Top Ten Tips for the best Shopping Experience in the Thai Kingdom

Siam Shopping Center in Bangkok

Shopping in Thailand is a fever frenzy adventure all on its own. It can be a heck of a lot of fun, extremely exciting, immensely exhilarating and positively rewarding. And if that’s not reason enough, you’ll never ever find it the least bit dull or boring. And best of all, for much of the year, the sun is shining, albeit a little hot at times. Some like it hot!!!

Number 1

Possibly the best shopping tip in Thailand is that you must never be afraid to bargain. Thailand is one of the best places in South East Asia to offer you untold bargaining opportunities. While all, if not most, department stores and shopping malls rarely offer discounts due to their fixed pricing policies, all small shops and street stalls offer great deals on just about anything and everything. You can get fantastic deals from arts to crafts to clothing and jewellery. If the price is 1000 Baht, offer 500 Baht. You’ll probably end up paying 750 Baht or less.

Number 2

Only shop for bargains in cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai and resorts such as Pattaya and Phuket, but never on tourist sites such as on James Bond or Koh Phangan islands. Try to limit your purchases at shops in hotel arcades as they tend to be more expensive due to higher rental costs. The more luxurious the hotel, the higher the price. Some hotel arcades such as the Indra Regent in Bangkok are not only convenient but offer reasonable discounts on many items. 

Inside Central World Plaza Bangkok

Number 3

Shop with caution while choosing each and every shop or stall carefully. Don’t just purchase goods from the first shop or stall of its kind you come across. Shop around before you make a decision. Examine goods for the best quality, investigate other alternatives and last but not least, check out the difference in prices of similar goods. It wouldn’t harm you to make sure that the goods you desire comes from a shop or stall specialising in the goods it is you’re looking for.

Number 4

Shop around to compare prices, but at the same time always compare apples with apples and especially gold with gold. Not all jewellery and gemstone shops are the same. You can easily be fooled by the facade. My advice to you is to stay away from any shop of this nature for a number of reasons, but if you must, it’s best to shop only at reputable, reliable and accredited jewel and gemstone stores. 

Outside Central World Plaza in Bangkok 

Number 5

A good tip to always remember is that gold in Thailand is not the same as in other western countries. It’s not the same quality as gold from Africa. Thai gold has a far less carat value than African gold has. It may sparkle and shine more, but that’s where the buck stops and it simply isn’t worth its weight in gold either. Only locals love Thai gold.  

Number 6

Never be in a hurry to purchase an item you think you might like. Haste could end up being a waste. Take your time and never allow management or any shop assistant to bully or pressure you into making a quick decision on a purchase you might later regret.

Zen Store at Central World Plaza Bangkok

Number 7 

It’s always a good idea to ask the shop assistant to give you a receipt for the goods you have purchased simply because you as a visitor coming to Thailand on a tourist visa, are entitled to receive the 7% value added tax (VAT) refund on any merchandise purchased at department stalls, shops or for that matter, any other retail outlet displaying the “Vat Refund for Tourist” sign.

VAT refund forms at these places are always available to you. You would then need to present the completed VAT refund form together with your receipt and passport to any customs officer before leaving the country. You may be asked to present your item to customs, especially if it is of a luxury nature.

Number 8

One of the most noteworthy shopping tips in Thailand you need to be aware of is what I call “Thailand’s Terror Touts”. Tailor touts, taxi driver touts, sex touts, you name it, they are a pest and worst of all, they seem to be everywhere. Don’t you just love to loathe these guys? In my opinion, they are further down the food chain than the pickpockets here. Maybe not, but I sure wish they were outlawed.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) warns tourists to take care when approached by any type of tout and to avoid them at all costs. Taxi driver touts are always on hand to take you to shops where they receive fat commissions.

There are Tailor Touts (found mostly at holiday resorts) hassling you on just about every street corner. Timeshare Touts offering you all sorts of free trips and other exciting prizes should you take a tour of one of the timeshare presentations. Often the experience is a total waste of your valuable time and your hard earned holiday money.

Blue Sky Cargo Air and Sea Service Bangkok

Number 9

If you are coming to Thailand on a bulk-buying trip and want to ship your goods abroad, there are several packaging and shipping services available to you. While larger shops may have the necessary experience to handle documents, permits and insurance, my friend Deon Meyer, who runs the shipping service Blue Sky Cargo and Trading will more than help assist you in any shipping related matter.

You can get hold of Deon at his place of business at 120/2 Ratchaprarop Road in Bangkok. His business is right next door to the Indra Regent Hotel. You can also contact Deon on 026 563 396.

For smaller shipments, there are parcel wrapping services available at the main post offices, at PostNet outlets and also Tesco-Lotus stores.

Number 10 

In the last spot on my top ten shopping tips in Thailand, please take special note that when seriously thinking about purchasing any form of Buddha image, mythical creature reproduction, wooden carving, or antique artifact of any kind, make sure that it’s not an illegal purchase and that you’d be allowed to take it out of Thailand legally.

For more information and approval on your specific purchase, contact the Fine Arts Department in Bangkok. And as an extra precaution, the TAT office also offers these and other tips for your protection. Wishing you all a happy and fun filled shopping experience in Thailand.

Below you’ll see a photo of a solid wooden dragon couch, I purchased outside the city of Bangkok. It met all the necessary requirements to allow Blue Sky Cargo to ship it out to me to my home in South Africa.

Wood Carving Dragon Couch