China Shopping Guide – Places to shop, Do’s & Dont’s

Shopping in Shanghai

Shanghai is also popularly known as Paris of the East or New York and its quite evident of it’s nickname the minute you step into it.  Shanghai brings you the glamour, power and the luxury you could probably find only in the fashion capitals of the world including Paris, Milan or New York. Moving towards a modern lifestyle, Shanghai has transformed itself a major hub for many industries of the world and in process the #1 place for shopping as well.

But mind you, complete opposite to “Brand China”, Shanghai is anything but cheap. Both the lifestyle, cost of living or the products available are as expensive compared to its Western counterparts. In fact, in some scenarios be it clothing or electronics, it actually tends to be more costlier than US or UK. So where exactly can a budget traveller go for shopping in China? Here’s a short list of must visit places for shopping in Shanghai.

East Nanjing Road – Pedestrian Street    : If you are in Shanghai and haven’t been to Nanjing Road for shopping, then you haven’t seen proper Shanghai only.  Almost everything from branded apparels, cosmetics, high end electronics, antique galleries , tea, food streets is available in this long stretch of vehicle free road. There are a few supermarkets and shops that sell relatively inexpensive items, but not of an extensive variety.  Though meant for window shopping for a budget traveller, it’s still one of the best places to be on a Shanghai evening. The atmosphere is absolutely electrifying here.

People Square : Almost an extension of the Nanjing road, People Square is also a pedestrian road that has a huge variety of shops including Lego, Dior, exclusive tea stores among others.

Bazaar outside Yuyuan Garden : As soon as you as step outside of YuYuan garden , you can find yourself a huge shopping market selling items starting from 10RMB to 1000RMB. Everything from panda toys, keychains, souvenirs, fake branded T-Shirts , toys, chopsticks is available here.. Of course, ensure your bargaining skills are at the top of your game.

Middle HuaiHai Road : Another shopping centre in Shanghai, this is once again a market mainly dealing in the usual high end brands with almost no options for budget travellers.

middle huaihai road

  • However one store that is definitely recommended to visit is Muji. Almost right opposite the Middle Huaihai road subway station, Muji is a Japanese lifestyle hypermarket dealing in all kinds of high quality products such as clothing, stationary, home decors among others. P.S. Definitely get yourself a Muji notebook while you are here.
  • JoyCity Shopping Mall : I found this mall luckily while searching for the nearest MI store in Shanghai. The JoyCity shopping mall is super huge and has a subway/metro station right inside the mall itself. The food options are a plenty and has an amazing variety of small shops selling very beautiful things at very affordable prices.

    Avoid Qipu road : After seeing a video of famous Youtuber Colin Broadcast, I headed to the Qipu road clothing market. However I found that everything is shut and the mall is in a very bad shape now with hardly any stores left. So don’t bother heading here.

    Shopping in Beijing

    Beijing , comparatively (from my understanding) has more cheaper markets compared to Shanghai. Here’s a quick roundup of Beijing’s top markets.

    Wangfujing Street : Exactly like East Nanjing Pedestrian street, Wangfujing street is the most famous area in entire Beijing. Sporting a similar electric atmosphere towards evening, it’s an absolute delight just to hang around this place. All high end brands are available along with a few mid range places selling souvenirs and other related items. Don’t miss out on the “Wangfujing Bookstore ” that’s 4 floors of just books and stationary.   Note : All places shut by 9PM (max 9.30 PM).

    Wangfujing Pedestrian street shopping Beijing
    Wangfujng book store beijing

    Hongqiao Pearl Market : Known as the “Fake” market of Beijing, you can get the first copy/fakes of almost every global brand, be it Adidas or Tommy Hilfiger or even Armani. The top 3 floors sell pearls (the branded stores inside the mall sell original pearls you need to be wary of the quality of the smaller stores. So make sure you don’t believe their quality assurances and fall for it).

    Silk Market : The silk market happens to be the most popular place for all tour groups. I found almost 3 tour groups trying to catch a glimpse of the markets at the same time. The building has more than 6-7 floors (each specializing in men’s wear, women’s wear, jewellery, souveneirs, electronics among others). Again bargaining down to 10% of price is key in buying something. Here are some reference prices (lowest you can possibly get) :

    • T-Shirts : 25-35 RMB
    • Jeans : 60-100 RMB
    • Silk Scarf : 25RMB
    • Women’s bags : 120 RMB
    • Souveneirs : 10 RMB and less than that if you buy more than 2-3 pieces
    • Green Tea : 15-20 RMB for 50grams

    Other Shopping areas include  : Xiushui Street and Qianmen street (near Tian’anmen square).

    Hacks to make your shopping experience better

    • Bargain hard. Never accept any price at it’s initially quoted price. This applies to all markets across China or Beijing. (Unless it’s a branded store or a supermarket where prices are listed).
    • Prices quoted are generally 10-15 times the price it’s actually sold . If a product is quoted at 250 RMB (Chinese Yuan), settle for 20 RMB (max 30RMB if you really need it). A fake Armani shirt quoted to me at 200RMB, I managed to bargain and bring it down to 25.
    • Even if you desperately need something, never show a great interest in the product. The more desperation you show, they just shoot up the price more.
    • Identifying a price is the point where they refuse to sell plus 5-10RMB more. Or quietly listen to a conversation where a sale is happening looking elsewhere. You can easily figure out the price they have got it for.
    • Know your fakes & originals. Unless its a brand authorized store like a Nike store or an Apple store, everything sold elsewhere is a fake.  But of course 99% of the times, the shopkeepers tell you it’s a fake themselves.
    • Never ask for a price unless you really want it. They’d force you a lot to make you buy it, if you begin the bargain process . If you are not convinced of a price, walk away with your final offer. They’ll mostly call you back and give you the price.
    • Buying more than 2-3 units can get you a better price than one. So ideally better to buy most units from same store (if you’re sure you cant get it anywhere lower).
    • Except for T-Shirts, souveneirs and magnets, if you want some quirky accessories, electronics and relatively higher quality stuff, head to the nearest Mini-So store. With lower prices and most importantly a fixed price, you can buy anything with a peace of mind. Mini-SO is pretty much there in every market, mall across China.

    Things to buy in China

    • Souvenirs including Magnets and Key chains
    • Designer Chopsticks, Vases, Baby Dragon doll (Believed to bring in a lot of money)
    • Stationery : You can find yourself cute stationery like diaries, pens in places like Wangfujing bookstore, Muji, MiniSo, selected souvenir stores.
    • Green Tea : Yes, it’s very expensive, but you can manage to find Grade A stuff and tons of varieties of green tea. This includes jasmine tea, black tea, cinnamon tea among others.
    • Any stuff from MI store : This is because 60% of the stuff available in MI china is not yet available in other countries including India.
    • Fake Tshirts : Yes, you can probably get it in many places these days, but I found significantly better quality in the Fake Chinese markets. So why not just get 1-2 for remembrance.
    • Panda Toys : Don’t forget to get cute Panda merchandise (be it in the Beijing zoo or at the souvenir stores)

    Avoid Branded stuff/ Originals : Unless you find something very unique and attractive, it’s better to buy branded stuff in your home country. This is because most products are more expensive in China given high import tax.

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