Everybody loves a bargain, so here are a few tips on how to bag yourself one in Singapore. Visitors to Singapore who have travelled through other Asian cities such as Bangkok or Beijing may be disappointed by the lack of bartering that takes place here, but there are still a few places where you can get yourself a good deal.
Wet Markets – wet markets (eg. the Tekka Centre in Little India) are one of the easiest places to barter in Singapore. All those stalls selling pretty much the same thing and competing for your business, make them prime places to make sure you get a good deal. Prices tend to be quite cheap anyway, but you can always ask. This is particularly easy if you buy lots from one stall – and many of the stall owners will often throw in something extra anyway. The fact that you look like a visitor will probably mean that your price is slightly higher than the local auntie shopping next to you, but that’s life. It helps if you befriend the stall holder, ask questions and generally be a nice person – and if you speak the same language as the stall holder, that will definitely help!
Chinatown/Little India – Chinatown and Little India are the best areas to shop for souvenirs. As above, you tend to find many shops and stalls all selling similar items and so it makes it easy to shop around for the best deal. Sometimes items are so cheap (4 silk cushion covers for $10 anyone?) that it can seem futile to ask for it any cheaper, but other times it is always worth asking for a discount. Phrases such as “Is that your best price?” or “Do you have any discounts?” can often bring down the price, other times you can try your luck at offering a lower price and see if the shop owner is prepared to get into a bidding war. As always, stay good humoured about it all and it should be a fun experience for everybody.
Electronics/Designer Goods – if you’re shopping for a new camera, designer watch, or diamond bracelet, never buy from the first shop you go into. Shop around to get an idea of the prices available and ALWAYS ask if they have any discounts at the moment. 8 times out of 10 you will get at least a 10% discount just for asking. It helps that similar shops are often concentrated in one area in Singapore (eg. Funan IT Mall for cameras/laptops/MP3 players or Jewellery Street at ION Orchard for anything sparkly). Tell them that you have been offered a better price elsewhere, and ask if they can match it. Don’t be afraid to ask what freebies they can thrown in – you might gain a camera bag, extra memory card and tripod for that new digital SLR.
Many shops and restaurants offer special discounts for tourists, Singapore Airlines boarding pass holders, Singapore Airlines frequent flyer holders, as well as holders of various credit cards. Keep your eyes open and always ask. And remember if you’re a visitor, ask for a tax receipt so that you can claim back your GST when you leave the country.
Great Singapore Sale
The Great Singapore Sale runs for eight weeks from May to July every year and sees the whole city getting into discount shopping mode. Most shops participate and you will see prices slashed by up to 70% in some. It seems that shop owners love an excuse to offer discounts at other times of year too – look out for National Day, Hari Raya or other festival discounts throughout the year.