But this must be a good deal on electronics, this is Hong Kong!

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There is a perception that electronics in Hong Kong are cheap. Perhaps for travelers from expensive European countries the prices seem low, but US travelers quickly learn that US prices for many products are about the cheapest in the world. Even many ‘Made in China’ products are cheaper in a Wal-Mart in Chicago than Beijing.

Hong Kong electronics and camera retailers maximize this perception to their advantage. The Rapid Traveler has seen few legitimate deals in the big shopping malls and streets, and his local classmates in university days warned him to be careful.

Tourists need to be aware that they are often:

  • In a jet-lag fog.
  • Excited at the new environment, with stores having more lights, sounds and crowds than Macau casinos.
  • Feeling pressure to make snap decisions.
  • Feeling reckless on a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip.
  • Misjudging costs in unfamiliar currency. Tourists tend to think foreign currency is ‘Monopoly money’ and act accordingly. And Hong Kong has currency issued by 3 different banks in different designs!
  • Wanting to show off the great deal to family and friends back home.

The antidote is proper prior research, restraint, and if you have a companion, delegate veto power. If you need a new gadget, find out the market prices in advance and have printouts with specs to compare model numbers that may differ by country. Then once in a place like Hong Kong, get a sense of the market at large-scale retailers like Fortress. Only then venture to the wild streets of Mong Kok vendors and others.

HK Dollars

Photo by peretzp

Some things to consider:
  • Is everything from operating system to manuals in English (or your desired language)? Manuals may be available on the web in extra languages.
  • Does the manufacturer’s warranty  cover your home country?
  • Is it dual-voltage (still an issue for small/cheap electronics and appliances).
  • What kind of electric plug does it have and are you willing to add adapters for your home country plugs? A few of the huge Hong Kong G-type plugs and you’ll need to check luggage.
  • They open the box and have you inspect in the store – good luck returning it the next day when you have regrets.
Techies can probably suggest many more things to consider.
Overall, unless you can verify that it is a great deal and no issues to bite you back home, it is probably best to stick with window shopping, no matter how hypnotic the grin of the salesman. The big exception is if you want the newest, coolest, lightest stuff and then Asia is indeed the place to go, especially Tokyo’s famed Akihabara district.
Sai Yeung Chiu Street South

Photo by Rob Young

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