What to buy in Hong Kong
Many tourists opt to use their ATM debit cards instead of carrying cash. Using this method, the exchange rates and fees are comparable to exchanging cash at big banks. However, some smaller banks do not accept ATM cards from overseas customers
Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. Maestro and Cirrus cards are widely accepted also. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Maestro debit cards however are not widely accepted by retailers. Signs with the logo of different credit cards are usually displayed at the door to indicate which cards are accepted.
Fierce competition, no sales tax or VAT, and some wealthy consumers all add up to make Hong Kong an excellent destination for shopping. Choices are plentiful at competitive price. Lookout for watches, camping equipment, digital items and special cosmetics. It’s worth bearing in mind that many ground-level high street shops have to cover extortionate rent, which will probably offset the saving from lack of VAT. Much of the ideas of Hongkong being a shoppers paradise are out-dated, if you want cheap goods you won’t find them on the high street. This is largely down to the huge number of wealthy Chinese that come to Hongkong to buy genuine (luxury) goods, which are extremely expensive in China.
Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, camping equipment, jewelry, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine. There’s also a wide choice of Japanese, Korean, American and European clothing and cosmetics but price are generally higher than in their respective home countries.
Most shops in Hong Kong’s urban areas open at about 10:00AM until 22:00 or even midnight every day. High rents in Hong Kong, ranked second worldwide according to Forbes, make it no surprise that the best bargain shops could be located anywhere except the ground floor. Shops recommended by local people may even be up on the 20th floor in a building that won’t give you a hint that it’s a place for shopping.
Many shops will accept credit cards.
Antiques and Arts– Head for Hollywood Road and Loscar Road in Central. Here you will find a long street of shops with a wide selection of products that look like antiques. Some items are very good fakes, so make sure you know what you are buying. Try Star House near the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui for more expensive items.
Books– Hong Kong houses a fair (if dwindling) choice of English books, Korean Japanese, French titles, and huge range of uncensored Chinese titles. Prices are usually higher than where they import but it is your last hope to look for your books before heading to China. Try Swindon Books on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Page One in Harbor City (Kowloon) and Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong). Dymocks, an Australian bookshop. For French books, visit Librairie Parentheses on Wellington Street in Central and Japanese and Korean books are sold in Sogo Shopping Mall in Causeway bay. The biggest local bookshop chain is the Commercial Press and usually have cheaper but limited English titles. For looking for Chinese books, local people’s beloved bookshops are all along Sai Yeung Choi Street. Called Yee Lau Sue Den (Bookshop on second floor), they hide themselves in the upper floor of old buildings and offer an unbeatable discount on all books.
Cameras– Reputable camera stores are located mainly in Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok but tourist traps do exist, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui. The basic rule is to avoid all the shops with flashing neon signs along Nathan Road and look for a shop with plenty of local, non-tourist, customers. Only use recommended shops, as shops such as those on Nathan Road are likely to disappear on your next visit to Hong Kong. For easy shopping, get a bus or train to Mong Kok and head to Sai Yeung Choi Street, where you might find some of the best deals. The Mong Kok Computer Centre and Galaxy Mall (Sing Jai) are always packed with local people. Several camera shops like Man-Sing and Yau-Sing are known for their impolite staff but have a reputation for selling at fair prices. In the 1990s and early 2000s, most shops didn’t allow much bargaining, but this has changed since 2003 with the influx of tourists from mainland China. While it is hard to tell how much discount you should ask for, if a shop can give you more than 25-30% discount, local people tend to believe that it’s too good to be true, unless it’s a listed seasonal sale.
Computers– The base price of computer equipment in Hong Kong is similar to those in other parts of the world, but there are substantial savings to be hand from the lack of sales tax or VAT. The major chain stores will accept credit cards, while smaller shops will often insist on cash or payment by ATM card.
Computer Games and Gaming Hardware– If you are interested in buying a new Playstation, Nindendo DS and the like, the Oriental Shopping Centre, 188 Wan Chai Road, is the place to go. Here you will definitely find a real bargain. Prices can be up to 50% cheaper than in your home country. Be careful to compare prices first. There are also a few game shops in the Wanchai Computer Centre. The back corners in the upper levels usually offer the best prices. You might even be lucky and find English speaking staff here. However, be careful to make sure that the region code of the hardware is compatible with your home country’s region code.
Music and Film– HMV is a tourist-friendly store that sells a wide range of more expensive products. For real bargains you should find your way into the smaller shopping centers where you will find small independent retailers selling CDs and DVDs at very good prices. Some shops sell good quality second hand products. Try the Oriental Shopping Centre on Wanchai Road for a range of shops and a taste of shopping in a more down-market shopping centre. Alternatively, brave the warren of CD and DVD shops inside the Sino Centre on Nathan Road between Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations. Hong Kong has two independent music stores. White Noise Records in Causeway Bay and Harbor Records in TST. Hong Kong’s leading department store Lane Crawford has CD Bars in its IFC and Pacific Place stores and there’s a good CD bar at Saffron Cafe on the Peak.
Camping and sports– A good place to buy sportswear is close to Mong Kok MTR station. Try Fa Yuen Street with a lot of shops selling sports shoes. There are also many shops hidden anywhere except the ground floor for selling camping equipment. Prices are usually highly competitive.
Fashion – Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon and Causeway Bay on the island are the most popular shopping destinations, though you can find malls all over the territory. In addition to all the major international brands, there are also several local Hong Kong brands such as Giordano, Bossini, G2000, Joyce and Shanghai Tang. The International Finance Centre in Central has a good selection of haute coutre labels for the filthy rich, while for cheap knock-offs, Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei is the obvious destination, though prices are not as cheap as they used to be and these days, most locals head across the border to Shenzhen for cheaper bargains. There is also Citygate Outlets, an extremely large factory outlet mall containing most of the major foreign and local brands located near Tung Chung MTR station on Lantau Island. Tourist going to Ladies Market or any markets nearby please be aware that there is basically no price tag on the items shown in the market. Most of the time, the price the merchant will quote you is double the price. Haggle with them and ask to reduce the price at least by 50%. In fact similar clothing items (lower price but fixed) can be found in brick and mortar shops nearby too (e.g Sai Yeung Choi street)
Tailoring – Hong Kong was once famous for offering first-rate fully bespoke shirts and suits at unbelievably low prices. It’s not quite the bargain it once was, but you can still get suits for perhaps 1/4 of the cost of similar quality in the west.
Tea– Buying good Chinese tea is like choosing a fine wine and there are many tea retailers that cater for the connoisseur who is prepared to pay high prices for some of China‘s best brews. To sample and learn about Chinese tea you might like to find the Tea Museum which is in Hong Kong Park in Central. Marks & Spencer caters for homesick Brits by supplying traditional strong English tea bags at a reasonable price. Fook Ming Tong at the International Finance Centre mall carries high-end teas, ranging from about a hundred up to tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars.
Watches and jewelry– Hong Kong people are avid watch buyers – how else can you show your wealth if you can’t own a car and your home is hidden at the top of a tower-block? You will find a wide range of jewelry and watches for sale in all major shopping areas. If you are targeting elegant looking jewelry or watches try Chow Tai Fook, which can be expensive. Prices vary and you should always shop around and try and bargain on prices. When you are in Tsim Sha Tsui you will probably be offered a “copy watch” for sale. The major luxury brands have their own shops that will ensure you are purchasing genuine items.
Shopping Malls are everywhere in Hong Kong. Locally renowned ones are:
At 415m or 88 stories tall, the IFC is among the World’s tallest buildings and home to one of Hong Kong‘s most prestigious shopping centres.
IFC Mall is located near the Star Ferry and Outlying Islands Ferry Piers in Central. Has many luxury brand shops, an expensive cinema and superb views across the harbor from the rooftop. Can be reached directly from the Airport via the Airport Express and the Tung Chung line.
Pacific Place – Also a big shopping centre with mainly high-end brands, and has a wonderful cinema. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
Festival Walk – A big shopping centre with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. There is also an ice skating rink there. Take the MTR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
Cityplaza – A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink.
Landmark- Many the luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. located at Central, Pedder Street. It used to be a magnet for the well-heeled but has since fallen behind in its management.
APM – All new 24hr shopping centre in Kwun Tong.
Harbor City. Huge Shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road.
Langham Place – A huge 12 storey shopping mall adjacent to the Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok. Mainly contains trendy shops for youngsters.
Elements – Located next to Kowloon Station. Just like the IFC Mall, there are many luxury brand shops, a cinema and an ice rink. The International Commerce Centre, the highest commercial building in Hong Kong starting from 2009, is right on top of this shopping mall.
Times Square – A trendy multi storey Shopping Mall with some luxury brands, with food courts at the lower levels, and Gourmet Dining at the upper stories. Take MTR to Causeway Bay, and exit through a long tunnel (around 3-5 minutes’ walk). Crowded on weekends. A popular meeting point for teenagers.
Citygate Outlet – Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station, the Citygate is a rare outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi’s, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland.
Laforet, Island Beverly and Causeway Place. Best places to find cheap stylish clothes, Asian style. Mostly girls clothes, but also bags, shoes and accessories, highly recommended if you are looking for something different. Immensely popular with teenagers. These three shopping malls are all located near exit E, Causeway Bay MTR station.
New Town Plaza, a 9 storey shopping mall covering 1,300,000 m² retail area in Shatin, New Territories. Diverse variety of shops, consisting of sports brands, luxury brand shops, cuisines from countries in different continents, sports, etc. can be found in the mall, which is estimated to be one of the malls with highest footfall. The mall is linked with a number of shopping centres nearby, including Phase 3 of New Town Plaza with a Japanese style Department store, YATA. More than 30 bus lines are available for accessing the shopping mall, which is located above the Sha Tin Central bus terminus. Taking the MTR East Rail to Shatin is another possible way.
Dragon Centre, a 9 storey mall on Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po, is a mid-range shopping centre catering more to less-affluent locals, with a number of mid-range shops, a very large Wellcome supermarket and plenty of places to eat. Great fun is the Apple Mall on the upper levels, where one person vendors in tiny little kiosks within a rabbits-warren ply their trade or sell their products. Buy some cute Asian tat (cartoon figurines, Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma), bags, shoes and accessories, or get your nails done. It’s a bit of naff fun, but worth a look.
K11 Art Mall – Located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, K11 District is a shopping arcade with six storeys of total 340,000 square feet floor area, and connecting to Hyatt Regency Hong Kong and The Masterpiece, contemporary-designed apartments. K11 has over 100,000 offices and 10,000 hotel rooms nearby, with Chungking Mansions, HK Museum of Arts, HK Cultural Centre and HK Museum of History as its neighbors.
D2 Place, the Cultural & Creativity Hub in West Kowloon, located next to Exit D2 of Lai Chi Kok MTR Station. The complex houses stylish fashion boutiques, creative markets, international F&B and lifestyle stores all under one roof. Stylish fashion boutiques, creative markets every weekend.
Street markets are a phenomenon in Hong Kong, usually selling regular groceries, clothes, bags or some cheap electronic knockoffs.
Ladies Market- don’t be fooled by the name. It is for both sexes for finding cheap clothes, toys, knockoff and fake labels. Located in Mong Kok and accessible by MTR or bus. Moreover, ladies market is a place for everyone. Although the name is “Ladies”, there have products for all sexes and ages. General merchandise will be mixed according to the variety of market style, ranging from “I LOVE HK” shirts, mirror bags, Jade bracelets and also oil paintings. Moreover, they are making shopping in this area more fun than other places because around the market they are other markets as well. For example, Sai-Yeung-Choi Street South sells electronic devices, model or toy buildings and collections. And also Fa-Yuen-Street South where sport shoes are sold.
Sneaker street- Actually, this road name’s Fa-Yuen-Street South. But it has many sport shoes so everyone knows it as “Sneaker Street”. In addition, it has many brand-named sportswear’s such as Nike, Adidas, and New-balanced etc.
Temple Street – Sold items are the same as in the Ladies Market, but there are more street food vendors, a handful of fortune tellers and a few Chinese opera singers. Illustrated in hundreds of Cantonese films, this street is seen as a must by most tourists.
Flower Market – Prince Edward. Follow your nose to the sweet scents of a hundred different varieties of flowers.
Goldfish Market- A whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accessories Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok.
Bird Market- MTR Station Prince Edward, exit “Mong Kok Police Station”. Walk down Prince Edward Road West until you reach Yuen Po Street “Bird Garden”.
Weekend Market- A place for tourists and locals to explore the local handicrafts and original creative products. It opens every weekend at D2 Place in Lai Chi Kok regularly organizes a variety of local markets and accessible by Exit D2, Lai Chi Kok MTR Station.
Stanley Market- A place for tourists rather than locals, shops sell everything from luxury luggage items to cheap brand name clothes.
Textiles – Sham Shui Po MTR exit. Several square blocks around Nam Cheong St. (between Cheung Sha Wan Rd. and Lai Chi Kok Rd.) hold dozens and dozens of wholesalers to the textile trade. Although they are looking for big factory contracts, most shops are friendly and will sell you “sample-size” quantities of cloth, leather, haberdashery, tools, machinery and anything else you can think of to feed your creative impulses. Ki Lung Street has an outdoor street market selling smaller quantities of factory surplus cloth and supplies at astoundingly low prices. Haggling is not necessary.
Discounts and haggling
Some stores in Hong Kong (even some chain stores) are willing to negotiate on price, particularly for goods such as consumer electronics, and in many small shops, they will give you a small discount or additional merchandise if you just ask. For internationally branded items whose prices can be easily found (i.e. consumer electronics), discounts of 50% are extremely unlikely. However, deep discounts are often possible on merchandise such as clothes. However, if there is a shop that is selling goods with a 50% discount, most local people will likely avoid buying there because it’s too good to be true.
Supermarkets and Convenience Stores
Like many crowded urban areas where most people rely on public transport, many Hongkongers shop little and often, so therefore there is an abundance of convenience stores which can be found on almost every street corner and in most train stations. These include 7-Eleven, Circle K (known as ‘OK’ by the locals) and Vanguard. Convenience stores are more expensive but are normally open 24-7 and sell magazines, soft drinks, beer, instant noodles, packaged sandwiches, microwavable ready-meals, snacks, contraceptives and cigarettes. Many stores have an in-store microwave for preparing ready-meals as well as hot water for preparing instant noodles and instant tea/coffee, and also provide chopsticks and western cutlery for eating food on the go.
Park ‘n’ Shop, Wellcome, Aeon are the three main supermarket chains in Hong Kong and they have branches in almost every neighbourhood, some of which open 24-7.
Aeon is a popular Japanese-style retail chain in Hong Kong. Aeon offers wide selection of reasonably priced and quality products. Travellers looking for quick bites and household products can have their safe bet at Aeon supermarkets.