When friends and colleagues visit HK, they often ask where's the best place to buy a new camera / walkman / notebook PC / etc. If you're visiting HK with shopping in mind, here are a few tips for you ...
Is it really cheaper here?
Seems obvious, but check the prices before you leave home (and be sure to check what that price includes, as adding costs for cases, batteries, etc., can make a big difference.) A rule of thumb seems to be that visitors from the US can often buy goods at similar prices back home, while visitors from Australia find prices here significantly cheaper.
How much cheaper is worthwhile?
If something goes wrong with your purchase after you get home, there could be major hassle in getting it fixed (though also look at the "warranties" item below). If you are only saving tens of dollars, and it is an item with more chance of something going wrong (e.g. a video camera), make sure that any $$$ you will save won't be outweighed by you worrying that something will go wrong.
What warranty should you be looking for?
There are three common options for warranties:
International Warranty: This is your best option, as it means that even though you buy in HK, the warranty means that any repairs will be carried out in your home country under warranty. This tends to be limited to more expensive items, like notebook PCs.
Local Warranty: If something goes wrong during the warranty period, you'll need to return it to a HK address to get it fixed. That's ok if you travel here regularly for business, but otherwise this is probably the same as "No Warranty" below.
No Warranty: Sometimes you'll see two pieces of the same product next to each other, but one has a much lower price (20% off or more) than the other. You'll probably find that the cheaper one is a parallel import, which means it was bought direct from another country, and not from the official HK distributor. (You'll also hear these called "grey market" copies, or "soei faw" in Cantonese). The obvious difference is that the parallel import is much cheaper, and probably has no warranty. Other side-effects may be that the manuals and any software that ship with the product are in another language (most likely Japanese), so check that you'll be able to use the product.
Do you need a warranty?
Even if a product has no warranty, the shop will usually allow an exchange within 7 or 14 days if the product does not work properly. So if it's something you can use thoroughly for a week before you leave HK (e.g. a digital camera), you may not need the full one year warranty. This is especially true for items that are unlikely to fail, e.g. Compact Flash cards generally work or they don't. (Remember to keep all the packaging, and avoid any wear and scratches, to make it easy to exchange).
Where to buy?
If you're here on vacation, there's a good chance you're staying in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). As a prime tourist area, it has many shops selling electronic goods. Although I am sure that the majority of the shops there are safe, there are also regular stories in the press about tourists being ripped off in some way or other. So unless you have been introduced to the shop by a local friend, just be careful that you are getting exactly what you have paid for.
Instead I'd suggest you start with one of the large chains of stores, e.g. Fortress or Broadway. These will give you an idea of local prices to compare against any other offers you receive.
I usually go from there to Citicall in Central, and buy there. Looking on the web, I see they actually have several outlets:
If you like haggling, you can probably find things a bit cheaper in Mong Kok There's a building on the left of exit E2 from the Mong Kok MTR, opposite the Bank Centre, that has several floors of electronics stores. I bought there once - prices with warranty were slightly cheaper than Citicall, but I blew what little savings there were on the taxi ride home! They did have some cheaper parallel imports though, if that is what you are looking for.
If you have any good stores to recommend, please send them in.