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 What Mainland Expats Should Buy in Hong Kong

What Mainland Expats Should Buy in Hong Kong

Written by CindyUpdated Nov. 20, 2023
Hong Kong Hong Kong is an attractive place for expat shopping.

For expats, going to Hong Kong is an opportunity to bring back products you can't get in China or that cost more in China. China has still has high tax and tariff barriers that make shopping in Hong Kong quite attractive for expats living in China.

Hong Kong has a duty free import policy, so it is an excellent place to get foreign-made products. Its low taxes helps to keep prices low as does the plethora of competitive shopping areas for everything from luxury products to street market goods.

Though Chinese-made products might cost about the same, Chinese themselves often go to Hong Kong to shop for Chinese made goods such as electronics because of better warranties, service, and return policies.

There are numerous things expats might want to buy and bring back during your trip to Hong Kong such as primarily foreign made luxury goods, electronics, clothing and foods, American products, custom tailored clothing, and special Hong Kong foods.

Why Hong Kong Shopping Isn't Quite So Attractive Now as a Decade Past

airplane above the cloudsChinese people are now flying further for their shopping, especially Japan.

Take note expats in China: Hong Kong isn't as attractive a shopping place as it was years ago. If you are shopping for luxury items or things manufactured in Korea or Japan such as a Samsung smartphone, you might get a better deal in Korea or Japan.

High rent and real estate prices are forcing up retail prices in shops in Hong Kong.

Less people from Chinese mainland buy luxury products in Hong Kong: According to Bain and Company, in 2015, Chinese luxury shopping purchases in Japan tripled, while their spending in Hong Kong for luxury goods dropped by 25%.

There is a recent big boom in Chinese tourism to Japan partly for the shopping deals, and as an expat in China, you might want to also consider going to Korea or Japan instead of Hong Kong if you want to buy products such as electronics made in those countries.

The drop of the yen and won: The drop in value in the Japanese yen and Korean won is partly what is propelling people from Chinese mainland to tour and shop in Japan and Korea instead of Hong Kong. There is quite a boom of Mainlanders visiting Japan in 2019.

Lower airline fares due to low fuel prices are also allowing shopping trips to overseas countries to be more affordable compared to shopping in Hong Kong.

China Has Lowered Tariffs on Some Products

Chinese yuan

In 2015, China lowered their high tariffs on some kinds of products, so people in China can buy some kinds of foreign products for less than several years ago. But the majority of products still have high tariffs. 

Here are some categories of common products with lower tariffs:

  • Cosmetics and skin care products: 2 percent rate (down from 5 percent)
  • Shoes: 12 percent rate (down from about 22 to 24 percent)
  • Men's and women's suits, furs, and outerwear: 8 to 10 percent rate (down from 14 to 24 percent)
  • Diapers: 2 percent rate (down from 7.5 percent)

Hong Kong Is Still Excellent for Many Kinds of Products

What to buy in Hong Kong

However, apart from high real estate rental prices, the lack of import duties and the low taxes still keeps Hong Kong a good shopping attraction for people arriving from China. The taxes are unusually low, about the lowest in the whole world. There is no sales tax, no capital gains tax, almost no VAT, and the maximum salary tax is 17%.

What is a good buy? Western or international foods, Hong Kong made foods like Chinese snacks, luxury or mid-tier clothing produced in countries other than China, cosmetics, alcohol, foreign language books, products of certain foreign countries such as the US, and high or mid-range electronics are things to consider getting.

1. Smartphones

Smartphones are a good buy Smartphones are a good buy.

These are best bought outside of China because the ones made and sold in China are built for the Chinese marketplace, and they don't meet the international standard. For example, they won't have much Western software Google Play, and security might be an issue.

  • Apple products: The large Apple stores in Hong Kong sell the latest versions about 10 percent cheaper than in the mainland.
  • There is a big Apple store in the IFC Mall in Hong Kong.

2. Computers and Software

Probably most all or all computers sold in China and much of the software is pirated or modified for China. It might be that when you return to your country, the fake software might be detected, especially if you try to download updates from a foreign company, or purchase upgrades, and the company might disallow services.

3. Chinese Made Electronics

Many people might also prefer to shop for Chinese made electronics in Hong Kong since the quality and reliability is higher, and you might also get a reliable warranty. A lot of Chinese do just that. They shop in Hong Kong for more reliable products and to avoid fakes.

  • Shopping tip: Sham Shui Po generally has the best computer and accessories deals in Hong Kong. It is also where you can find repair shops for computer repairs and second-hand products. Beware of stolen goods and fake products though.
  • Golden Computer Center is a large electronics market for electronics bargains. It has everything from blank CDs to entire computers. It is internationally famous and crowded. It is about 100 meters north of Sham Shui Po MTR Exit D2.
  • Ladies Market Sai Yeung Choi Street: Another big electronics shopping area with tons of Chinese made electronics is this street reached at Exit D2 of Mong Kok Station. It is known for cameras, lenses, computer devices, computers, and electronics.

See our Guide for Top 7 Hong Kong Street Markets

4. Foreign Brands of Mid-tier Consumer or Luxury Clothing

IFC Mall The IFC Mall houses a big Apple Store as well as brand fashion stores

There is a possibility that branded clothing and accessories bought in China are fake. There is a less of a chance for that in Hong Kong. Also, there is still a stiff tariff on most kinds of items, so shopping in Hong Kong still makes sense. For luxury fashion, buying in Hong Kong or Japan might be from 40 to 60% cheaper.

  • Luxury fashion shopping tip: Best places for this is Elements Mall that has a big Zara or around the IFC Mall and adjacent Landmark Mall area. See Hong Kong's 5 Best Luxury Shopping Malls for Tourists
  • Middle priced brand name shopping: The Ladies Market between Prince Edward Station and Mongkok Station is a big international tourist draw. Fa Yuen Street in Mongkok is where they like to go for fashion, latest styles and brands at low prices. Tung Choi Street that is 50 meters east has rows of stores for Chinese factory outlets and brand names, but be careful about fakes. See How to Plan a 1 Day Middle Budget Tour
  • Tung Chung's CityGate Outlets is conveniently next to the airport and over the Tung Chung MTR Station. There are 80 international brand-name stores ranging from Adidas to Kate Spade, and the price might be much much less than in China. Chinese buyers search there for with big bags for the carryover trade.

5. Chinese Food

People from Chinese mainland even prefer Chinese food from Hong Kong over similar foods of even the same Chinese brand thinking the quality is higher. The Hong Kong-style desserts, pastries and confectioneries are a highlight that many expats might consider bring back.

6. Western International Foods

What you buy in China might be made in China, and might not be as high quality as the same food of the same brand in Hong Kong. So for everything ranging from baby milk substitute to American brands of chocolate bars, you might get a better product in Hong Kong where most of the international food is imported from overseas instead of made in China. The price difference might be from from 20 to 50 percent lower.

Chocolate is difficult to get hold of in China. They only have a few bars usually: Dove bars, maybe Snickers and M&Ms. Actually ALL dairy products are hard to find, and more expensive, especially in south China where they don't tend to use milk and cheese.

7. Asian and African International Foods and Products

Hong Kong South Asian storeSouth Asian groceries in Chungking

If you want to buy South Asian foods and products, Chung King Mansions on Nathan Road remains the best place to go. It also has small African stores.

For Filipino food and products, World Wide Mall have stores for that as well as Malaysian, Indonesian and other Southeast Asian products.

8. Custom Tailored Suits and Clothing

Local tailor shops and custom garment designers are among the best in the world, and they can work quite quickly and outfit you with some of the world's best within 24 or 48 hours.

People from all over the world buy their custom clothes here, so you'll get the Western or international style.

Why Hong Kong Shopping Still Makes Sense

Other than for luxury goods and high priced items electronics from those countries, it doesn't make much sense to take a flight to Korea or Japan just to shop. The bullet train lines have made getting to Hong Kong on a visa run or for just recreation, shopping and touring quite cheap and convenient.

In particular, the new HSR line to West Kowloon Station that just opened up in 2018 can take you to the heart of Hong Kong's shopping in just a few hours from much of south and central China. You could even do shopping day trips and return in the evening. Contact us if you want us to help with a shopping trip.

The Mainlanders Still Appreciate the Hong Kong Consumer Products

The Mainlanders believe there is a difference, and they are still crowding into Hong Kong shops and stores for everyday consumer products and foods because they think the quality, safety, reliability and price makes shopping in Hong Kong better even on the same kinds of products sold by the same Chinese brand.

This is why there is a whole huge industry of people carrying and pushing products over the border that has been built up over the last 15 years because people in the Mainland appreciate the difference. 

Shopping Tips

tour Hong Kong with China HighlightsVictoria Harbor sights in Hong Kong

Best Shopping Season

December to February is a popular period for sales before and during Christmas, sales after Christmas, and during the run-up to Chinese New Year.


  • International Hong Kong flight tickets are more difficult to obtain around Christmas, New Years Day, and other holidays. We can book your tickets for you.
  • Guides, drivers, and private vehicles can be provided for great private tours for individuals and groups.
  • China train tickets you need for a great trip to China

China Highlights' Shopping and Tours

tour with China HighlightsYou can shop and tour in comfort and style in Hong Kong with China Highlights

We can arrange a fine shopping tour for you. Hong Kong offers a panoply of choices ranging from high-end luxury brands to fascinating street markets.

It will be helpful to have a local guide who can give you accurate information based on your shopping interests.

Our tours are developed through years of experience and customer feedback and are reasonably priced. They can be customized to your requirements. You can contact us for help.

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