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Singapore shopping guide – where to shop and what to buy

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Once a trading center, always a trading center. Singapore’s tea, silk and tin trading was long ago replaced with state of the art electronics and designer fashion. In this cosmopolitan city state, the shopping mall rules. Certain malls specialize in specific items, and many of them center along Orchard Road, the commercial heart of Singapore. That’s not all though - Singapore’s cultural diversity translates into shopping diversity. Jumbled markets and hip boutiques provide a refreshing alternative for the mall-adverse.

Myriam Ohlig & Monika Khaled

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Orchard Road


Once a quiet, market- lined street, visit Orchard Road nowadays and you’ll find a row of massive, glittering shopping malls. ION Orchard mall is perhaps most impressive – its front molded into futuristic metallic curves, lit up neon at night and with four stories extending both above and below ground. The mall contains designer labels, mid-range brands and plenty of dining options. Slip into some of the older shopping – Tanglin Shopping Centre was one of the first to be built here, and it’s filled with specialty stores selling all kinds of arts and crafts.


Haji Lane


Located in Kampong Glam, a historic Malay district, Haji Lane is Singapore’s most bohemian area. Small historic shop fronts have been repainted in pastel shades, and independent boutiques, tattoo parlors and record shops are found inside. Visit the Blog Shop for affordable fashion – it’s a uniquely Singaporean phenomenon, where independent internet retailers combine to sell their stock in one big store. Prices remain cheap (think $10-30) and pieces are unique –the Blog Shop on Haji Lane has two floors of different bloggers’ picks.


Bugis Street Market


The biggest street shopping area in Singapore, Bugis Street Market is made up of an eccentric patchwork of stalls. Three floors house almost 800 shops, where you can find rows of bargain jewelry, clothes and shoes lined up in stall after stall. Shop for small knick-knacks to your heart’s content and then stop off for a freshly squeezed juice at one of the drinks stalls here - try a cup of tangy lime juice to rejuvenate after all your rummaging.


Sim Lim Square


Massive shopping mall Sim Lim Square is one of the best places in Singapore to shop for gadgets. Located in a sweet spot between Orchard Road and Little India, it stocks everything: computers, cameras, phones and games. It’s also a good idea to come here for repairs, and any spare parts you might require are found here in aplenty. There are six stories of electronic bargains and most things are sold for an inexpensive sum (even less expensive after negotiation). It’s a techies dream.


Mustafa Centre


What can you buy in Mustafa? The real question is what you can’t. Spices shipped in from all over the globe, gold-colored jewelry lined up like museum artifacts, electronic gadgets, luggage and homeware are stocked in this infamous Little India-based superstore. The prices are cheap and Mustafa is open all hours of the day. The surrounding streets of Little India also contain countless shops selling jewelry, traditional dress and spices for next to nothing.


Singapore shopping tips


It’s a good idea to visit during the Singapore Sale, which occurs annually In June and July and has been running for two decades. Markdowns of up to 80% are usual, and prices are reduced almost everywhere – the only exceptions being big European designers like Chanel and Hermes. Other times of the year, the best discounts occur in some of the older shopping malls like Lucky Plaza, where you’ll need to haggle to reduce the prices of their electronics and other goods. Make sure you’re well prepared or visit with someone who is familiar with the process.