Sim Lim Square is Singapore’s huge IT haven. 6 floors of shops stocking IT equipment from rack servers to digital cameras
When visiting Singapore I stay at the Hotel Intercontinental. It’s a 3 minute walk to through Bugi Junction to SimLim Square.
Getting to Sim Lim Square
Getting a cab to SimLim Square should be reasonably cheap from most hotels.
Make sure you tell the cab driver that you want to go to Sim Lim Square. If you just say Sim Lim they’ll take the opportunity to go to Sim Lim Tower (offices) rather than the shopping centre.
Sim Lim Tower is an electronics haven for Audio and DIY electronics fans and is worth a visit if you own a soldering iron or a nice stereo. We’ll be writing an article about Sim Lim Tower soon.
Shopping in Sim Lim Square
Getting the best deals at Sim Lim Square can be tricky.
The first step to getting a good price is to know that the higher up in the Sim Lim shopping centre the cheaper the goods tend to get. The shops on the ground floors will have higher rental charges and this will be reflected in the prices they sell for. Many tourists tend to get ripped off buying products on these levels.
I recommend reserving two days (or at least two visits) to get to grips with Sim Lim.
Your first visit to Sim Lim should involve going to the top of the building and slowly working your way down from the 7th floor to the ground floor. As you go around ask for a business card and write down any attractive prices that you see on the back of the card from the business. The business cards will have the floor and shop number written on them so you can return later if that’s the best price you can get. As you go around you can ask each shop for their “best price” if they are more expensive you can show them a card from a shop with a cheaper price. They will often drop their prices to compete. You’ll get much better results for this when working without GST and you may need to tell the shop owner this before they’ll drop their prices.
I recommend holding off on any big purchases until you’ve found the best price in all of Sim Lim. Come back on the second day (or second visit) and you’ll be able to go straight to the shops with the best prices. Be careful when picking up any other items not on your list. If you’ve haggled a good price on some equipment the shop will likely try and up sell you on a more profitable model …
Haggling doesn’t come easy to westerners and Australians are no different. I’d recommend proposing 5-10% below the price for cash (no GST) and see if the shop keepers propose another price.
The toilets on the ground floor are hideous. If you’re not spending a long time in Singapore it might be your only opportunity to see a squat loo.
The toilets on the 3rd floor were once much more accommodating and worlds apart from those on the ground floor, but now they all seem to be horrible.
Claiming GST in Singapore
Singapore has a 7% VAT/GST. Tourists to the country can claim this when they leave the country with goods purchased in Singapore.
Usually you will only be eligible for GST recovery if you purchase more than SG $100 per shop, per day. If you’re hoping to add receipts for products purchased from the same shop in different days forget it. This is why you want to gather all your prices first and pay in one go.
They’re quite strict about the rules for companies and tourists with this, so I wouldn’t bother trying to haggle to get your receipt re-printed or anything.
Usually you’ll need to tell the shop attendant that you need a GST form which is sometimes hand-written but mostly electronically printed.
The printed GST documentation is usually from one of two companies who organise the GST rebates. They both have different rules and forms.
Once you have the forms completed you will have to present the documentation at the airport.
Some shops use a GST counter on the ground floor of Sim Lim Square.
You’ll need your receipt, the gst paperwork from the company you purchased the products from and your passport. You don’t have to have do all this on the same day as you purchased your products.
If you’re lucky you’ll receive cash or a credit card deposit straight away. You’ll usually have to give them a credit-card number anyway. This is so that if you don’t present your paperwork at the airport they can take the cash back from you.
Once you’ve got your completed GST paperwork it’s off to the airport.
Depending on which company is managing your GST rebate you’ll need to visit different booths in different parts of the Airport
If you’ve purchased bulky goods or you’ve packed them in your check in luggage you may need to have them be sighted before you check in your luggage.
They don’t usually ask to see it all, but big ticket items will probably need to be seen. On a recent visit there I bought a watch for my girlfriend, the customs officer looked puzzled as to why I was buying a woman’s watch and wanted to see it.
They often wish to see the original receipt so if it’s not stapled to the GST form you’d better have it near-by
They should give you some paperwork back saying that they’ve sited it. They may also give you a completed envelope to post back to the company providing the GST rebate. When they receive the envelope they will deposit the GST in your bank account
If you’ve been shopping around a bit, you’ll probably have to visit another GST company booth.
Go to the next company GST booth with the paperwork you are carrying. They will probably require you to have your GST form validated which means a trip off to the customs validation booth (it’s usually next-door or not far away)
Once your form is validated return to the company GST booth and give them the completed and validated paperwork. They should hand you cash or you can have the GST deposited into your account.
If you’re planning on using the money for magazines for the plane and some food at the airport be careful, The Singapore airport (T1)’s newsagents have some of the worlds worst selection of magazines. I’d recommend buying a magazine before you get to the airport. 😛
I recommend haggling your prices with shops by saying “no GST”. Most shops will drop their prices significantly if you purchase the product without GST paperwork. This means you can’t claim the 6% GST back at the airport so make sure you’re getting at least a 10-15% discount.
Unless you’ve purchased several hundred dollars worth of gear that you can claim on, I’d recommend not attempting to claim the GST back – The system is difficult to navigate and there’s lots of gotchyas that mean you claim is annulled. The paper work is going to take 5 minutes to complete (usually done in the shop for you) but you’ll spend another 20-30mintes in queues at the airport or shopping centres. If you claim is only for $7 you’re going to waste a fair bit of your holiday…