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Your Guide To Buying Glasses In China — For Cheap!

Posted by Emily Cummings on 5/9/18 11:12 AM

ILP China

Who thought it would be so affordable to get new glasses while living in a foreign country? 

When you’re listing all the souvenirs you want to buy and bring home, do glasses make the list? If you want to save money, then they should be!

Pst: Figure out how to pay for a semester abroad with discounts and fundraising tips right here. 

As it turns out, you might be able to come home with a brand new pair of prescription glasses for a fraction of the cost — we are talking saving a couple hundred dollars depending on where you are in the world. We’ve had the most luck with this in China (looking at you, ILP volunteers living in China for a semester!) If that sounds like something you’d love, just keep reading.

  • Where Can I Get Glasses Abroad?
  • How Much Do They Cost?
  • What Do I Need? 

Where Can I Get Glasses? 

When you’re shopping in those awesome underground markets keep and eye out for eye-glasses. They are usually in little stalls with rows and rows of frames. We’ve had one ILP volunteer find them in the city of Changzhou (the same city where this rad Dinosaur park is, by the way), but we also have seen ‘em in cities like Nanjing and in Shanghai, a favorite vacation spot. 

But don’t think that China has all the fun (though we do love shopping in China); peek for these stalls in places like Thailand, Mexico and other countries and see if you can get lucky. 

ILP China

How Much Do They Cost? 

That depends. There was a stall in Nanjing that charged $65 USD total, but prices obviously change from store to store, city to city and even country to country. The frames are usually sold separately and then the prescription is added, so that changes the cost (a stronger prescription is usually more expensive).  One ILP Volunteer in Changzhou got an eye exam and prescription glasses for less than $20!

You may be able to call your current eye-glass provider (like Costco) and see if they’d be able to put your prescription into lenses that you bought abroad. Your optometrist might want to see if the frames you got abroad have the right “grooves” to mount in your prescription lenses, but you can get frames for very cheap (around $5, versus a few hundred dollars in America). 

What Do I Need? 

It’s safe to bring over your current glasses prescription. Some stores may be able to detect your prescription by putting your current glasses in a machine, but it’s nice to have it on paper. You can also get an eye exam as a part of the process, but the language barrier might make that a bit tricky! 

ILP China

Who knew you could get glasses for such great deal while in China? Life in this country is always pretty surprising  …. get a sneak peek into what living in China is actually like by checking out that ILP button right there: 

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Topics: China, Life Abroad, Saving Money

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Over the years of assisting more than 6,000 volunteers in their desire to travel and make a difference in the lives of others, ILP has seen what works and what doesn't.

We've gathered our tips here for making your semester abroad a successful one.

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