Shopping in Singapore? Read this first

By Karen Flores,

Posted at Nov 06 2012 05:54 PM | Updated as of Nov 07 2012 01:56 AM

ION Orchard is one of the many malls along Orchard Road. Photo by Karen Flores,

SINGAPORE – Singapore has emerged as a leading shopping destination not only because of its several malls, but also for its safe and clean environment.

But the sheer number of shops and dining outlets can be overwhelming to first-time visitors, who may end up maxing out their credit cards or spending way beyond their budget.

Here is a quick guide to make the most out of your hard-earned money (or allowance) during your first (or second, or third) Singapore trip:

Best times to shop: May-July, Oct-Nov

The Great Singapore Sale (GSS), a shopping event aimed at luring tourists to the city-state, is held from May to July every year. Aside from extended mall hours, the GSS also offers promos and discounts specifically to tourists.

It is also great to shop in Singapore in October and November, when several retail stores hold clearance sales as Christmas draws near. If you’re lucky, you can get discounts as big as 70%, making some items dirt cheap.

Different brands offer discounts at the Takashimaya Department Store in Ngee Ann City building. Photo by Karen Flores,

Compare prices first

Before going to Singapore, take a quick trip to the malls here and see the prices of the items you are planning to buy, whether it is a gadget or a pair of shoes, as some items are still more expensive in Singapore than in Manila, even with discounts.

For instance, items sold at Mango in Singapore are usually priced higher or the same as the ones in Manila. The same goes for Tiffany & Co. and Adidas. Cotton On and Charles & Keith, a Singaporean footwear and accessories brand, on the other hand, are way cheaper to buy in the city-state.

A Cotton On branch offers items at discounted prices. Photo by Karen Flores,

Focus on brands not available in Manila

Make it a point to visit shops which are not available in Manila, unless you travel to different countries on a regular basis. One of the places frequented by Filipino tourists in Singapore is Swedish retail giant Hennes & Mauritz or H&M, which has taken up the entire Orchard Building at Grange Road, just a short walk from the Somerset MRT station.

The H&M store at Grange Road. Photo by Karen Flores,

If you’re lucky, you can buy good quality pieces at very low prices, like a tank top for SG$3 (around P100), a blouse for SG$10 (a little over P300), and a dress for SG$20 (nearly P700).

Takashimaya, a Japanese-owned department store inside the Ngee Ann City building along Orchard Road, is also worth a visit as it holds regular sale days, with several brands slashing prices of their products by 50% to 70%.

Go beyond Orchard Road

Orchard Road, that 2.2-kilometer long street flanked by shopping malls, restaurants and hotels, is the go-to place for most tourists in Singapore. But if you want to get more savings (and have a little adventure, too) you may want to visit shops outside this shopping haven.

Orchard Road is one of Singapore's most popular tourist destinations. Photo by Karen Flores,

Go to Chinatown, Little India or Bugis (easily accessible via MRT; just alight at the stations named after these places and prepare to walk for a few minutes) if you want to shop for fun and quirky items that can serve as souvenirs or gifts. Even without the shopping, these places are worth a visit.

If you are a serious bargain hunter, head to outlet stores scattered all over Singapore. One of the best places to visit is Anchorpoint Mall along Alexandra Road, which has outlet shops of Charles & Keith, Pedro, Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Billabong, FOX, G2000, Giordano and Little Ones. (How to get there: Take the MRT and alight at Queenstown station. Take Bus 195 and alight after two stops, opposite IKEA)

Just across Anchorpoint is IKEA, a Swedish company that sells affordable furniture and home accessories as well as comfort dishes such as Swedish meatballs.

An IKEA building along Alexandra Road. Photo by Karen Flores,

Another great choice is IMM, a huge mall in the Jurong East area. It has outlets of Bossini, Esprit, Giordano, Hang Ten, Hush Puppies, New Balance, Samsonite, The Travel Store, Timberland, World of Sports and I-Outlet, which sells Crocs shoes. (How to get there: Take the MRT and alight at Jurong East station, then follow the signs to IMM mall shuttle)

Avoid unnecessary expenses

There are little things that you can do to avoid unnecessary expenses, such as bringing your own paper napkins or tissue paper. This as hawkers and other food stalls tend to sell these items to unsuspecting tourists at higher prices.

Avoid the single-trip MRT tickets. If you’re planning to stay at Orchard Road, take a walk instead.

One of the many shops along Orchard Road. Photo by Karen Flores,

But if you want to get around, buy a reloadable MRT card, which has cheaper rates for trains and buses. It can also be used to buy items at fast food chains and convenience stores. You can still use it for your next visit – or if you no longer want it, just return it to an MRT station to get a small refund.

Stay away from taxis unless you no longer have a choice (it’s past 11:30 p.m. and buses and trains are no longer available, you have a lot of luggage, or you have no idea where to go) as these are quite expensive. But it is recommended if you come in a group of four or more.

If you want to focus on shopping, turn to food courts for your meals. For pasalubong or gifts, go to supermarkets for unique food items instead of tourist souvenir shops.

At the Orchard MRT station. Photo by Karen Flores,

Collect receipts

Don’t throw away your receipts just yet, because you can claim a refund for the goods and services tax (GST) paid for your goods purchased from retailers participating in Singapore’s tourist refund scheme.

To get the GST refund, you have to spend a minimum of SG$100 on goods at a shop or at different outlets of the same chain which has the tax-free shopping logo. After paying for your items, ask for a refund cheque, which you will then present at the GST refund counter at the Changi airport.

If you’re not sure if you can get a refund cheque, just ask the store’s sales assistant and he or she will be more than willing to help you.