Shopping in Singapore

14 January, 2016

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It’s not for nothing that Singapore is a world-renowned shopping haven. The range is stupendous, with malls so huge you could lose yourself for days within their labyrinthine corridors. 

Plan your trip: Indulgent Singapore

The joy of shopping in Singapore lies in its diversity. From swanky air-conditioned malls to steamy bazaars, sleepy ethnic neighbourhoods to buzzing department stores, it’s up to you to decide how to vary your shopping experiences. Singapore is also a city of duty-free luxury goods, cutting-edge technology, and high fashion, as well as a centre for traditional Asian exotica such as tea, silk, porcelain, traditional medicine and spices.

Despite keen competition from up-and-coming shopping destinations in the region, shopping in Singapore is a pleasure. It’s easy to buy because English is the lingua franca. With the efficient transportation network, zipping around with your shopping bags in tow is a breeze. Some malls are so well connected by pathways and underground tunnels, you can easily walk from one to another without getting wet on a rainy day, or even seeing the light of day.

An even greater delight is how hassle-free it is. Touting is virtually absent along the main shopping districts – and most stores accept major credit cards. ATMs are plentiful, and stores are open from about 10am to 9pm daily. It’s highly likely you’ll shop ’til you drop.

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The best times to shop

The Great Singapore Sale, from late May to early July, has become a much-anticipated annual shopping bonanza for both locals and visitors. The generous discounts – sometimes up to 70 percent – see even the most tight-fisted parting with some cash. If there’s one time to max out on your credit card, it would be during this retail blowout.

Fashionistas should consider another important event on the local fashion calendar. The star-studded Singapore Fashion Week, an annual event in May, aims to position the city as the region’s fashion capital. Young and talented Asian designers share the limelight with international fashion powerhouses and cutting-edge couture designers from the world’s most renowned fashion capitals. Expect chichi fashion runway shows, fashion-related exhibitions and glamorous parties.

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The mall, the merrier

Tip for shopping in Singapore: temptations are everywhere – everything and anything money can buy – lustrous pearls, age-old huanghuali (golden rosewood) desks, vintage handbags and the latest digicams – are found along the prime shopping districts of Orchard Road and Marina Bay.

On the surface, Orchard Road looks like a relentless stretch of gleaming five-star hotels and shiny malls. For shopaholics in the know, however, every shopping centre is a shrine replete with inimitable finds. Tangs, at the corner of Scotts Road and Orchard Road, for example, has an illustrious history dating back to the 1930s. Despite a traditional architecture that’s modelled after the Imperial Palace in Beijing’s Forbidden City, its Beauty Hall is the place for cult cosmetic and skincare labels; the Home department in the basement is crammed full of extraordinary gadgets for modern homes.

Just down the street, the new ION Orchard and formidable Ngee Ann City are places with a good balance of luxury brands, high-end retailers and mid-priced stores. These two malls have a mind-boggling number of eateries too, perfect for a pit-stop in between shopping. Further down is the new [email protected] mall, which is conveniently built just above Somerset MRT station.

Over at the simply colossal 93,000-sq-metre (1 million-sq-ft) Suntec City Mall, just a five-minute drive away in the Marina Bay area, you will go wild over the choice of merchandise in the 300 or so shops. The newly renovated mall was once the largest of all malls in Singapore, only to be supplanted by 102,000-sq-metre (1.1 million-sq-ft) VivoCity, located further afield in the HarbourFront area near Sentosa. It has a cineplex, a hypermart and hundreds of shops and restaurants, some of which overlook Sentosa Island.

What’s also worth your time are the shopping carts parked at the ground floor of Parco Bugis Junction. Young entrepreneurs often peddle one-of-a-kind wares sourced from all over the world.

There are also shopping malls with attitude for the younger crowd, such as Orchard Central on Orchard Road and Level One at Far East Plaza at Scotts Road. The manufactured grittiness comes complete with thumping techno pop. Their edginess may seem a bit manufactured – this is after all squeaky-clean Singapore – but many young, bold and very talented Singaporean designers have their fashion boutiques there. Definitely worth a perusal if you’re planning to bring home more than Chanel and Prada.

In addition to Orchard Road, the Singapore experts over at PassportChop highly recommend a shopping visit to Haji Lane. Comparable to Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, it features loads of vintage clothing and charming boutique stores. Located in the heart of Kampong Glam, Haji Lane was transformed and refurbished from old shophouses. Today, its interior architecture has been kept intact.

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Uniquely Singapore

Local fashion designers, being at a cultural crossroads, are inspired by Eastern and Western influences. Whether it’s a modern cut on a cheongsam or a subtle addition of beads to an elegant evening dress, their designs show off cosmopolitan Singapore. The best places to seek out home-grown, edgy fashions are at Orchard Central (Know It Nothing), Far East Plaza (WoodWood), and Mandarin Gallery (Hansel). Plenty of designed-in-Singapore, ready-to-wear clothes can be found at independent boutiques too.

For a slice of everyday Singapore life, hop onto the train and head to the heartlands. There is always a mall to lose yourself in – if you haven’t had enough in the city. JCube (Jurong), Tampines Mall (Tampines MRT) and Junction 8 (Bishan MRT) will give you a good idea of what people in the suburbs buy. Fendi and Gucci may not be represented there, but prices tend to be lower and bargaining is acceptable at some shops. If you’re lucky, you may chance upon a pasar malam, a makeshift nightmarket selling all manner of food and goods at empty spaces near MRT stations. Those looking for Asian arts can head over to Holland Village, just outside the centre of town. Holland Shopping Centre is home to Lim’s Arts & Living at 02-01 (tel: 6467-1300), a real oriental treasure trove spread over three floors. Across the road at Chip Bee Gardens are a collection of galleries selling Asian art.

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If it’s colour and atmosphere you’re after, the city’s ethnic pockets – Chinatown, Little India and Kampung Glam – are flush with quirky finds. Hit Chinatown for Chinese silk, exotic herbal cures and antique furniture; Kampung Glam for handmade perfume bottles, basket ware and fabrics; and Little India for henna tattoos, incense and Bollywood VCDs.

Oddly, though Singaporeans fervently embrace the concept of market shopping outside Singapore, the culture has not caught on here. Unlike Bangkok’s Chatuchak or Sydney’s Paddington, such markets in Singapore are dismal and sometimes contrived affairs. If, however, you are looking for a little adventure, flea markets make interesting detours.

Sungei Road’s Thieves’ Market (daily 1–7pm) is the oldest. Broken radios, chipped crockery and used clothing spread haphazardly on the floor are hardly the sort of things you would want to buy, but the market is an insight into the city’s underbelly. The Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD) is a unique showcase for emerging local designers’ handmade, one-of-a-kind accessories, paintings and artwork. It’s held at Red Dot Museum (28 Maxwell Road; www.maad.sg) the first weekend of every month. The weekend afternoon bazaar outside Chinatown Complex hawks a stash of treasures – like antique bronze ware, Chairman Mao memorabilia and handmade beaded handbags – mementoes from a fast-disappearing side of Singapore. Clarke Quay’s conceptual monthly bazaars, Traders’ Market, happens every third weekend (Friday and Saturday) of the month 5–11pm at the Central Fountain Square. The bazaar features unique fashion pop-up stores that change according to the theme.

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Besides flea markets, souvenirs and knick-knacks can be found at Chinatown Night Market (Trengganu, Pagoda and Sago streets) in the evening. In the day, Chinatown Complex on Smith Street is a hive of activity, particularly the “wet market” in the basement, where all kinds of fresh ingredients are sold. Another place to find the freshest produce is at the popular Little India’s Tekka Market. In the same district too is Campbell Lane, where you can find vegetables, spices, jasmine garlands and fragrant incense.

In Chinatown, our friends at PassportChop also suggest keeping an eye out for Chinese fans, elaborate chopstick sets, Mahjong sets, Chinese Tea and Feng Shui items such as laughing Buddhas – items unique to the local Chinese culture in Singapore.

This article first appeared on https://www.insightguides.com/, thank you Insight Guides for the feature!

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comment (1)

  • Jeffrey TyReply

    11 March, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    It doesn’t need to have tons of money just to experience the joy of shopping at Singapore. As this post was saying, what makes Singapore a truly unique experience is that it has something for everyone, for all kinds of people. Even for tourist who are up to experience Singapore under a limited budget, the country has something for them to still have a truly satisfying and rich experience.

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