Mall Shopping in Thailand: Is It Really a Bargain?

by  Laura Motta | Aug 8, 2014
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand / tawanlubfah/iStock

Bangkok is a renowned shopping destination, and for good reason. With everything from rambling night bazaars to high-rise shopping centers, nearly any kind of shopper can find a good way to unload their baht. But travelers who go outside their home country in search of a true bargain on well-known goods are often disappointed. iPhones cost the same all over the world. H&M carries the same dresses in Shanghai as it does in your local mall, and whether you’re paying euros or pesos, it all costs about the same. The same is mostly true in Bangkok.

But there may very well be a way to score a great deal, even on big-ticket, brand name items in this shopping mecca. You just have to know when to go, and what to look for. We scoured a major Bankok shopping center and did some research. Here are a few pointers.

Forget the price tag for a minute; it’s all about variety: When you’re roaming through Central World, Bangkok’s biggest and most overwhelming shopping plaza, and the sixth largest shopping mall in the world, try to go with a sense of what you’re looking for, and don’t be married to a name brand. The reason for this is simple: This shopping center features brands from all over the world -- many of which you probably haven’t heard of. You’ll find the usual suspects, of course (Uniqlo, Express, Marks & Spencer), but what about Izzue, Pull & Bear, and Bossini? If you’re looking for a black dress, a pair of leather oxfords, or some new jewelry, comparison shopping between the available brands can yield some good results. Don’t see what you like -- or an appealing price -- in one store? Take the elevator up one level -- or six. You’ll find it elsewhere, possibly for less.

Shop the sales: While prices for goods in Bangkok’s malls might seem generally comparable to prices elsewhere, that’s not true of Bangkok’s seasonal sales. For example, a recent trip to Central World yielded a serious bargain – a TopShop scarf marked down from 1400 baht (about $44) to about 350 baht (about $11). We found other items like this in notable brand stores – earrings marked down from $20 to $5, a ring marked down to $2. We’ve all seen seasonal sales in the U.S., but the discounting in Bangkok feels deeper and distinctly more exciting for those in search of a bargain.

Consider what’s available: We found this Ted Baker dress on sale in Central World for the same as it is on this web site: about $150, marked down 50 percent. But note the problem with this listing. It’s sold out, and has been for a while. In Bangkok, there was a rack of ten of them. We saw this over and over in Central World. Clothes, shoes, and accessories in colors and sizes that were basically scarce back at home where right there in front of us, and on sale. Chalk it up to shear abundance in a mall that contains nearly 500 stores, or differences in fashion taste in Asia, but in Central World, our cup had runneth over.

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