Shopping in China can be exhilarating. There is so much stuff for so cheap, but don't let those cheap prices fool you. There is a big secret to shopping in China that you need to learn before you head off on your trip.
To help you out even more before you go, see what living in China is actually like, right here.
If this is your first trip to China, this is for you! Shopping in China can be both scary and addicting. Scary if you don't know how to barter and addicting because, hello...Those prices are unreal. Take it from someone who has shopped in China a lot, this little secret will help you save money — hopefully lots of money!
Don't Go Shopping First
Do not go to the big markets and shop at the beginning of your trip. It sounds weird, I know, but you're just going to have to trust me on this.
Why? Because I Really Wanna Shop. Now.
The reason for this is actually more simple than you may realize. You don't know how to barter yet and you don't know what a good price is! The more experience you get before you go to the big markets, the better.
Bartering in China can be tricky. The vendors want to get as much profit as they can (who can blame them), so they start their prices extremely high. To a newbie whose never been to China, there prices may seem reasonable. Trust me, you can get that exact same item for a fourth of the asking price.
Get all you need to know about bartering in China.
Alright, What Are The Big Markets?
The big markets like the Silk Market and the Pearl Market in Beijing can be overwhelming — but are totally awesome. We also recommend shopping at the Science and Technology stop when you're in Shanghai.
To give you an idea of what these places are like, picture a multi-level mall, full of shops and vendors, crammed full of everything anything you can imagine.
Start Small, Then Go Big
So, how can your prepare yourself for those huge markets? Simple! Start out small and watch others around you. Go to a small market and observe. Listen to prices others are getting (for example, sunglasses. You should not pay more than 25 Yuan, but the vendor will start out at 150 Yuan). Check out things that are cheaper in China so you can get an idea of what prices are like.
Educate yourself so you aren't over paying. Once you've observed enough, put your bartering skills to the test. When they give you a price, cut it by at least a fourth of the cost and go from there. As long as the vendor is coming down on his price, don't stop until he sticks with a firm price.
Shopping in China is amazing and you shouldn't be scared. Just make sure you give yourself enough time, learn how to bargain and practice. Just like our ILP China volunteers, by the end of your trip, you will be a pro at bartering and you will be getting your goodies for the best price.
Think about it — living in China for a semester. You can come teach English in China during the day, and stop at all the cute markets at night, then spend weekends and vacation days to explore the prettiest places in the country.
Sounds like a plan, right? Get more info about how you can serve abroad with ILP (International Language Programs) with this button: