Shopping in Singapore
For a significant number of visitors, the shopping malls are Singapore's main attraction – especially during the Great Singapore Sale (www.greatsingaporesale.com.sg) from the beginning of June to mid-August. During this time shops often take 70% off their prices, and grabbing a bargain is almost a national obsession.
The shiny malls of Orchard Road are only part of the story. Almost every neighbourhood on the island has its own shopping complexes. Harbourfront (where cruise ships dock and also the gateway to Sentosa) is home to the largest shopping mall in Singapore, while the Marina Bay area (Marina Bay Sands, Suntec City, Marina Square) is also chock-full of retail shops. Ethic neighbourhoods (Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India) also have a wealth of artefacts, jewellery, clothes and food.
The street markets at Chinatown and Bugis sell trinkets. There is a regular flea market in China Square Central (18 Cross Road) on every Sunday afternoon, though there are often more popping up in various neighbourhoods from time to time, particularly before Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Despite almost every neighbourhood has its own shopping complexes, Orchard Road is still considered the prime retail district. At the top of Orchard Road, the Tanglin Shopping Centre sells fine carpets and antiques. Further along, Forum, Shaw Centre, Wheelock Place, ION Orchard, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City, Paragon, The Heeren, Orchard Central and Centrepoint are just a few names that you can indulge in retail therapy. And if the malls along Orchard Road aren't enough, the swanky Marina Bay Sands is home to international luxury brands while VivoCity, located in HarbourFront, is the largest shopping mall in Singapore.
Most shops in Singapore are open daily from 1000-2100/2200, although boutiques close earlier.
Shops in Chinatown, Bugis and along Orchard Road sell souvenirs from Buddha statues to Merlion (the mythical half-fish half-lion creature) keychains. Tiger Balm ointment and gold-plated orchid also make good gifts, while food items such as kaya (coconut jam) and bak kwa (barbequed pork) are always popular.
All prices in Singapore include a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST). You can claim this back on purchases of at least S$100 from participating shops and you must present your passport and get a special receipt from the shops. Using the eTRS system, purchases are linked to a specific credit or debit card, and then a refund can be claimed from an automatic kiosk at the airport departure hall or international cruise terminal.