Shopping in China
What to Buy
Most travelers want to take home some bargains or mementos. With so many options available, shopping can be time consuming, confusing and exhausting. The following tips may make it easier for you:
Don't buy everything in the first day or two. Each city has its own specialty. Some of the best buys are:
- Beijing: Cloisonné; Fresh water pearls
- Xi'an: Replicas of the Terra Cotta soldiers; Tangsancai ( Tang Dynasty hand painted China); Antique Furniture
- Shanghai: Silk carpets
- Hangzhou: Longjing Tea; Silk
- Suzhou: Silk
- Guilin: Scroll paintings; China Southern Sea Pearls
- Yunnan: Mounted Butterflies; Pure tea; Dali Batik (tie-dyed fabric)
- Xinjiang: Carpets; jade articles
- Tibet: Thang-ka（tanka）(Sheep skin wall hangings)
Shopping Is Not Obligatory
Don't feel obligated to shop. Our guides offer shopping opportunities as a courtesy but if you're not interested, say so. Some of them may be quite enthusiastic, thinking this is what you want, so don't be embarrassed to tell them directly and immediately that you don't want to go shopping. You'll often find several attendants trying to help you make a purchase. This doesn't mean you have to buy; it's OK to say no, or just to look around.
Outside tourist spots or on the road, there might be some vendors who follow you and try to sell you something. If you are not interested, just ignore them and keep going. See Avoiding Tourist Traps.
Be Cautious of Fake Items
Shopping is great in China and you can expect to be able to buy many things at a much better price that at home. Please however be warned that if a bargain price for a world famous brand seems too good to be true…….. it probably is!
Antique buyers should know that many experts have been disappointed to find that their find of a lifetime is beautiful but fake. Antiques should be officially certified to be exported legally. The penalties are severe. Keep all receipts, certificates and official documents that are received when you purchase any antiques. Antiques are those items over 120 years of age.
Bargaining is a national pastime in China so you will find that most retailers except for department stores, large shopping malls will be prepared to bargain. Check out Smart Shopping - How to Bargain in China.
Prepare some small change for buying inexpensive stuff. Vendors are usually reluctant to find change for a 100 yuan note.
You should check the import restrictions in your home country as some items may attract tax on arrival in your home country, especially if it is mailed or shipped separately.Q: Am I allowed to bring back purchased electronics to the USA in my luggage?
A: There is no problem in taking electronics back to the USA. You would need to consider excess baggage (if you intend to take a lot) and duty which would be collected by US Customs on entry. The passenger would need to check the duty free limit which each passenger is allowed. The passenger would also need to ensure the electronics are packed well to prevent breakage.
In addition, when you make the decision, you need to double check the electronics you buy can also work in the USA (voltage, etc.). You can also see customs and regulations page for more information.
I updated this article on November 20, 2013
See all my travel articles
Questions and Answers About Shopping in China
It is totally no problem to let waiters and food sellers about your special request about food. Here, I write your special request in Chinese so that you can show them when you have meals. “您好，我对贝类和鱼类严重过敏，不能吃这些食物。谢谢！”
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