Asia's cosmopolitan city
Singapore shopping guide, buyer tips

A few tips for the savvy buyer

Generally speaking, most of Singapore's retailers and shopkeepers are honest people.


However, like elsewhere around the world, there are a few of them (not many really) who seem to have forgotten the difference between a seasoned businessman and a crook...


When shopping around, it is advisable to pay attention to a few simple tips that will help you get a better value for your money:

  1. Do you know what exactly are you looking for? Especially when it comes to electronics and computer ware, it is advisable to decide on the exact product you want to buy (including model number) and think on an alternative or two in case you don't find it.  You'll better also check the price of that product in your home country (including online shops) and see if the price you managed to get in Singapore is, truly, a bargain.
  2. Don't fall for the "parallel product trick": One of the shopkeepers' most favorite tactics is to give you an excellent price for the product you want and then to pretend it is "coincidently" out of stock... The vendor will then tell you that he has another product, almost identical to the one you wanted... Obviously, the "identical product" is inferior, compared to the one you wanted, and the price you'll pay for it will not be such a bargain... As mentioned already, you should know what you are looking for and think about an alternative or two. If none of these can be found at a certain shop, just move on and keep looking for it...
  3. Have you looked around? Don't rush to buy anything (especially if it is expensive) before you compare the price in a few different shops.  Sales and special deals of large chains are published in local English newspapers and the folks in Singapore Tourism Board might also know something about a sale that is currently on... You can also call the Consumer Council on 6463 1811 for consumer advice / suggested retail prices.
  4. Are you buying the right product at the right place? In many cases, you'll find there are areas that "specialize" in certain product-groups. Focusing on those areas will make life easier for you, as the product you are looking for can be found in many nearby shops.
  5. Did you get what you paid for? You'll better Check that the product comes in its original pack, that it has all the components it should have, that there is a certificate of warranty (which is valid in your home country), that there is a clear return policy in that shop and, of course, that the product is adapted to be used in your country.
  6. Have you asked for a receipt? In addition to the ultimate certificate of warranty, it is also important to get a receipt and to make sure that all details are properly written on it (should not be a problem as most receipts are computer generated nowadays). In case of a problem, you can contact the Consumer Council or the Singapore Tourism Board, show them the receipt and ask them to help you out.
  7. What exactly are you paying for? When buying bulk products, such as Chinese medicines, spices, dried foods and the like... you'll better find out if the price is per piece, per kilo or per packet?
  8. Applying a surcharge on a credit card transaction is not allowed. If a certain shopkeeper tries to do it, you can report him to either the Singapore Tourism Board (1-800-736-2000) or to the relevant credit card company
  9. Many shops offer packing and shipping of large items that are too big to be carried. It is advisable to ask them to commit on a date for delivery, and to write it down on the invoice/receipt.
  10. Export license is required when taking weapons out of Singapore (including old swords and spears). You can get the license from the Singapore Arms and Explosives Branch, at 391, New Bridge road, #02-701 Cantonment Complex (6557 5822) or you can ask the shop owner to help you. Otherwise, if you buy any animal byproducts (skins, furs, bones and the likes...), make sure you are allowed to bring them into your country.
  11. As a tourist, you can claim a refund of the 7% GST you paid on goods you take home with you. It may sound negligible at first, but when it comes to expensive stuff, it certainly worth the little effort (it really isn't much of a hassle).   How does it work? Basically, there are two central refund agencies operating in Singapore, those are: Global Refund and Premier Tax Free. When you buy goods, worth not less than SG$ 100, from any participating retailer (that is any shop that displays a Global Refund or Tax Free shopping or Premier Tax Free logo) the shopkeeper should give you a voucher for the GST portion of the invoice (after you showed him your passport and proved you are a tourist...). When leaving Singapore (through the airport), you should validate the vouchers by customs and take them to the counters of Global Refund and Premier Tax Free, next to customs, where you will be given the refund in a form of cash, cheque, Airport shopping vouchers or whatever... If you want to know more about the Tourist Refund Scheme, visit this webpage.