Singapore is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and measures only around 274 square miles altogether. On this populated little island in Southeast Asia, there are a slew of shopping malls, so it’s no wonder why shopping is a top hobby for Singaporeans. With the holidays approaching, check out the retail-packed areas below for everything from luxury goods to unique boutique finds and a world of electronics.
Likened to be the Fifth Avenue or Champs-Élysées of Singapore, the Orchard Road Shopping District spans a little more than 1.3 miles and houses 22 shopping malls and more than 5,000 brands. Known as a location for convenient mid- to high-end finds, Orchard is a combination of above and below ground stores connected by tunnels that lead to the MRT (train station), hotels such as Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The St. Regis Singapore and Four-Star Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, and food courts. It’s an ideal shopping epicenter for visitors in search of well-known global brands, with top malls including DFS Galleria Scottswalk (Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Bulgari, Bottega Veneta), ION Orchard (Dolce & Gabbana, Patek Philippe, Dior, Cartier), Ngee Ann City (famous Japanese department store Takashimaya, Vacheron Constantin, Burberry, Chanel) and Paragon (Marks & Spencer, Gucci, Miu Miu)
During the holidays, Orchard also lights up with Christmas festivities (caroling, games, prize drawings) occurring from 7 p.m. onward until December 25. The area can easily be reached via train, bus, shuttle bus and taxi.
Bugis is the opposite of Orchard Road, lined with local stalls and set in between the buildings of Bugis Junction (a large modern shopping complex). The street features boutique bargains, outdoor shopping and ‘street food’; once a popular red-light district for sailors in the 1950s, Bugis has transformed into a shopping hub full of character and a distinct local beauty on cobblestoned paths — a refreshing change in a country overflowing with commercialized malls.
Part of the beauty lies in the market and bazaar feel of Bugis Street, with more than 800 outdoor stalls — there are owners selling fashion jewelry, “Free Size” clothing (also known as one size fits all), beauty supplies, mobile accessories, bags and services (massages, salons, facials). The market is also an ideal location to purchase souvenirs, though here’s a friendly tip: Some stalls welcome negotiations for their goods, and buying in bulk from one stall will help your chances of negotiating a higher discount.
Arab Street/Haji Lane
Walking distance from Bugis, Arab Street was once home to the Arab merchant trade, which began in the mid-19th century and was historically designated a Muslim settlement. Remnants of the bustling trade and its initial settlers are still evident today in local family-owned stores selling a selection of Middle Eastern and Malaysian fabrics, Indian silk, perfumes, Persian carpets, velvets, wicker baskets and knick-knacks. The Arab quarter is unassuming and full of vibrant history; combine a unique shopping experience with some sightseeing, including the golden domes of Sultan Mosque (Singapore’s largest mosque), and Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, arguably the second most popular mosque after the Sultan.
Haji and Bali Lanes are south of neighboring Arab Street and strike a true balance of old meets new. The traditional family owned textile shops are replaced here with shophouses that showcase local and regional fashion designers, hipster cafés, vintage shops, a modernist furniture enclave and antique finds. Artwork is not sold, but rather viewed on murals splashed on buildings, thought-provoking sayings on the sidewalks and advice printed on steps. Of notable mention are stores such as Soon Lee (a boutique selling clothes and accessories for women), Maison Ikkoku (a trendy café, menswear boutique and rooftop cocktail bar all rolled into three levels of a shophouse), K.I.N (a multibranded concept store sourcing clothing from the U.S., UK and Singapore for men and women) and Straits Records (an alternative record shop for music and vinyl aficionados).
Sim Lim Square is a techie’s dream. With six levels housing more than 500 retailers, you’ll find shops selling all sorts of tech and electronic gadgets at competitive prices. From laptops, cell phones, cameras and even thumb drives, Sim Lim Square is the place to go. While bargaining is a welcomed sport in this complex and consumers can snag themselves a great deal, visitors should still do their research prior to visiting — some retailers are more reliable than others and reviews online will make that apparent. Plus, other rogue stalls have been reported for scamming consumers, so checking CASE — the Consumers Association of Singapore — is helpful. Sim Lim is also not far from Bugis Street and is easily accessible via train, bus and taxi. The SIA Hop-on service (a tour bus making stops along a 90-minute journey to the major tourist destinations in Singapore) makes a stop at the shopping hub, too.
Additional tips for shopping in Singapore
1. Remember to keep your receipts; all tax paid on goods purchased within the country can be redeemed at Singapore Changi Airport prior to departure.
2. Money/currency changers are plentiful in Singapore — though Chinatown and Little India typically give changers the best rates. There are also foreign exchange counters at the airport prior to exiting.
Photo Courtesy of iStock