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Big smiles, shrinking wallets

Non-stop Singapore shopping madness in our guide to Orchard Road designer brands, local malls, duty-free, and back-alley deals in head-bobbing Little India.

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by Yong Shu Hoong

updated by Jessie Kok with photography by Vijay Verghese

SEE ALSO Singapore fun guide | Singapore business hotels | Singapore nightlife | Bangkok shopping guide | Hong Kong shopping guide | Kuala Lumpur shopping guide | Digital Cameras and Video Reviews

JUMP TO Orchard Singapore malls | Marina and Raffles City | Suntec City | Millenia Walk | Electronics and computer | Bugis Junction and Arab Street | Little India, Chinatown shops, Ann Siang Hill and Club Street | Holland Village and Dempsey Road antiques | Tanglin Road | Resorts World Sentosa | Local malls | Airport duty-free

Singapore shopping guide for Ion and Orchard Road

Hot dog at Ion, Orchard/ photo: Vijay Verghese

RIGHTLY, or perhaps a tad unkindly, Singapore has been described by some as one big shopping mall. But to shopping aficionados, such a generalisation only means that this modern city can lay a safe claim to being one of Asia’s most sophisticated yet diverse shopping destinations.

While it’s a year-round shopping paradise, the best time to visit is during its annual eight-week Great Singapore Sale (www.greatsingaporesale.com.sg), when all kinds of discounts and deals pop up island-wide from late May through July.

To kick-start your all-out Singapore shopping spree, there’s perhaps no better place than the much vaunted – and flaunted – Orchard Road, where you can peruse a bevy of shopping malls, conveniently stacked one after the other, all the jolly way from Wheelock Place (near the Orchard MRT station) to Plaza Singapura (Dhoby Ghaut station).

MRT, of course, stands for the Mass Rapid Transit trains that run both underground and above ground throughout most of Singapore.

But walking is probably the best method to explore Orchard Road. If you can stand the heat and afternoon downpours just to bag that bargain, consider yourself a true shopping loon.

Find the best digs for your trip in our Singapore business hotels review and family hotels roundup.

And now on we head into the thrum of glitzy Orchard Road - where mega brands trumpet their wares from every billboard and neon-lit mall - and on to scout back street bargains and local designers with some truly unique offerings.

Whatever you're in the mood for, Singapore has it in spades. And yes, the people smile and taxi drivers love to have a yak. It's a cliche but it certainly brings punters back for more.

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Orchard Road glitz and mega malls

Scotts Square is a new look kid on the old block

Scotts Square looking onto Tangs and Ion/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Originally named after the many pepper and nutmeg plantations dotting the road in the 1840s, Orchard Road underwent a S$40 million revamp in 2009 that unveiled widened pedestrian walkways and better lighting. The bustling shopping belt starts off from the busy junction where Wheelock Place (501 Orchard Road, tel: [65] 6738-8660, www.wheelockproperties.com.sg) stands with an unmistakable glass cone built within its architecture. It lights up like a giant Christmas Tree during the festive season.

Tenants in Wheelock Place include Apple computer and iPod reseller, EpiCentre @ Wheelock Place (02-20, tel: 6238-9378, www.epicentreasia.com), the Nike shop (02-02/03, tel: 6738-1965, www.nike.com.sg), chockfull of the latest sports gear, and Marks & Spencer (01-01, tel: 6733-8122), the well-known British department store with fashion, foodstuff, toiletries and decent underwear for men and women. For feminine rock chic items, head to the basement where popular Shibuya brand Rosebullet (B2-06, tel: 6887-4985, www.facebook.com/rosebulletsg) made its way to local shores in late 2012.

Straddled atop the Orchard MRT station is the huge and futuristic ION Orchard (2 Orchard Turn, tel: [65] 6238-8228, www.ionorchard.com), touted as “Singapore’s first multi-sensory experiential shopping and lifestyle mall”. So that’s music, colour, perfumed stores, increasingly heavy bags, and a serious sense of space – this gargantuan mall houses more than 300 stores across 66,000sq m of drool-worthy shopping. Aside from visiting the stand-alone stores of Aldo, Bimba & Lola, Boss Selection, Charles & Keith, Clarks, IWC Schaffhausen, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, Vivienne Westwood, and 7 For All Mankind, shoppers can call on the duplex flagship stores of Cartier, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Topshop/Topman, Uniqlo and Zara. If you happen to stop by here before June 2014, head over first to ION’s information counter where you can pick up your own ION Orchard Tourist Wallet. The wallet entitles all tourists to an additional 10 percent off their purchases from a plethora of shops – including IWC Schaffausen, DVF, Giuseppe Zanotti, DSquared. These perks also extend to their range of dining establishments, beauty, wellness and lifestyle shops.

Raffles City mannequin

Raffles City mannequin/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A short detour into Scotts Road will bring you to Far East Plaza (14 Scotts Road, tel: 6734-2325), which in recent years has spruced up its image serving a younger clientele with a variety of small shop units hawking designer t-shirts, dresses and accessories – in particular Level One, which is a designated zone for street fashion.

While the wares here are not always dirt-cheap, limited-edition Japanese tees, for example, are still affordable at just below S$50 (approximate exchange rate is US$1 = 1.27 Singapore dollars). Head to levels 3 and 4 for one-off designs and scour through bargain bins for beautiful steals that will cost you under S$20. Amongst the shops, we picked up a vintage Sonia Rykiel rose tea dress going for S$199.

Directly opposite the Far East Plaza is DFS Galleria Scottswalk (25 Scotts Road, tel: 6229-8100, www.dfsgalleria.com/en/singapore). Show your passport for duty-free savings on international luxury brands like Burberry, Mont Blanc, Dunhill, Prada and Tiffany & Co. You can also find the well-loved Helena Rubenstein, unavailable elsewhere in Singapore, here. Be prepared to embrace an assortment of fashion, cosmetics and liquors, as well as a selection of local specialties, like Tiger Balm medicated ointment, Chinese tea and Singapore Sling in takeaway bottles.

While you may not spot this in every Singapore shopping guide, over at Pacific Plaza (tel: 6733-5655) on 9 Scotts Road, our insider tip is to head for Quintessential (02-01, tel: 6738-4811, www.quintessential.com.sg), a multi-brand accessory shop with trendy and classic finds. Look for the colourful vintage-inspired clutches from Babe, a Hong Kong-based brand. All of the bags are hand-crafted, and have been snagged by the likes of Kate Winslet and Gisele Bundchen.

Next to the Grand Hyatt is the reborn Scotts Square (www.scottssquareretail.com), showcasing everything upmarket from Hermes, Michael Kors, Paul & Shark and Pierre Balmain to Vivienne Tam, Marina Rinaldi and Paul & Joe. You can also stock up on your stash of True Religion jeans at Bread & Butter (02-06, Tel: 6336 1474, www.vgocorp.com) where they carry other renowned denim brands like Evisu, Affliction, Rock & Republic and 7 for All Mankind. The overall selection of shops may not be huge but you'll spot some big and interesting fashion brands here.

Shopping in Singapore, Takashimaya at Ngee Ann City

Takashimaya/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Upon your exit from Scotts Square, follow the crowd past Crossroads Café (320 Orchard Road, tel: 6735-5800), a popular hangout for tourists and shoppers located at the junction of Scotts Road and Orchard Road, and you’ll find yourself in front of Tangs (310 Orchard Road, tel: 6737-5500, www.tangs.com.sg) - a Singapore retail institution, founded by C K Tang in 1932, in what remains the heart of the city. To mark its 80th birthday in 2013, Tangs launched a major facelift to convert 29,000sq ft of space into boutique beauty real estate, with a beauty salon on the 7th floor and a basement converted into an interactive cooking experience. Expect international fashion brands, shoes, accessories, beauty products, electronics and homeware, as well as exclusive merchandise. Check out Tang + Co on Levels 3 and 4, with women’s and men’s collections, and PlayLab (Level 4) with casual wear and funky accessories, bearing labels like bods. bodyknits, FCUK, Levi’s and Mooks.

Just a quick underpass away is Wisma Atria (435 Orchard Road, tel: 6235-2103, www.wismaonline.com). Its tenant mix includes longtime family favourite GAP (B1-20, tel: 6732-0438), trendy ALDO footwear and accessories (01-34 to 36, tel: 6836-2271), and the recently opened ladies fashion boutique OASIS (01-06 to 07, Tel: 6735-9801) from London, located right next to feminine apparel fashion label Forever New (01-12, tel: 6735-6909).

Japanese department store Isetan (tel: 6733-7777, www.isetan.com.sg) is the flagship tenant here with other interesting additions including quirky Singapore shop Red Army Watches (03-02, tel: 6732-6043, www.redarmywatches.com) – think revolutionary themed Russian timepieces with names like Vastok Europe, Zeppelin, Poljot International, and you’re halfway there. Add Dickson Watch & Jewellery (02-40, tel: 6737-6451), specialists in unusual timepieces that offer complimentary repair services, and you have a one-stop shop for the latest in wrist wear.

Though the fresh and fashion-forward line from All Dressed Up (Level 2, 6235-7123, www.alldressedup.com) likely won’t weigh down your arms, this boutique shop from Singapore style pioneer, Tina Tan-Leo, is also worth a look.

Bulgari store at the Hilton hotel on Orchard Road

BVLGARI store at the Hilton, Orachard Road/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Lucky Plaza (304 Orchard Road, tel: 6235-3294, www.luckyplaza.com.sg), once a prominent Orchard Road landmark, has lost much of its shine due to the mushrooming of swankier competition around it. It is notorious for touts persistently peddling copy-watches and is a favourite haunt of Singapore’s foreign domestic workers on Sundays. Stop off here for shopping bargains, especially for electronic goods such as cameras, DVD players and handsets.

If haggling gives you a headache, you can adjourn to the fixed price tag comfort of Paragon (290 Orchard Road, tel: 6738-5535, www.paragon.com.sg), where you’ll find everything under one roof for the fashionista in you – from Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna, Miu Miu, Salvatore Ferragamo, Banana Republic and G-Star, to department stores such as Metro (tel: 6835-3322, www.metro.com.sg) – founded in Singapore in 1957 as a textile store in a two-storey shophouse. Paragon offers high-end browsing with style, space and, of course, that ubiquitous Singaporean specialty – really cold air-conditioning. For a whiff of luxury, check out the lotions and fragrances from Escentials (3-02, tel: 6737-2478, www.escentials.com.sg) with best-selling scents from Acqua di Parma, Annick Goutal, Creed and Serge Lutens.

The Heeren (260 Orchard Road, tel: 6738-4388, e-mail: mallenquiries@heeren.com.sg or www.heeren.com.sg) underwent a revamp in 2012 and re-emerged in late 2013 as Robinson’s Orchard Departmental Store (www.robinsons.com.sg, tel: 6735-8838), another homegrown Singapore department store with an illustrious history as a trusted retailer. Its new premises at Heeren come in a totally different façade with beautiful hanging sculptures that are visible from the first floor. Though no longer a haven for music junkies (HMV has been uprooted to Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard), the six-storey departmental store includes everything you could expect to find in a major Orchard Road mall and more – from a fragrance bar stocking over 400 scents to stylish homeware, fashion items and offerings like Illamasqua and skincare by Chloe that were previously unavailable in Singapore.

Singapore shopping guide, Michael Kors at Scotts Square

Michael Kors at Scotts/ photo: Verghese

Women can check out ensembles from Ted Baker, Trucco, Jessica, Aryn K, and United Colors of Benetton, while men can indulge in Matinique and Bertoni. If you’re shopping for your home, there is Margaret Muir’s collection of embroidered bed linen, and brands like Calvin Klein Home, and Dorma.

Ngee Ann City (391 Orchard Road, tel: 6506-0462, www.ngeeanncity.com.sg), with its imposing façade and grandiose interiors, is a worthy stopover for a couple of hours (or a day, if you can spare the time) on your shopping itinerary.

The Japanese department store Takashimaya (tel: 6506-0458, www.takashimaya-sin.com) has international labels like DKNY, Kenzo, Bally, Bulgari (or BVLGARI), Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier, Gucci, and Jim Thompson stretched over a whopping six floors from Basement 2 to Level 5. In its food hall, you can also sample Japanese snacks and sweets, and gourmet food items from Harrods and Fauchon.

In the other parts of the expansive Ngee Ann City, you’ll find popular designer boutiques signposted by Alfred Dunhill, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Guess and Club Monaco. But don’t forget to drop by Japanese store Books Kinokuniya (03-09, 6737-5021, www.kinokuniya.com.sg), the largest print retail offering in Southeast Asia, and Best Denki (05-01, tel: 6835-2855, bestdenki.com.sg), where you can take your pick from a wide range of electrical appliances. Do not forget to pick up some delightful macarons on your way out at the Laduree teahouse (01-24A and 02-09, tel 6884-7361), which opened its Parisian doors in Singapore in late 2013.

Next to Ngee Ann City is the Mandarin Orchard Singapore (formerly Meritus Mandarin Hotel). The newlook shopping arcade, Mandarin Gallery (tel: 6831-6363, email: concierge@mandaringallery.com.sg or www.mandaringallery.com.sg) is home to more than 100 shops on four floors. The stylish window displays of Elephant & Coral, Nancy and The Denim Store will tempt window shoppers to steal more than a quick peek.

Lee Kuan Yew portrait at Raffles City art gallery

Lee Kuan Yew portrait at Raffles City art gallery by Ren Zhen Yu/ photo: Vijay Verghese

There is also a good, varied selection of luxury items: Vertu mobile phones, Bell & Ross watches, organic beauty products at Bud Cosmetics and exquisite flaky pastries at Antoinette. Pop into Mulberry’s duplex flagship store on the first level (01-09 to 02-09/10, tel: 6304 1384) before heading another level up to check out Fred Perry Laurel Wreath (03-08, tel: 6838-0920), a secondary brand from Fred Perry that offers limited edition men’s polo tees and other apparel.

For more street fashion, British value retail chain H&M (tel: 6235-1459, www.hm.com/sg/) opened September 2011 in Orchard Building, 1 Grange Road just across the street, taking over the previous premises of California Fitness, and plays to packed audiences - mainly young kids and college students.

Nearby Orchard Central (181 Orchard Road, tel: 6238-1051, www.orchardcentral.com.sg) is a 14-storey shopping mall boasting Nike, Levi’s and The Hour Glass. Neighbouring 313@Somerset (tel: 6496-9313, www.313somerset.com.sg) brings on a slightly different browsing experience as it houses multi-level boutiques, a rarity in Singapore malls. The four-storey Forever 21 store is an instant attraction for shopaholics. Conveniently connected to the Somerset MRT station, the shopping centre spans eight floors and contains a balanced mix of international (Zara, Mango, Cotton On) and local (Charles & Keith, Dyel) brands.

Towards the other end of Orchard Road lies Plaza Singapura (68 Orchard Road, tel: 6332-9298, www.plazasingapura.com), built in 1974. The latest addition of an east wing at a cost of $150million has upsized this decades-old grand dame to a whopping 629,000sq ft of shopping space – rivalling the spread of Ion Orchard and providing new shopping experiences and eateries. Fresh faces include the widely anticipated Tim Ho Wan teahouse, which has queues forming as early as 10.30am. If you are not feeling peckish, head across to J-runway (www.jrunway.com, 01-54, tel: 6337-7546), the first-of-its-kind concept store that houses many Japanese street fashion brands like WEGO, Mystic, Ciaopanic, Ray Cassin and EMODA. Homegrown label NERO (www.nero.com.sg 03-90, Tel: 6336-6858) has also set up its first concept store here, suiting up professionals and dapper gentlemen with both ready-made and made-to-measure men’s wear.

Singapore shopping at Clark Quay, Royal Selangor

Royal Selangor, Clark Quay/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Plaza Singapura is located in the middle of campus life. SMU is next door, MDIS is just a skip away, and if you were wondering, that ultra-stylish, imposing black building covered by trees on its left houses The School of the Arts. Students of all walks will want to wander through the nearby Select Books (51 Armenian Street, tel: 6337-9319, www.selectbooks.com.sg), an independent bookstore specialising in Southeast Asian titles.

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Marina and Raffles City buys

Moving out of the Orchard Singapore enclave, another shopping area fast gaining prominence is the Marina Bay area, which has a cluster of malls deserving of mention.

Raffles City Complex, designed by world-renowned architect I M Pei, is perched atop City Hall MRT station, and a great starting point for exploration. Raffles City Shopping Centre (252 North Bridge Road, tel: 6318-0238, www.rafflescity.com.sg), part of the complex that also houses an office block and two hotels, has another branch of Robinsons department store and numerous fashion and specialty shops such as Swatch (01-41, tel: 6334-5951), agnès b (01-26, tel: 6334-4910), Calvin Klein Underwear (02-36, tel: 6532-6469) and Dockers (01-14, tel: 6333-4517). Dockers is a great spot for those casual street-hip khakis and more for the man on the move.

Find a spacious Shanghai Tang. Raffles City is a hugely convenient spot for a range of designer brands and offbeat shopping too. On the ground floor find COACH, Tumi travel bags, Nine west Levi's Timberland, British India, Tommy Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers, Furla, MAC, Aldo, Accessorize (for bling trinkets) and Swarovski plus a clutch of fancy watch stores including Omega, Rolex, Philippe Charriol and IWC Shaffhausen.

Singapore shopping guide to art, Raffles City gallery

Raffles City art gallery photo: Vijay Verghese

Take the CityLink underground passageway (1 Raffles Link, tel: 6339-9913, www.citylinkmall.com) to an interesting mall below ground that connects you to Marina Square and Suntec City Mall. Along the way, check out the contemporary women’s footwear at homegrown Charles & Keith (B1-32/34 31, tel: 6338-0913, www.charleskeith.com), so chic that global luxury-giant LVMH purchased a 20 percent stake of the company in 2011, and has since expanded its offerings to China. The row of shops also include Chicago-style snacks from Garrett Popcorn Shops (B1-26A, tel: 6238-9918) and flirty lotions and makeup from the playful Etude House (B1-57, tel: 6884-6301).

Conveniently connected to CityLink is Marina Square (6 Raffles Boulevard, tel: 6339-8787, www.marinasquare.com.sg), comprising four levels of retail with more than 300 outlets including; GEOX (02-127 to 128, tel: 6333-9819), which touts comfy Italian shoes that “breathe”; The Planet Traveller (03-124 to 127, tel: 6337-0291, www.theplanettraveller.com), Asia’s largest lifestyle travel store with a floor space of 5,000sq ft catering to all your travel needs; Fourskin (03-349 to 354, tel: 6333-1878), a local label offering trendy tees for around S$20; Bershka (02-304, tel: 6339-0837), a stylish and sophisticated label for young men and women; and The Bodyshop (02-340, tel: 6334-9336)  for cruelty-free fragrance, bath and skincare products.

Also in Marina Square, if in search of a reliable camera shop, check out Cathay Photo (02-215, tel: 6339-6188). Staff are polite and will walk you through the innards of the latest gadgets. Camera prices in Singapore are competitive. Cathay Photo also has a shop in the cheaper Peninsula Plaza. Pick up lenses, camera bags and tripods.

Bath & Bodyworks store at Marina Bay Shoppes

Bath & Bodyworks at the Marina Shoppes/ photo: store

The Marina Bay Sands Resort shopping mall, named The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (www.marinabaysands.com), houses more than 300 retail and dining outlets in over 800,000sq ft of space. Don't be put off by the frou frou name – this place comprises a mix of local and foreign brands, high-end tenants include the likes of Chanel (L1-59, tel: 6634-7350), Saint Laurent (B1-116, tel: 6688-7338), Cartier (1-39A, tel: 6688-7388) and Tiffany & Co (B1-132, 6688-7728).

One of the new Singapore shopping malls featured in our fun buys guide, this construct also carries several overseas labels that have chosen to make their first foray into Singapore: like iRoo from Taiwan (B2-101, tel: 6688-7046) and Moiselle from Hong Kong (B2-26, tel: 6688-7768). And if you have been one of the multitude who have been getting their Bath & Bodyworks fix via its online shopping site, here’s news. The luxurious bath brand has launched its flagship store (B2-42, tel: 6723-8080) in February 2014 and is located next to Sephora (B2-43, tel: 6688-7713), the purveyor of cult and prime beauty products.

Other new players in the Shoppes include Hackett (B2-230/231A, tel: 6723-7227), a British retailer that offers a full range of formal wear and gentlemen’s club style accessories within its 2,575sq ft space; and La Martina (B1-82/82A, tel: 6723-7234), an Anglo-Argentine leisure clothing label that showcases stylish polo t-shirts within its classical vintage confines.

The most popular attraction has been the indoor canal running down the middle of the mall. For S$10, you can take a slow ride on a twee Chinese-style sampan rowboat down the length of the mall and back. So take a break from shopping and instead of heading to a café, head to the canal for a more novel alternative to cake and coffee. At very least it is a child-friendly feature that can distract the tots while you splash out.

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Suntec City and one large fountain

Accessible from Marina Square via an overhead bridge is Suntec City Mall (3 Temasek Boulevard, tel: 6825-2667, www.sunteccity.com.sg), a sprawling shopping mall divided into four themed zones (Galleria, Tropics, Entertainment Centre and Fountain Terrace) and features the Fountain of Wealth, acknowledged by The Guinness Book of Records as the largest fountain in the world. Legend has it that you should wet your hands in it, return to Singapore, and get instant wealth – although with all this shopping, your wallet might not agree. The Galleria, Entertainment Centre and fountain emerged from renovation late 2013, while the Tropics on Towers are being reworked for launch in late 2014.

Singapore shopping a Millenia Walk, The Redundant Shop - cycles and more cycles

Redundant Shop bikes, Millenia Walk/ photo: Vijay Verghese

As you meander your way through the 888,000sq ft of wall-to-wall retail, check out Lowry’s Farm (01-375 to 377, tel: 6337-4558, www.point.co.jp) a specialty shop offering quality wear for relaxation, timeless basic items and seasonal trendy apparel for women. Also take a pit stop at electronics giant, Harvey Norman (02-69, tel: 6332-3212, www.harveynorman.com.sg). The shop has a large range of stuff from top-drawer cameras and video players to home appliances. It runs several outlets throughout Singapore including at Raffles City (and in Malaysia).

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Tick tock, tip-top watches at Millenia Walk

An often-overlooked and less trampled gem we’ve picked for our crazy sale guide is Millenia Walk (9 Raffles Boulevard, tel: 6883-1122, www.milleniawalk.com), within walking distance from both Marina Square and Suntec City and conveniently linked to hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental and Pan Pacific. Designed by Pritzker Award winning architect Philip Johnson, the cheery mall houses more than 190 interesting fashion spots and speciality shops. Check out the feisty and playful The Redundant Shop (01-71/72, www.theredundantshop.com/) selling everyuthing from state-of-the-art cycles to gadgets for the home or personal use. Some great lifestyle design choices here. Explore slender line Aoi Cycles, functional but elegant vanmoof bikes and even Vespa products.

Looking for a timepiece? You'll be spoilt for choice at Singapore watch shops like The Hour Glass (01-27, tel: 6339-4870, www.hourglass.com.sg, which has outlets just on Orchard Road), and Cortina Watch Espace (01-62, tel: 6339-1728, www.cortinawatch.com). Don’t forget previously mentioned Red Army Watches in Orchard Road’s Wisma Atria.

Millenia Walk’s choice of fashion outlets to recharge your wardrobe include bespoke shoemaker Ed et Al (edatal.sg, 01-67, tel: 6337-8919), handmade jewels and throwback dresses at Deja Vu Vintage (01-70, tel: 6338-8013, dejavuvintage.com), and brightly hued, flowing frocks at Trixilini (01-57, tel: 6338-7060, www.trixiliniboutique.blogspot.com), while beauty, spa and cosmetic stores include Aesop (01-43, tel: 6336-4747, www.aesop.com.sg) and Senteurs de Provence (01-77, tel: 6334-4163, www.senteurs.com.sg).

If you’re into designer furniture and home accessories, check out Commune (02-51, tel: 6338-3823, www.thecommunelife.com) for splurge worthy sofas and throw pillows. Then crank up your wallet again for state-of-the-art home entertainment systems at BOSE MilleniaWalk (01-35, tel: 6339-0966, global.bose.com). For more affordable furniture and electronics, roam the sprawling Harvey Norman store (02-57, tel: 6311-9988, www.harveynorman.com.sg). After thinning your wallet, be sure to fatten yourself up with a sweet or savoury macaroon at the friendly and feminine Francisca Dessert Parlour (02-35, tel: 6333-4847, www.francisca.com.sg).

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Electronics and computer shops

Shopping in Singapore for electronics and computers at Sim Lim Square

Sim Lim gadgets/ photo: Verghese

Near City Hall station is Funan The IT Mall (109 North Bridge Road, tel: 6336-8327, www.funan.com.sg), which, as its name suggests, is geek heaven. Notebook PCs, ranging from Lenovo and Acer to HP and Fujitsu, are on display at various shops here, as well as other computer hardware, software and accessories scattered on different floors of the building.

Across North Bridge Road from Funan is The Adelphi (1 Coleman Street, tel: 6339-9179), where most of the respected hi-fi brands are on sale to satisfy the cravings of even the most ardent audiophile. Also nearby is Cathay Photo Store located in Peninsula Plaza (111 North Bridge Road, 01-11, tel: 6337-4274, www.cathayphoto.com.sg), if you wish to stock up on camera lenses or try out the latest digital camera or video-cam.

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Bugis Junction and Arab Street

Another place to get cheap computers, electronics and audio-visual equipment is Sim Lim Square (1 Rochor Canal Road, tel: 6338-3859, www.simlimsquare.com.sg), a more crowded, less organised version of Funan, but with more room for deals and price negotiations. Do take note that bargains are only found after some expert haggling to bring down inflated prices. To avoid being scammed, watch out for the flyers that are put up quarterly at the lift lobbies by Singapore’s consumer watchdog CASE that name and shame errant peddlers within the mall. Sim Lim Square is near the Bugis MRT station, which is also where you can alight to visit Parco Bugis Junction (Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria Street, tel: 6557-6557, www.bugisjunction-mall.com.sg), where you’ll find department store BHG (02-00, tel: 6223-2222, www.bhgsingapore.com.sg), incorporating the popular Muji store, famous for its minimalist no-brand fashion, stationery and household items.

Apart from various little shops selling everything from fashion to electronic items, Parco Bugis Junction also boasts boutiques such as Little Match Girl (02-05, tel: 6336-3396, www.littlematchgirl.com.sg) and m)phosis (01-02, tel: 6339-8553). Other stores include a smaller outlet of Books Kinokuniya (03-09, tel: 6339-1790, www.kinokuniya.com.sg) and Sony (01-58, tel: 6837-0646, www.sony.com.sg).

Persian carpets at Arab Street

Persian carpets on display at Arab Street / photo: Vijay Verghese

Across Victoria Street, opposite Parco Bugis Junction, is hard-to-miss Bugis+ (201 Victoria Street, tel: 6631-9931, www.bugis-plus.com.sg). Formerly known as Iluma, the landmark shopping mall re-launched in 2012 after an extensive makeover. Designed by award-winning Singapore architecture firm Woha, it features a distinctive façade – 10-storeys of studded lights that resemble oversized gemstones. More than 194,000sq ft of entertainment, food outlets and shops for the young, hip and trendy – like soft and sophisticated stuff from Lacquär (03-02, tel: 6509-3119), Japanese trends at Lowrys Farm (02-02, tel: 6884-5019), colourful street looks from Pull&Bear (01-19, tel: 6884-4347) as well as smaller boutiques like Berries Studio (03-01, 6509-9686).

Beside Bugis+, you’ll find Bugis Street, with its sheltered walkways and shopping zones housing over 600 stalls of trendy streetwear and eclectic knickknacks. Any breezy, fun Singapore shopping expedition should mark Bugis Street as a must-do.

For more bazaar-style shopping, take a stroll over to the Arab Street area that oozes Malay cultural vibes. Check out hand-woven baskets and other cane, straw and rattan products, as well as antiques, retro artefacts, batik shirts, table linens and sarongs. For textiles ranging from chiffon to silk, stop for a look at Basharahil Bros. (101 Arab Street, tel: 6296-0432) and Poppy Fabric (111 Arab Street, tel: 6296-6352). As Arab Street is near the Sultan Mosque, you’ll also find Singapore shop houses selling the holy Quran, prayer mats and songkok (headgear worn by Muslim males) – not to mention coffee shops and restaurants serving Malay, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. For lunch, duck into the shady and cool interiors of Kampong Glam Café (17 Bussorah Steet) for authentic Malay cuisine. The café serves delicious beef rendang, curry and rice for under S$5 and its central location allows diners to soak in the bustling atmosphere while enjoying a delicious break.

Singaspore bargains on shoes, Bugis stall

Shoes at Bugis Junction/ photo: Vijay Verghese

After lunch, continue on the same lane past Baghdad Street. Crossing the road at Arab Street, you will find yourself in a quiet bend called Haji Lane. Here, hip boutiques and people are beginning to fill-up its once empty corners and you will find anything from ice-cream parlours, double-storey blogshops, trinkets displays, genuine steals and gorgeous dresses from local designers to a bike shop. Visit carpet retailer, Anil Brothers (28 Haji Lane, tel: 6298-3395), one-of-a-kind high-street fashions from The Blogshop (35 Haji Lane, tel: 6396-6170, blog.supclothing.com), and casual gear from SUP (34 Haji Lane, tel: 6297-9384, blog.supclothing.com). Also look for bright and playful home decor at Pluck (31 Haji Lane, tel: 6396-4048, www.pluck.com.sg), gentlemen’s garments, leather shoes and accessories at KIN (Know It Nothing, www.knowitnothing.com) and pretty frocks and other kitschy items from the double-storey boutique Soon Lee (73 Haji Lane, tel: 6297 0198).

Hop into Grandfather’s Collections (42 Bussorah Street, tel: 6299-4530) for houses antiques and retro finds and Salad (25 Haji Lane, tel: 6299-5805, www.the-salad-store.blogspot.com), which serves up black-and-white home décor and fashion accessories. Bike lovers should stop by Tokyo Bike (38-01 Haji Lane, Tel: 6299-5048), Tokyo’s first and only flagship boutique in Asia outside Japan that focuses on city exploration cycling with both simplfied and chic bike features.

For more online bargains visitors might like to try FlipIt (www.flipit.com/sg), to pick up the latest discount codes from a wide range of stores. Find information for all registered stores as well as a Top 20 Codes listing.

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Little India, Chinatown, Ann Siang Hill, Club Street

Other ethnic shopping enclaves in Singapore include Little India and Chinatown – both are tourist attractions in their own right, steeped in ethnic colours and flavours.

Shopping in Singapore, Little India

Little India: gold and spice/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Little India is about 20 minutes’ walk along Selegie Road from Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, (or go straight to Little India MRT station). Here, you can choose from Indian gold jewellery (intricate bridal ornaments to more affordable bangles and ankle bracelets), brassware, silverware and, of course, yards and yards of glittering saris in multiple hues.

If your friends back home enjoy cooking Indian curries, ready-made packets of spice are wonderful take-home gifts. Should the assault to the senses start to numb, you can always escape into Mustafa Centre (145 Syed Alwi Road, tel: 6295-5855, www.mustafa.com.sg), a modern 24-hour department store that offers everything from electronics, clothing and toiletries to foodstuff at very reasonable prices. Small packages of delicious Ceylon tea from Mustafa’s shelves make affordable gifts of under S$10.

In the shadow of the financial district’s high-rise towers, Singapore’s Chinatown is accessible by either Chinatown or Outram Park MRT stations. If you plan a stint of shopping in Singapore, set aside a half hour or hour at least for this district. Chinatown Point (133 New Bridge Road, tel: 6535-2846) is situated just above Chinatown station. Recently refurbished and open for shoppers again, the interior of this once-ageing shopping complex has been revived to resemble the inside of The Oriental hotel with fan-shaped carpets. Get your year’s supply of bird’s nest, an oriental delicacy at Emperor Brand Bird’s Nest (B1-07, tel: 6533-5633) or Chinese herbs, Ginseng and tinctures at homegrown medical halls Eu Yan Sang (B1-05, tel: 6702-0180) or Hock Hua Tonic (B1-36, tel: 6694-8616).

Just across the junction from Chinatown Point is Yue Hwa department store (70 Eu Tong Sen Street, tel: 6538-4222, www.yuehwa.com.sg), which offers authentic Chinese products including tea, herbs, medicines, foodstuffs, silks, cheongsams, handicrafts, household items and antiques. OG People’s Park (100 Upper Cross Street, tel: 6535-8888, www.og.com.sg) is a household name in Singapore, with a long history in Singapore’s retail scene. Like any department store, it sells fashion, accessories, beauty and cosmetic products, toys, and so on.

Books are wonderfully cheap in Singapore - Changi Airport store

Changi Airport bookstore/ photo: Verghese

While in Chinatown, you can also venture into the maze of shophouses all along Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road. Don’t forget to wander into side streets (like Smith Street, Trengganu Street, Temple Street and Pagoda Street) and any interesting alleyways – you never know what you might find, whether a quaint medicine stall hawking snakeskin, an authentic teashop or a smoky store selling tidbits and barbecued pork.

Ann Siang Hill and Club Street may be yuppie hotspots at night, but scour the shops there in the day for some interesting finds. At Style: Nordic (39 Ann Siang Road, tel: 6423-9114, www.stylenordic.com), browse the coolest fashion and furniture from Finland, Denmark and Sweden. The world’s oldest barbershop Truefitt and Hill (9 Ann Siang Rd, tel: 6223-5263) set up its exclusive quarters here in September 2013, where clients go to enjoy traditional wet shaves and haircuts while enjoying bespoke barber services befitting a gentleman. Expect cocktails served on the side and a cigar bar too. Very Jermyn Street and Old Bond.

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Holland Village and Dempsey Road antiques

Explore Holland Village (accessible by buses 7, 77 or 106 from Orchard Boulevard, or a 20-minute jaunt on foot from Buona Vista MRT station, www.holland-village-singapore.com) for handicrafts and more shopping without the bright lights and ice-cold temperatures. With its mix of cafés, pubs and eateries, Holland Village is also dubbed Singapore’s “bohemian enclave” and the perfect spot for people-watching. This is also where you can find a variety of shops selling well-made souvenirs and handicrafts – from Bali-inspired crafts to Chinese silks.

Located in Holland Road Shopping Centre, Lim’s (211 Holland Avenue, 02-01, tel: 6467-1300) brims with interesting Asian-themed furniture and creative décor ideas (like porcelain vases, lacquerware and silk pillow covers) sourced from China, India and Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. Just off Holland Road, two bus stops away from the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the Dempsey Road area (now part of Tanglin Village) is home to art galleries, antique shops and furniture and carpet dealers.

Tudor Court on Tanglin Road offers antique shops and carpets

Tudor Court on Tanglin Road / photo: Vijay Verghese

Nestled within the former British army barracks (which later became the Singapore Armed Forces’ Central Manpower Base), Linda Gallery (Block 15, Dempsey Cluster, tel: 6476-7000, www.lindagallery.com) is a specialist in contemporary Chinese, Indonesian, Indo-European and South-east Asian art, but on occasion also showcases Singapore art. Woody Antique House (Block 7, Dempsey Road 01-08, tel: 6476-7000) is another interesting place to peruse and discover Burmese teakware and Chinese antiques.

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And finally back to Tanglin Road

Closer to town, just before the Orchard Road shopping bustle, Tanglin Shopping Centre (19 Tanglin Road, tel: 6737-0849, www.tanglinsc.com) is another good place to hunt for Asian antiques and curios – from Persian carpets to Japanese pearls. Antiques of the Orient (02-40, tel: 6734-9351, www.aoto.com.sg) offers antiquarian maps, prints and books, as well as original photographs and postcards and, while you’re at it, enjoy the quaint buildings of Tudor Court and enjoy a cup of tea and respite at Hediard (125 Tanglin Road tel: 6333-6683). Head back into the hustle of Orchard Singapore or delve into the quieter side of Tanglin.

Tanglin Mall (163 Tanglin Road, tel: 6736-4922, www.tanglinmall.com.sg) is a centrally located shop stop for families with kids as well as expat singles on the run. The basement food court serves excellent Indian vegetarian as well as Korean and Yantra does excellent Indian kebabs in posh and pricey surrounds with extraordinarily dim-witted and slow service. But why limit your choices. There’s lots more. Sample British India (02-04, tel: 6735-3466), Salam Carpets (03-17, tel: 6735-6733), Birkenstock Boutique (02-15 tel: 6835-2702), Kidz Story (01-09 tel: 6734-0405), Royal Sporting House (01-21, tel: 6735-5875), as well as Home-Fix the DIY Store  (B1-16, tel: 6738-6086) ,an excellent basement spot for bits and bobs for the home). The hugely popular That CD Shop with a huge array of quick compilations and esoteric stuff from Latin American to Cuban to Jazz has moved out with climbing rents alas but can be found at Pacific Plaza on Scotts Road, Great World City, or B2-47/48, Canal Level, at glitzy The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

If you can’t get enough of Singapore’s original and creative art scene, pop over to MAAD (tel: 6534-7209, www.maad.sg), short for Market of Artists And Designers, which is a one-of-a-kind crafts market at Red Dot Design Museum (28 Maxwell Road; nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar, tel: 6327-8027, www.museum.red-dot.sg) that provides a platform for budding artists and designers to transform their innovative ideas into reality. MAAD bazaar is held every first weekend of the month. Operating like a flea market, it is filled with designer t-shirts (starting from roughly S$30), hand-crafted earrings (from S$15) and necklaces (from S$30), pinhole cameras (around S$250), as well as dresses, toys, bags, iPod skins, and all kinds of eclectic items.

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More retail madness in Sentosa

Forever New at Raffles City mall

Forever New, Raffles City/ photo: store

Now, for a complete shift in mood: VivoCity (1 Harbourfront Walk, tel: 6377-6860, www.vivocity.com.sg) is a sometime rising star on Singapore’s competitive retail front. Easily accessible from Harbourfront station, this is Singapore’s largest retail, entertainment and lifestyle destination, well-positioned to tap tourist traffic heading for a spot of gambling or theme-park fun at Sentosa Island’s Resorts World Integrated Resort.

Designed in the signature style of internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Toyo Ito, it houses quirky and creative stationery from Australian brand, Smiggle (02-17, tel: 6376-8134,www.smiggle.com.au), beauty stores Crabtree & Evelyn (01-09, tel: 6270-6887,www.crabtree-evelyn.com/stores/country/singapore) and SaSa (02-176/177, tel: 6376-9713), another branch of electronic chainstore Best Denki (02-07, tel: 6276-6636), and fashion boltholes Pull&Bear (01-28A, tel: 6276-2260), A|X Armani Exchange (01-202, tel: 6304-1448), and Denizen (01-177, tel: 6376-9048). For serious shopaholics headed to Sentosa, VivoCity could make an interesting stop.

In the same area, located close to Sentosa Island in the expansive and fast-developing HarbourFront Precinct is the three-storey HarbourFront Centre (1 Maritime Square, tel: 6570-5508, www.harbourfrontcentre.com.sg). Expect a broad retail mix and food outlets from Vietnamese to Cantonese. Cotton Armour (02-88/89, tel: 6271-0407) features one-of-a-kind clothing with elaborate stitching and embroidery, while LaLu (01-51/52, tel: 6271-0838) serves up Eighties throwback fashions. There is a Mothercare (03-07, tel: 6513-3243) too for tiny tot tidbits.

A glamorous addition to our Singapore shopping guide is the Resorts World (www.rwsentosa.com) on Sentosa Island, the newish hotel-and-entertainment hub that launched in January 2010. The buzzing shopping esplanade connects Crocksford Tower and Hotel Michael, both upscale establishments, and reflects top-drawer tastes as well as fun fashions that will appeal to families and younger couples. At Resorts World Sentosa the Luxury Fashion shopping stretch includes several choice brands, including BVLGARI, Bally, Chanel Watches, COACH, Chopard, Rolex, Tumi (for bags and suitcases with an edge), Victoria's Secret, Polo, and Jimmy Choo. Take a break from those casino winnings for a dip into designer brand shopping without remorse.

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Roll-up-the-sleeves local shopping

Changi Airport offers good duty-free shopping options

Changi Airport shops/ photo: Verghese

It’s worthwhile to note that while Orchard Road, Marina Bay and Harbourfront remain the main shopping clusters in Singapore, suburban malls have also cropped up in housing estates like Tiong Bahru (Tiong Bahru Plaza, 302 Tiong Bahru Road, tel: 6276-4686, www.tiongbahruplaza.com.sg), Bishan (Junction 8, 9 Bishan Place, tel: 6354-2955, www.junction8.com.sg), Woodlands (Causeway Point, 1 Woodlands Square, tel: 6894-2237, www.causewaypoint.com.sg) and Boon Lay (Jurong Point, 1 Jurong West Central 2, tel: 6792-5662, www.jurongpoint.com.sg) – all of which are easily accessible via MRT.

Most of these malls do not have much character, as they serve the basic needs of residents rather than catering to tourists, but they do have supermarkets (mainly Cold Storage and NTUC Fairprice), and the usual clothing stores like Giordano, Hang Ten and Bossini, where jeans can start from S$20 and polo shirts start from S$10, as well as pharmacies and beauty stores like Guardian Pharmacy, Watson’s and The Body Shop. Often they also have healthcare equipment vendors like OSIM and OTO.

Literature lovers will relish in the nearby Books Actually (9 Yong Siak Street, 6222-9195, www.booksactually.com). This all-in-one bookshop retails classics by the likes of Truman Capote, hand-stitched notebooks and retro film cameras and typewriters. With books come good steaming Javas and you should not miss a tea-break at Tiong Bahru Bakery (56 Eng Hoon Street, tel: 6220 3430), which bakes its aromatic stuff in-house and rustles up a mean ham and cheese focaccia paired with robust coffee.

Just across the Singapore River is a vintage home goods shop called The Godown (44 Zion Road, tel: 6333-8966, thegodownstore.com), where interior designer Audrey Lee specialises in revitalising and up-cycling used goods. Inspired by Asia’s dockside warehouses, this industrial free-range space is full of eclectic accessories and hand-selected furniture.

Singapore duty free shopping, Bulgari, BVLGARI outlet at Terminal 3

Terminal 3 Bulgari duty-free/ photo: Verghese

Travellers curious enough to venture into the heartland should head towards the Eastern neighbourhood of Tampines (which is also a stop on the MRT line), where there is yet more choice – Tampines Mall (4 Tampines Central 5, tel: 6788-8370, www.tampinesmall.com.sg) and Century Square (2 Tampines Central 5, tel: 6789-6261, www.centurysquare.com.sg).

But the most recent addition is Tampines 1 (10 Tampines Central 1, tel: 6572-5522, www.tampines1.com.sg), which aims to bring a dash of “metropolitan lifestyle” to the area, with fashion brands such as Springfield (01-03, tel: 6781-6087), Promod (01-01, tel: 6782-8510) and Uniqlo (02-28, tel: 6587-0093, www.uniqlo.com/sg).

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Duty-free prices at Singapore’s Changi Airport

With so many retail choices in downtown Singapore, most visitors won’t postpone their shopping experience until just before their departure. But Changi Airport Shopping City (www.changiairport.com.sg), winning the vote for some of the world’s best duty-free shopping, should keep last-minute duty free shoppers more than happy. You’ll find heaps of fashionable brands peppered throughout the airport. Look for MAC, Vertu, Hermes, Longchamp, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ferragamo, and Bottega Veneta in Terminal 1; Bobbi Brown, Armani, Shanghai Tang, Origins, Swarovski, and Kiehl’s in Terminal 2; and Montblanc, Tiffany & Co, Bally, Burberry, Prada and Bumble & Bumble hair products in Terminal 3.

Apart from numerous newsstands and the usual Singapore airport duty-free outlets selling fragrances, cosmetics, cigarettes and liquor, departing passengers can check out world cuisine provided by 80 food and beverage outlets. Terminals 1 and 2 have been through upgrades with Terminal 1 relaunched mid 2013 with a breezy new look and a centrepiece "Social Tree" with LCD screens and private kiosks for travellers to take a photo of themselves (or even video) to post on the tree, to their friends or on Facebook. The purple and blue pulsating lights keep the kids happy and blushing faces indicate the successful posting of yet another bashful smile. Not sure if you can delete the pics once up. Also in Terminal 1 find Victoria's Secret, Salvatore Ferragamo, BVLGARI, Longchamp, Omega, Gucci, Burberry, and lots of chocolate shops.

At Changi Terminal 1, upload photos and video to the Social Tree

Terminal 1 Social Tree/ photo: Verghese

Singapore duty free shopping prices at all three terminals are competitive with most places in Asia. In April 2016 Changi Airport duty-free shopping rates suggested some good buys like the Johnnie Walker Black (only available in a 1.125 litre size) at roughly US$35, with the Chivas Regal silver-box 12-year-old Scotch, also 1.125 litres, at US$34. On the perfume and aromas front a 50ml EDP of DIOR's J'Adore was at S$141.30 and a BVLGARI 50ml EDP of Rose Essentielle at S$118.50. These rates compare well with Hong Kong or Dubai. With the slippery greenback, rates fluctuate constantly. Don’t forget to bring along that extra bag – or simply buy one at Changi Airport. Then fill it up right to the top. And that's your A to Z of retail in our Singapore shopping guide.

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