Renowned for its spectacular market stalls, high end boutiques and fantastic range of affordable shopping, Thailand is the perfect place to shop til you drop. In order to make the most of your Thailand shopping experience it's handy to know where and when to shop, how to bargain, types of payment accepted, potential return policies and of course, all about the VAT refund and how it can be processed.
While shopping in major malls or department stores, it’s important to remember that prices are fixed and haggling is considered rude. However, almost everywhere else in Thailand expects bargaining to take place, particularly at local and night markets.
Staying in Bangkok? Explore our comprehensive guide to Bangkok shopping here.
With many market retailers offering affordable 'brand name' (aka: fake designer goods) you can expect to pay a fraction of the price for items such as clothes, handbags, makeup and jewellery compared to the genuine product. Even if something displays a price, you can usually get between 10-40% off if you haggle well. It's important to note that most shopkeepers enjoy this process and if you display good manners and a big smile, your sense of humour will go a long way to getting you a great price. Walking away is also a great tactic for getting a heavily discounted price as often shopkeepers will shout a lower figure trying to lure you back.
In Thailand, a VAT or Value Added Tax is applied to the price of goods. The rate is applied at 7%, however, visitors to Thailand can claim a refund of this tax if their purchases total 5000 Baht or more and have been bought at a minimum of 2000 Baht per day. The refund will only apply if the goods are taken from Thailand within 2 months of their purchase date. It is recommended that visitors try to do most of their Thailand shopping at retailers who display a VAT Refund sign. To claim the refund visitors much keep their receipts and complete a refund application form at the time of purchase. They must also keep their purchases separate from their luggage at the time of departure for checking and validation.
Although Thailand shopping has a reputation for its great value, please remember that the quality of product varies and there are also many counterfeit goods for sale in Thailand. Unless you are purchasing brand name goods from an official retailer, you can almost guarantee they will be fakes. Visitors should also be careful when purchasing jewellery and electronic goods and should always enquire about return policies before buying.