Before you go off on your shopping spree in Thailand, there are a few shopping tips you need to know such as where to go to find the right stuff, what to buy once you get there and what type of places to avoid. You'll also want to know how and where to bargain for the best prices.
You will also learn about things like how to recognize certain goods such as fake watches, antiques and so forth. Shopping in Thailand can be a lot of fun, but you also don't want to feel as though you have been ripped off either. In all it must be a fun experience.
Shopping malls and Department stalls are found in all major cities and holiday resorts. Some are massive and ultra modern such as those of Silom, Siam Square and Sukumvit in Bangkok. Other equally impressive if not slightly smaller shopping centers can be found in most of the resort towns of Pattaya and Phuket. Some contain food courts, designer clothing boutiques and entertainment facilities such as cinema complexes, bowling alleys and ice skating rinks.
Shopping at the markets and street stalls around Bangkok creates the perfect scenario for you to attempt and test your bargaining skills. It will also give you the opportunity to interact with the whole Thai cultural experience too. For inexpensive textiles, ready made clothing and other assorted paraphernalia go to markets below.
However, what you want to avoid are all the market stalls at tourist sites such as those at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and the Patpong Night Market in Bangkok or other places of interest like James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay. Though these are all great places to visit, there is a good chance you'll end up paying three to four times the going rate.
Buying anything here should be avoided at all costs. If you do decide to buy gifts or souvenirs at these places you'll kick yourself later when you find the same goods in other markets at far better prices.
Although prices are fixed at all the shopping malls, department stalls and many boutiques, bargaining is expected at the markets and street stalls. In fact, it's a must. When vendors quote you the price of a particular item you wish to buy, as a shopping tip, you should offer at least half that price and then work your way up from there until you are satisfied with the price you feel is the correct value.
As a marker, begin by offering a figure less than what you are prepared to pay and then gradually increase the offer until a deal can be struck whereby both parties are in agreement. If all else fails, walking away sometimes also works. This may help to persuade the vendor to drop the original price or at the very least, meet your demands. It doesn't always work, but it's well worth a try.
One of the other shopping tips you need to be aware of and that is to look out for the fake merchandise which some of the locals have an excellent knack of producing. Items like Louis Vuitton bags and wallets, Mont Blanc pens and Rolex watches can be bought at most market stalls for a fraction of the actual market value. It really doesn't pay to buy them as in most cases, they soon fall apart.
Pirated DVD's and CD's are available just about everywhere in Thailand. Though copyright infringement is rampant, they are rarely enforced, however, occasionally police do raid stores and stalls resulting in some vendors scurrying for cover. Just be aware that if you're caught in possession of any of these fake items, they could be confiscated resulting in you having to return home empty-handed.
It is speculated that Thailand is the main outlet for antiques across Southeast Asia. However, you need to be extremely cautious when purchasing any such artifact deemed suspect, though this in itself may be hard for any novice to detect. Unfortunate as it may seem, many of these items have found their way across the borders of Burma, Laos and Cambodia by unscrupulous persons. It is known that some of these relics are stolen from temples in their respective countries. They are then sold in many of the markets across Thailand.
When purchasing antiques in Thailand, there are a few prerequisite shopping tips. An important lesson is to able to distinguish between what is genuinely authentic and what is actually artificial. Occasionally imitations are passed off for the real deal. Genuine antiques and Buddha images should be sourced through accredited dealers who will also be able to assist you in obtaining the correct export permit from the Fine Arts Department. Sellers will help with the paperwork, but be aware these things can take several days to process.
If you want to buy gifts and or souvenirs for your family and friends back home then I would suggest you head on down to either the Chatuchak Weekend Market where you will find an enormous variety of arts and crafts and just about everything else in between.
Another great place to shop till you drop for all kinds of Thai handicrafts is at Narayans Phand where you'll be able to purchase items such as traditional Thai dolls, Khon theatrical masks as well as lacquer-ware, silverware, brass statues and wood carvings, among other great merchandise. Whereas you can bargain at Chatuchak, you cannot do that at Narayans Phand.
If you are wanting to purchase jewellery and gemstones for your loved ones then the small but upscale Peninsula Plaza in Bangkok is probably the best for these items. Thailand as you may have heard, is well known for its gold and gems in particular rubies and sapphires. Extreme caution is the keynote here.
I regard this as one of my top priority shopping tips and you simply need to be aware of the risks out there. The scams in selling fake or inferior quality gems to foreigners is not only legendary but also shameless, yet hundreds of tourists get conned every day by the clever techniques used by hustlers. Unless you are an expert identifying genuine gems, the best advice is to stay far away as possible. Don't get tempted by a good deal as it's most likely a scam.
It may not surprise you that thousands of tourists travel to Thailand, especially (well, maybe not) to commission a local tailor to make that dream suit, shirt or dress they always wanted back home, but said they couldn't afford. Surely if you can afford a trip to Thailand, you can afford to buy a tailored anything back home. Never mind, you heard somewhere that Thai's make the best tailored clothes in the world.
Now is your chance.
While in part, some of this is true - finding the right tailor with good quality cloth may be more than a slight miss calculation. Tailors are two a penny in Thailand and if you think you might have missed your opportunity in Bangkok, there's no need to panic as hundreds more are lining up to attract your attention in cities and towns all around the country. So much so they soon become a thorn in your side hassling you day in and night out. Another thing I noticed and that is most of these tailors are not even Thai but nationals coming from neighbouring countries such as Burma and Laos, not that it really matters.
What does matter is getting the best quality item at an affordable price. While cheap cloth and cheap labour may seem like an attractive proposition to you, cheap anything can also mean inferior quality and you really don't want that to spoil your holiday, now do you. Go to a reputable tailor such as the Embassy Fashion House in Wireless Road in Bangkok. They have a reputation for good quality cloth and offer you the best advice and expertise. They can also copy the style of a garment from a picture then measure you to get the perfect fit.
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