and do research on the items you intend to home in on. Also make sure international warranties are offered and that an English language menu is available in the case of digital cameras unless you can read Japanese.
4. Health supplements and organic products
Vitamin supplements cost a bomb in Singapore, and most of the people who pop pills regularly get them online. But if you’re headed to Australia, you’re in luck, as you can get supplements like Blackmores Multivitamins at 30% to 50% the price.
Australia is also a great place to get organic healthcare and skincare products, as many local brands focus on natural ingredients. Just ask the legions of Singaporean students studying in Australia who swear by brands like Jurlique and Alchemy. Products from the latter cost twice as much at Guardian Pharmacy in Singapore.
5. Facial and skincare products
It’s not uncommon for Singaporeans returning from a holiday in Korea to be spotted lugging huge suitcases filled with face masks back to the motherland. In every single heartland mall in Singapore, Korean skincare brands like The Face Shop, Innisfree, Nature Republic and Etude House are already permanent fixtures. But products from these brands, which are at a slight premium here, cost a fraction of the price in Korea.
Just wander through the Myeongdong area in Seoul and you’ll be accosted by hordes of salesgirls giving out free samples in order to lure you into the store, where you realise that that special pearl essence face mask costs only 1,000 won (1.2 SGD), compared to the $2-$3 you have to shell out in Singapore.
6. Groceries and Petrol
If you live in Woodlands or Jurong West, there’s a high chance you often skip across the Causeway or Second Link just to fill up your tank at half the price. In the meantime, why not just head to City Square in Johor Bahru to load up on groceries too? Everything costs roughly 30% to 50% less than it does in Singapore, and it probably takes you less time to get there than it does to crawl to Orchard Road during peak hour, too.
Despite that pesky rule that forces you to enter Malaysia with a tank that’s at least ¾ full, you can still save quite a bit by making bi-weekly trips.
What do you usually buy overseas? Let us know in the comments!