Singapore, where I hail from, is a land of malls.
We have new shopping malls sprouting up every year, and a recent survey found that shopping was second on the list of the average Singaporean’s favourite past times (the first was eating!). Being centrally located in South East Asia is a blessing for my wardrobe and a curse for my wallet – I love Bangkok, Taipei and Seoul for a huge range of affordable shopping!
So if you’re like me and you’re planning on bringing back 6 pairs of shoes and 9 dresses from a shopping trip (two separate occasions, but true story), here are some tips on how to pack.
Pack Light and Right
Save that luggage space for your new stuff by bringing only the essentials:
- A little notebook/pen – for noting down shops with good buys or prices for comparison, but also useful if you’re trying to bargain for prices. Write down the prices quoted for confirmation so you’ll have record and won’t get fleeced by a shopkeeper denying that he quoted you that price earlier.
- A small calculator – great for calculating exchange rates on the fly, and as a bargaining tool to show shopkeepers while you’re haggling. If you’re without a calculator, just find an easy formula way to convert cash in your head so you’ll have an estimate of prices in your head.
The right clothes – If you’re looking to shop at street shops, like Bangkok’s Chaktuchak or Taiwan’s Ximending for example, where there’s little to no chance to try on clothes in a proper changing room, you’ll want to make sure you’re dressed right:
- Separates – while a dress is easier to pack and requires less coordination, it’s harder to try on clothes quickly, especially without a changing room. If you’re lucky, the shop might have a sarong or a long skirt you can pull on so you can change bottoms, so I suggest shorts or a skirt instead.
- A thin top – so you can pull on jackets or shirts to try on without having to change out. I favour tank tops and a strapless/tube bra so I can try on anything fuss free, changing room or not. I carry a scarf or a light jacket separately in case it gets cold in the evenings or there’s a sudden need to pop into a temple.
- Easy shoes – shoes that are easy to slip on and off make it more convenient to try on shoes when shopping. You don’t want to be fiddling with straps every time you try on a shoe! If you’re ick-ed out about sticking your feet in foreign places, wear really thin socks to protect your feet. I personally prefer slippers, depending on the weather!
Bring Extra Bags
You don’t want to be lugging around a million plastic bags when you’re shop-hopping – the chance of you accidentally leaving a bag behind is very high. Instead, bring along larger reusable bags where you can pop all your smaller wares in. You can pack more in, and you’ll be saving the environment by doing without all the little plastic bags. I favor Baggu Bags because they are easy to fold up and carry along, and they have sling and backpack versions, but there are lots of other options out there.
For all your shopping at the end of the day, bring a larger duffel bag that you can check or carry on, in case your luggage runs out of space, and bring space savers like large Ziploc bags to help squash your buys together.
Take Care of Your Money
Split up your cash into different spots. Have a main purse or wallet that only you can access easily, and keep some spare cash in your shoe or another safe place. Most of these shopping areas are crowded and are prime locations for pickpockets looking out for clueless tourists. Don’t lose sight of your belongings while shopping.
Try and break your larger value notes into smaller value ones so you don’t run the risk of getting the wrong change. This is especially pertinent in countries which have lots of zeroes in their currency. Shopping in Vietnam and Korea was often confusing for me because of all the zeroes in their currency!