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Unless you’ve been living under a rock of late, you’ll have heard that Singapore is one of Asia’s favourite shopping destinations, and quite rightly so. This small city state has everything from the luxury high end boutiques such as Versace and Prada, to bargain bin markets and massive emporiums overflowing with masses of delightful everything!
Choosing where to start isn’t easy, but here’s a quick low down on some of Singapore’s best shopping districts.
ORCHARD ROAD - ALL THE WORLD’S BIG BRANDS
Husbands, boyfriends and credit cards all shudder when they hear the name, but Orchard Road is usually top of every keen shoppers list. Here you’ll find all the world’s big brands including the aforementioned luxury retailers, as well as many of the department stores that haven’t yet hit our shores such as Zara and H&M. British expats are particularly well looked after with Marks & Spencer, Vivienne Westwood and Harrods all having a store here. The street has a number of malls, most notably the two billion dollar ION Centre which houses an MRT station and over 300 stores including many of the luxury guys. Keep an eye out for local institution Tangs, as well as Japanese department store giants Takashimaya and Isetan, all of which offer unique curios at reasonable prices. Lucky Plaza and Far East Plaza are both also worth a visit, offering discounted clothes and electronics aimed at the younger clientele.
FUNAN DIGITALIFE MALL - FOR EVERYTHING ELECTRONIC
All of Asia’s techno gadgets can be found in the DigitaLife Mall, conveniently located by Raffles at the City Hall MRT station. There’s a whopping seven stories dedicated to computers, notebooks, cameras, music players, and everything else. There’s a lot of duplication, so be sure to compare prices and don’t be afraid to ask about any current deals. Just across the road is Adelphi who specialise in hi-fi brands, and Cathay Photo Store is not far away for all your specialised camera needs.
LITTLE INDIA - A BARGAIN HUNTERS HEAVEN
Starkly different to the glitz and glamour of Orchard Road, Little India is where you come if you want to pick up some discount deals. Start at the infamous Mustafa Centre, a massive 24 hour department store reminiscent of the emporiums of old. The building is a rabbit warren of narrow walkways through precariously placed piles of clothing, toys, souvenirs, jewellery, homewares, electronics, furniture, and pretty much anything else you could ever want. Think of your local Warehouse being filled to the brim, picked up, flipped like a coin, and then smacked back down again; and you might just end up with something resembling the Mustafa Centre. In the surrounding streets you can find many small stores selling Indian arts and crafts and textiles. Techno lovers will also want to drop by Sim Lim Square for all sorts of discount gadgets (haggling expected).
HAJI LANE - WHERE THE COOL KIDS SHOP
It’s only a narrow back alley that barely stretches two blocks, but Haji Lane has quickly become a magnet alternative and retro shopping. Ugly walls and garage doors have been covered in all sorts of graffiti art reminiscent of Melbourne’s laneways, and small boutiques now spill out onto the pavement. It’s a good spot to hit in the afternoon so afterwards you can enjoy a drink and live music at one of the hole-in-the-wall bars that also exist here.
CHINATOWN - SOUVENIR CENTRAL
Of course Singapore has a Chinatown, and it’s one of the best in the world. Loosely based around Mosque, Temple and Pagoda Streets, you’ll quickly find all the usual trashy souvenirs. But dig a little deeper and be prepared to haggle, as there are some decent deals to be made. It’s particularly good for the obligatory Tiger t-shirts and cool cigarette lighters for everyone back home. Of course, Chinatown comes with tons of cheap restaurants too, particularly nearby Smith Street which is a designated ‘Eat Street’ and is sheltered from the elements (except for the heat).
MARINA BAY SANDS - LUXURY, AIR CONDITIONED SHOPPING
Most travellers to Singapore head to the massive Marina Bay Sands complex at some stage, mainly to see the pool and check out the restaurants and bars. But to be honest, if it’s just shopping you’re interested in, then there’s nothing overly special about Marina Bay Sands. All the stores are luxury names like Chanal, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s, all of which you can find on Orchard Road. If this is your scene though, Marina Bay Sands does have the advantage of blessed air conditioning, and even offers Venetian style gondola rides through the mall.
BUGIS JUNCTION - LESS CROWDS, MORE LOCALS
Situated above the Bugis MRT station, the Junction was once touted as the next big thing by the local tourist board, but never really took off with travellers. Instead, a lot of locals come here to shop, or rather, to avoid the tourists. That doesn’t mean it’s not busy though, as the narrow paths become more and more encroached upon by vendors hanging all sorts of goods out to attract attention. You’ll no doubt get a bit claustrophobic, but surrounding the market is a series of pleasant pedestrianised streets and eateries to relax in.
SENTOSA - SHOPPING ON THE ISLAND
Even before you get to the island, you’re given a taste of shopping Sentosa style. On the Singapore side of the monorail is VivoCity, one of Singapore’s newer malls. Its massive 90,000 square metre footprint allows for a full range of shops, but also tons of public space and kids playgrounds, making it a much more relaxed shopping experience. Over on the island itself, you’ll find your usual resort stores such as the Aussie surf labels, and of course, plenty of toy stores selling all the Universal Studio’s most famous characters.
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