Here are few shopping tips and advices for shoppers while travelling to Thailand.
Most department stores and large retail outlets have fixed prices, so bargaining is not applicable. At markets, small stalls, shops or street vendors, bargaining is the norm. Expect to pay from 10-40% less than the original asking price – depending on your bargaining skills and the will of the vendor.
Bargain with a smile and you will be rewarded. Many Thais work long hours, so they appreciate a smile and good humour – you’ll get better bargains.
Visitors entering the Kingdom on tourist visas are entitled to refunds of the 7% value added tax (VAT) paid on goods purchased at shops, department stores and other retail outlets displaying “VAT Refund for Tourists” signs, where tax refund application forms are available. Before leaving the country, visitors must present a completed VAT refund form, plus passport information and receipts, to a customs officer. Certain luxury goods must be shown to an excise official. Refunds may be in bank draft form or credited to a credit card. Call the VAT Refunds for Tourists Office (02 272 9388) for more information.
Beware of Touts
The Tourism Authority of Thailand warns against touting taxi drivers and tour guides who offer to take you shopping and receive commissions for bringing tourists to various places to shop. Often the experience is a waste of your valuable shopping time.
Also, beware of people approaching or calling you with offers of free trips or other prizes — it’s usually a timeshare sales representative trying to book you into a sales presentation, which you’ll have to do if you agree to join its tour. Again, it could be a waste of your time.
Be aware that it is forbidden to take images of Buddha, deities, and some antique artifacts from the country without first obtaining approval from the Fine Arts Department in Bangkok.
Gems and Jewellery Advisory
There are occasional complaints from visitors about unethical jewellers who persuaded them to buy jewellery at an unreasonable price. There are also cases where gems purchased have turned out to be fakes. While such scams are largely carried out in Bangkok, there have been complaints about jewel purchases in Phuket.
To combat this problem, the Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have formed a “Jewel Fest Club”. The club aims to offer quality products at reasonable prices with a money-back guarantee if buyers are not completely satisfied. Some of the larger Phuket jewellers are in this program, so look for the Jewel Fest emblem while browsing the shop.
The TAT offers these tips for your protection:
- Be wary of any encounter that ends up requiring your presence in a gem shop. Most probably it is a scam.
- Buying gems or jewellery to resell at double or triple the purchase prices is an impossible proposition under any circumstances. Buy jewellery only for personal satisfaction for your own use or for loved ones.
- Make price comparisons in various shops before deciding to buy. Never be in a hurry.
- Never mail sapphires or other precious stones. Carry valuable items with you.
- Do not believe special (jewellery) sales of any kind. Reputable dealers hardly ever offer sales and never send touts to lure tourists to their stores.
- There are no promotions, shows or special sales on jewelry authorized by the government or any official agencies at any time of the year.
- The government does not own, operate, subsidize, or authorize any jewellery stores.
- As far as you can, take time to verify all claims. Words, promises, personal guarantees, unchecked documents, unauthorized verbal or written statements, casual references, encounters and the like do not constitute verification. Remember, you are your own best protection.
- Thai embassies, consulates or any delegations abroad are neither bound nor responsible for refunding goods that are bought in Thailand.
Packing and Shipping Services
Many of the larger shops are experienced at shipping abroad and will attend to all the documents such as insurance, customs and necessary permits. Parcel-wrapping service is available at the main post office in Phuket City (Montri Rd) and at post service outlets such as PostNet in Tesco-Lotus. For larger items or bulk shipments, check with courier services such as DHL (076 258 500/2) or TNT Express (076 220 799 or 076 216 396).