Shopping in Macau
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Macau, like Hong Kong, is a free port for most items, which leads to lower prices for electronics, jewelry, and clothing than other international cities. But the experience is completely different, with a low-key atmosphere, small crowds, and compact areas. It is a hub for traditional Chinese arts, crafts, and even some antiques (but be aware that there are many high-quality reproductions in the mix, too). Macau's major shopping district is along its main street in the downtown area, Avenida Almeida Ribeiro, more commonly known by its Chinese name, San Ma Lo; there are also shops downtown on Rua Dos Mercadores and its side streets; in Cinco de Outubro; and on the Rua do Campo.
You can see craftspeople at work making the "new antiques," particularly on the side streets of Tercena and Estalagens and the alleyways in front of the ruins of St. Paul's. Commonly sold pieces include lacquer screens, Chinese pottery, and huge wooden chests carved from solid mahogany, camphor wood, and redwood.
Many clothing shops offer low and discounted prices on seasonal clothing for men, women, and children. The best bargains are found in off-season clothing, athletic shoes, and factory overruns. There's the usual assortment of fake brand-name clothing sold in street stalls, but the majority of these clothes can be found in larger discount stores and tend to be genuine overruns and dead stock from major labels such as Esprit, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, GAP, and others. Major shopping areas include the small shops on Rua do Campo and around Rua Dos Mercadores in the downtown area. There are also bustling street markets downtown that sell clothes on São Domingos (off Largo do Senado), Rua Cinco de Outubro, and Rua da Palha.
Jewelry shops across from casinos in the downtown area sell luxury watches, pendants, and rings, some of which have been pawned by desperate gamblers. Prices are generally more reasonable than in Hong Kong, and premiums for workmanship are much lower. The price of the gold fluctuates with trading on the Hong Kong Gold Exchange, and each store will have an electronic display showing the current price of gold per tael, which is 1.2 troy ounces. Most Asian buyers prefer 24-karat gold, and shops prominently display 24-karat coins, bars, and crafts in their windows. Trusted Hong Kong stalwarts Chow Tai Fook and Chow Sang Sang have locations throughout Macau and are known for transparent pricing and knowledgeable staff with good English.
Most of Macau's shops operate year-round with a short break in late January for Chinese New Year and are open from 10 am to 8 pm and later on weekends. While most shops accept all major credit cards, specialty discount shops usually ask for cash, and street vendors accept only cash. For most street vendors and some smaller stores, some friendly bargaining is expected; ask for the "best price," which ideally produces instant discounts of 10%-20%. The shopping mantra here is "bargain hard, bargain often."
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