In most of the big retailers and outlet stores the prices are final and not open to negotiation. However at the markets, stalls and even most of the small stores bartering is a normal part of making a purchase. Results may vary (depending on your bartering skills!) but you should generally expect to pay around 20% less than the original price. Just be wary, some shopkeepers may become aggressive or loud, in which case it is best to simply walk away.
Thai’s are renowned for their smiling nature and love a good laugh, so a friendly smile and attitude is the best approach to use when chasing a good deal.
Avoid any taxi service offering shopping tours or recommending specific destinations. They are generally working on a commission deal with that market or shop and may unnecessarily take you out of your way. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has a strong stance against such actions, but they continue regardless. It is best to work out where you would like to go before arranging travel.
It is also best to completely avoid anyone offering free trips, dinners, prizes or any other deal. These are generally attached to time share companies and whatever the deal is, it will most likely involve some sales presentation trying to suck you in… And waste your precious travelling time!
Some items are prohibited by law to be taken out of Thailand. Asides from the obvious ones such as plant and animal products, it is also illegal to take most items displaying the image of Buddha. Some plant items, such as the orchids, are permitted for export, just make sure you’ve checked the proper procedure and import laws for your native country!
Gems and Jewellery
As with anywhere, you should exercise a bit of caution before handing over large amounts of money for any product. In particular, take care when buying expensive items such as gems and jewellery, as there are a lot of rip off merchants. Make sure you shop around and get a good feel for the kind of stores that are available. Although there are some scams, Thailand is actually a good place to find high quality gold and diamond jewellery at low prices.
Make sure to hang onto your receipts as one of the great perks of shopping in Thailand is the VAT Refund (value added tax). With just a small amount of paper-work (VAT refund form), and valid receipts, you should be able to claim a 7% return on items bought at department stores or registered retailers. You can contact the Tourism Office on 02 272 9388 for more information.