Shopping is second only to eating as a national pastime, which means that Singapore has an abundance of shopping malls, and low taxes and tariffs on imports coupled with huge volume mean that prices are usually very competitive. While you won't find any bazaars with dirt-cheap local handicrafts (in fact, virtually everything sold in Singapore is made elsewhere), goods are generally of reasonably good quality and shopkeepers are generally quite honest due to strong consumer protection laws.
The focal point of shopping in Singapore is Orchard Road, a very long stretch of glitzy shopping malls packed with Western clothing stores, from designer apparel to cheap chic, and many other mostly imported finds. Singaporeans have a love-hate relationship with Orchard Road. As the shopping malls developed, they brought hip styles into the reach of everyday Singaporeans, adding a cosmopolitan sheen to Singapore style.
In Singapore, not all shops fix prices on merchandise, and even many that display price tags are open to negotiation. Henceforth, the art of bargaining. When bargaining it's important to keep a friendly, good-natured banter between you and the seller.
Most stores are open 7 days a week from 10 am until 10 pm, although smaller operations (particularly those outside shopping malls) close earlier; 7 pm is common, and perhaps on Sundays as well. Mustafa in Little India is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Keep an eye out for the 'Great Singapore Sale', usually held in June-July, when shopping centres pull out all stops to attract punters. Many stores along the shopping belt of Orchard Road and Scotts Road now offer late night shopping on the last Friday of every month with over 250 retailers staying open till midnight.
Places to Shop
Singapore is brilliantly set up for shoppers within a centralised geographical area. Air-conditioned underground walkways run along most of Orchard Road as well as from Raffles City to Suntec and surrounding areas, but you may prefer to walk on the street if you dislike shuffling crowds. Khmer objects d'art, funky Indian housewares, Chinese calligraphy, Indonesian teak furniture, Thai silk, Indian spices, and Vietnamese lacquerware are as easy to find as cutting-edge laptop computers and digital cameras. If you're loathe to lug your parcels around, you can send your purchases back to the hotel in a taxi (drivers are very trustworthy). Ask the store to call a taxi for you, then call your hotel to forewarn them. You'll need to pay your fare, based on the driver's estimation, when you hand over your parcels. Make sure your name, hotel, and room number are clearly marked. It's always a good idea to give them a few extra dollars in case they get stuck in traffic.
If you're interested in fashion, head to the Orchard and Scotts roads area to browse the designer boutiques at the Hilton Shopping Gallery, which is connected by an underground walkway to the Four Seasons Hotel arcade. The Paragon, a few blocks east, has local and imported high-end brands. The Heeren is on the next block, and across the road from The Paragon is the Wisma Atria. Trendy outfits can be found on the cheap at the Far East Plaza on Scotts Road.
Orchard Road is composed almost exclusively of mall after mall and is Singapore's prime shopping strip, especially for clothes and shoes. It's more than a mile long, but there are three MRT stops – Dhoby Ghaut, Somerset, and Orchard – that cover about two-thirds of it. The Tanglin Shopping Centre, with its distinctive antiques shops, is a 15-minute walk west from the Orchard MRT. A five-minute taxi ride from Tanglin are the former army officers' quarters on Dempsey Road. Here you'll find a selection of warehouses selling antiques, art, and rattan and teak furniture.
To avoid crowds and high prices, head for a suburban mall that's next to an MRT station. Junction 8, for example, is beside the Bishan MRT, and Tampines Mall and Century Square are next to the Tampines MRT.
The shops around Temple and Sago streets in Chinatown, Serangoon Road in Little India, Joo Chiat Road in the East Coast's Malay areas, and Arab Street market local baubles and tokens, herbal medicine, traditional housewares, antiques, religious sculptures, Chinese movie posters, and Indian tiffin boxes (stainless-steel lunch boxes). Generally speaking, the quality rivals that of the products found in the more touristy Orchard area, but because the overhead is much lower in the ethnic areas, the savings are passed on to you.