They don’t call shopping Singapore’s national sport for nothing. Let’s just say it’s the one sport we don’t need to import players from abroad to excel in. A recent survey revealed that 1 in 3 Singaporeans travel with shopping as their main purpose, spending an average of $335 a day.
Of course, not every holiday destination makes for a great shopping destination. I imagine even the most aggressive Singaporean shoppers on vacation in Mongolia or American Samoa would be hard pressed to find stuff to buy in those locations.
On the other hand, let a Singaporean loose in Bangkok and his suitcase will be full in 2 hours.
Here are some of the best shopping destinations for Singaporeans who gain a sense of achievement from returning home with an armful of shopping bags.
While our neighbours up north have always been regarded as a land of bargains, things are now even cheaper than ever, thanks to the falling ringgit.
One Singapore dollar is now worth a whopping 300 RM, when before it used to however around 200 to 250 RM. That basically means that the cheap has become even cheaper, whether you’re talking about petrol, groceries, clothing or crafts.
And thanks to the fact that a trip to Malaysia usually means just taking a $40 bus ride or a 1 hour flight, shoppers have even more money left over for their shopping sprees. Virtually everything is cheaper there, from brand name goods and electrical appliances to car parts and groceries.
The Australian exchange rate is at one of its lowest points in almost a decade, and while other tourists might head there to enjoy the sun, sand and surf or hike in tropical rainforests, Singaporeans are often seen storming shopping malls in Melbourne and Sydney.
Singaporeans are obsessed with Australian fashion brands like Witchery, Supré and Sportsgirl. They are also frequently seen hitting up multi-label shops like General Pants Co, which carries indie labels like One Teaspoon and Don’t Ask Amanda. Hipster Singaporeans visiting Melbourne, not content with Haji Lane, also flock to the hip boutiques at GPO and on Brunswick Street.
If you’re a frequent traveller to Australia, the ANZ Travel Visa Signature Card gives cardholders a whopping 2.8 air miles for every Singapore dollar you spend on shopping in Australia, as well as on flight tickets with Qantas and Jetstar airlines.
Bangkok is hands down the best and most value-for-money destination for those who like to buy trendy fast fashion.
Chatuchak Market, which operates on weekends only, is so massive that many Singaporeans allocate two entire days of their trip to a shopping spree there. You can get very chic vintage-inspired dresses, tshirts and shoes for about 100 baht (4 SGD).
Platinum Fashion Mall is another destination where you can hear the familiar Singapore accent in any crowd. The mall specialises in wholesale clothes and accessories, so the more pieces you buy from each shop, the bigger the discounts you enjoy.
Those who don’t mind paying a bit more should also head to slightly more upmarket malls like Siam Square, where you can purchase clothing, accessories and homeware from up and coming Thai designers.
Remember to bargain hard, not just at markets but also at independent boutiques.
If you want to experience Chinese culture in a less frenetic environment than the major mainland Chinese cities, Taiwan is where it’s at. While there’s no shortage of big shopping malls, the real heart of Taipei lies in its small local boutiques and street markets.
Taiwanese streetwear is generally cutesy, taking a cue from their neighbours over in Japan, but tends to be less over-the-top and more wearable. Teenage hangout Xi Men Ding and the famous Shin Lin Night Market will make you feel like a member of F4.
Bargaining is usually possible at independent boutiques and street markets. The Taiwanese are a friendly bunch, so just smile a lot and they’ll usually give you a discount.
Emulate the tai tais having high tea at the Peninsula Hong Kong by shopping for designer items in one of the world’s poshest cities.
Hong Kong is a favourite destination of Singaporean shoppers who enjoy shopping for designer goods at upmarket boutiques. Hong Kong’s summer and winter sales are legendary, and you can snag Christian Louboutin shoes and Miu Miu purses for 80% off if you’re in the right place at the right time.
Hong Kong’s Central and Tsim Sha Tsui districts are big, crowded and enough to give Orchard Road a run the money. If you prefer visiting little boutiques in the style of Far East Plaza back home, head to Island Beverley, which offers streetwear which, while not cheap, is fashion forward and unique.
Which are your favourite shopping destinations? Tell us in the comments!