Thailand – and especially its capital, Bangkok – has developed into one of the most popular shopping centers in Asia. A wide variety of Thai items ranging from finely crafted artifacts to tailored silk clothes are offered with new designs, high standards, and reasonable prices.
The country is also known for its lively streets and local markets, as well as international-style department stores. The two main Thai chains of shopping malls are Robinsons and Central, which are the mainstay of Bangkok shopping. Most street stores open from 9am to 8pm, while department stores and tourist shops open from 10am to 9pm.
Department stores and malls
International-style department stores are a significant component of Bangkok shopping.
The most popular stores are Central Department Stores. With many locations around the city, they sell pretty much everything, especially clothing for Westerners. The goods are offered at Western prices but the stores have excellent sales.
Siam Paragon, next to the Siam Skytrain station, offers an incredible amount of brand-name cosmetics, high-end electronics, and art supplies, among many other items.
Built on six floors, there is also a nice café and a children’s department with dozens of toys.
If you are looking for a bargain, head to Robinsons (there is one on Sukhumvit Road). It is quieter than the other malls in Bangkok but is really popular among expats, especially for the Western food that is available.
Even though it doesn’t have the range offered by bigger malls, it has really good sales and fair prices.
In CentralWorld mall, you will find ZEN, which has lots of fashionable clothing, and Isetan, which has a superb Japanese supermarket.
Tokyu is a smaller department store with select items and it offers big sales on clothes.
Local markets and pedestrian streets
Local markets are really easy to find all around Thailand, and those in Chiang Mai and Bangkok deserve a visit.
The most popular shopping place in Chiang Mai is the Night Bazaar, with hundreds of vendors selling literally every souvenir you might desire. Clothing, jewelry, watches, and local Thai goods are just some of the things you will find.
On Saturdays, just outside Chiang Mai Gate, a market is held on Wualai Walking Street[Is this actually the name of the street? If not, please change it to ‘the pedestrian street called Wualai’.]. Vendors sell a multitude of products, such as silver, lacquerware, and lots of handicrafts, which you won’t find anywhere else.
In Bangkok, the most popular place is Chatuchak Market. This huge market spans across 35 acres and sells everything from Thai pants to Moroccan lamps, gardening tools to clothing, and handicrafts to accessories.
The market is divided into different sections and it is so big that it is a good idea to take a map with you to help find your way around.
Thai items to look for
Thai silk is considered to be one of the finest fabrics in the world with beautiful colors. Producing genuine Thai silk takes a lot of time and highly skilled work.
The final product is practically a work of art. Thai silk can be handwoven or machine woven.
Thailand is an ideal place to find a large supply of crafts in various designs. Thai handicrafts are famous for both the level of skill and the low cost of labor.
Custom-made crafts are available in most markets and shops.
How to pay and get refunds
The only currency accepted in Thailand is Thai baht. Exchange or withdraw a sufficient amount of money when you go shopping.
Stores inside the malls accept credit cards (with a surcharge fee) but many places in the local markets don’t. Visa and Mastercard are accepted almost everywhere.
When buying expensive merchandise, ask for a written receipt with the shop’s address and tax number. Obtaining a receipt is the only way to prove your purchase.
You can ask for a refund if you are not satisfied and you can show your receipt to the customs officers in case of an inspection.
When you buy goods from department stores, shopping malls, and shops in Thailand, you are entitled to ask for a VAT refund if you are a tourist leaving the country within 60 days.
You must spend at least 5,000 baht at stores that display the “VAT Refund for Tourists” sign.
Ask the shop for all the paperwork you need before leaving, and then go to a customs office at the airport before checking in.
Interesting facts you should know before shopping in Thailand
We have listed some interesting facts below that could come in handy when shopping in Thailand, especially in Bangkok.
Most shops are open from 10am to 10pm every day of the week. Some night markets close around midnight.
Most vendors speak some English, allowing you to bargain. It’s helpful to learn numbers in Thai.
Be patient and try to get a 10%–40% discount. Compare the prices of various vendors to get an idea of what the ideal price should be.
Different kinds of vendors
Street shops usually have lower prices than boutique shops, particularly those found inside hotels.
Thailand Duty Free Shops Company is a brand in the World Trade Center[Please check this. According to information on the Internet, this is now known as CentralWorld.], Ratchadamri Road — there, goods can be pre-ordered and collected at the airport. Many larger shops also offer shipping abroad.
Beware of scams
You will find lots of fake goods, such as a Rolex watch for 2,000 baht or less. Sometimes, they are advertised as fake goods but sometimes they are passed off as being genuine.
It is almost impossible to get a refund from a street stall.
Common fake goods bought by tourists are gemstones. As it is virtually impossible to tell fake gemstones from real ones without special equipment, we strongly recommend that you don’t purchase them.
If someone offers to take you to a shop, don’t go. The seller will give you a higher price to compensate their friend for taking you there. Pay close attention if you use your credit card as credit card fraud is quite common in Thailand.
Whenever you are in Bangkok, there is always a shopping area nearby, such as large hotels with shopping facilities, markets, and shopping malls.
Some of the most popular areas are:
- Siam Square — north of Sukhumvit Road and a modern shopping district
- Silom Road — Bangkok’s main business and commercial district
- Si Phraya Road — it has a huge shopping complex
- Sukhumvit Road — packed with eateries, tourist shops, street stalls, and supermarkets
Explore Thailand’s Shops and Markets with Us
Almost every Thai town has a central market offering a good range of fresh produce as well as varied arts and crafts. Let us know your preferences and our trip advisor will recommend the markets that are best suited to your interests. We will arrange your itinerary to ensure you get the most out of Thailand’s exciting shops and markets.