This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Hong Kong guide takes you through the territory's shopping highlights - and the pitfalls to avoid.
While any international brand worthy of its logo has at least one outlet here, Hong Kong’s reputation as a bargain hunter’s paradise is largely a thing of the past. So what’s worth shopping for? Clothing (off the peg or tailored), shoes, jewellery, luggage and, to a lesser degree nowadays, cameras and electronic goods are the city’s strong suits. Excellent art and antiques shops also abound.
Bargaining is a way of life at retail outlets throughout Hong Kong, with the exception of department stores and clothing chain shops, where the prices marked are the prices paid. Some visitors operate on the theory that you can get the goods for half the price originally quoted. Many Hong Kong residents believe that if you can bargain something down that low, then you shouldn’t be buying from that shop anyway. If the business is that crooked – and many are, particularly in the Tsim Sha Tsui tourist ghetto – it will probably find other ways to cheat you (such as selling you electronic goods with missing components or no international warranty).
Guarantee & warranty
Every guarantee should carry a complete description of the item (including the model and serial numbers), as well as the date of purchase, the name and address of the shop it was purchased from, and the shop’s official name chop (stamp). A common practice is to sell grey-market equipment (ie imported by somebody other than the official local agent). Such equipment may have no guarantee at all, or the guarantee may be valid only in the country of manufacture (which will probably be either China or Japan).
Most of Hong Kong Island’s antique shops are bunched along Wyndham St and Hollywood Rd in Central and Sheung Wan. The shops at the western end of Hollywood Rd tend to be cheaper and carry more dubious ‘antiques’ – tread carefully through this minefield of reproductions, books, magazines, Chinese propaganda posters, badges from the Cultural Revolution and so on. For Chinese handicrafts and other goods (hand-carved wooden pieces, ceramics, paintings, cloisonné, silk garments), the main places to go are the large China-run emporiums scattered throughout the territory, such as Chinese Arts & Crafts and Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium.
The best places to find designer fashion and top-end boutiques are in the big shopping centres and malls, especially Landmark in Central, Pacific Place in Admiralty and Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong. The best hunting grounds for warehouse sales and factory extras are generally in Tsim Sha Tsui at the eastern end of Granville Rd; check out Austin Ave and Chatham Rd South as well. On Hong Kong Island, Jardine’s Bazaar in Causeway Bay has low-cost garments and there are several sample shops and places to pick up cheap jeans in Lee Garden Rd. The street markets on Temple St in Yau Ma Tei and Tung Choi St in Mong Kok have the cheapest clothes. You may also try Li Yuen St East and Li Yuen St West, two narrow alleyways linking Des Voeux Rd Central with Queen’s Rd Central. They are a jumble of inexpensive clothing, handbags, backpacks and costume jewellery.
Hong Kong is a popular, competitively priced place to buy personal computers. Most people buy their computers in Kowloon, where there are loads of centres selling computers and related equipment. There’s a much greater choice and prices are lower, but ‘caveat emptor’ is the phrase to bear in mind as you browse. Hong Kong Island does have a couple of reasonable computer arcades, including the Wan Chai Computer Centre.
Gems & jewellery
The Chinese attribute various magical qualities to jade, including the power to prevent ageing and accidents. The circular disc with a central hole worn around many Hong Kong necks represents heaven in Chinese mythology. The Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei is diverting, but unless you’re knowledgeable about jade, limit yourself to modest purchases. Hong Kong carries a great range of pearls, and opals are said to be good value. Retail prices for other precious stones are only marginally lower than elsewhere. The more reputable jewellery-shop chains will issue a certificate that states exactly what you are buying and guarantees that the shop will buy it back at a fair market price.
Never buy a camera without a price tag. This will basically preclude most of the shops in Tsim Sha Tsui. One of the best spots in Hong Kong for buying photographic equipment is Stanley St in Central, where competition is keen. Everything carries price tags, though some low-level bargaining may be possible. Tsim Sha Tsui has a couple of shops on Kimberley Rd dealing in used cameras and there are plenty of photo shops on Sai Yeung Choi St in Mong Kok.
Shops selling watches are ubiquitous in Hong Kong and you can find everything from a Rolex to Russian army timepieces and diving watches. Avoid the shops without price tags. The big department stores and City Chain are fine, but compare prices.
Leather goods & luggage
Most of what gets sent to the Hong Kong market from China is export quality, but check carefully because there is still a lot of rubbish on sale. All the big brand names such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci are on display in Hong Kong department stores, and you’ll also find some local vendors in the luggage business. If you’re just looking for a casual bag or daypack, check out Li Yuen St East and Li Yuen St West in Central or Stanley Market.
Images updated on this post on 18th October 2012.