Shenzhen is fast becoming a destination for long weekends, girls’ trips and spa treatments; however we love it for how it became popular in the first place – shopping! Not for the faint hearted, Shenzhen is popular with techies and fashionistas alike. Amazingly, you can find pretty much anything in this super-size mall, but we’ve learnt (through a lot of trial and error) how to make the most of the trip. Here are our tips and recommendations for how to tackle the Lo Wu Commercial Centre head on!
BEFORE YOU GO
The most important thing to remember when deciding to make the trip to Shenzhen is to get a visa, especially for trips lasting more than 15 days. What’s more, it is highly recommended to be travelling with six months validity on your passport at all times. Now, this may sound silly but given its relatively close proximity to Singapore, being less than four hours away by plane, we’ve heard of people heading up there without the necessary permits! What’s equally as important is that every passport has a different system – some passports (British and New Zealand) allow visas to be purchased at the boards, others (US) require more time. If you don’t know, head to your nearest local visa office.
It’s also worth noting that costs for a China visa vary for each passport – this can range dramatically from RMB160 – RMB1000+. (If your passport allows for your visa to be arranged at the border, immigration prefers to be paid in RMB.)
Be sure to ask around! It’s worth asking friends who’ve travelled up to Shenzhen to see what they did about their visa, prior to taking the journey up there.
Sassy Tip: there’s a wide range of visas available (single entry, 3-month, 6-month, etc.) – if it’s your first time, go for a single entry visa and see if you like it before investing in a longer term option!
Know what you want:
Heading up to Shenzhen without a plan of attack can be a total waste of time and money. Whilst famous for its handbags, jewellery and tailors, Shenzhen is also becoming a go-to for furniture and homeware.
One of the keys to a successful Shenzhen trip is to know what you want! Take as many printouts, magazine cut outs or drawings as possible – no matter what you are looking for! Source recommendations from friends and ask for the best places to go for what you need. Many places hand out business cards so it’s likely your friends will have a stack of them. (Remember to collect your own whilst there!)
Don’t go it alone:
Taking a friend with you is always a good idea. Although it’s not dangerous or threatening, it goes without saying that it’s better to travel with another person. There are some horror stories surrounding Shenzhen but we’ve personally not had experiences like this – you just need to be aware!
We tend to do ‘in-out’ trips – get in and out in the quickest time possible! But we have friends who could spend hours wandering the mall. Make sure you and your shopping buddy are on the same page – no one wants to be dragged around a mall or pulled away too soon!
When it comes to making your way to Shenzhen, the easiest, most hassle-free method (in our humble opinion) has got to be making flight arrangements with your local travel agent or booking a cheap flight online here.
With a flight duration of under four hours, you’ll arrive quick and easy. It makes for an ideal place to spend a few days with friends, shopping and eating under a budget.
ONCE YOU’RE THERE
The first trip to Shenzhen can be a little overwhelming. Make sure to check out Lo Wu Commercial Centre in all its industrial glory. With multiple floors and so many corridors, it can be really confusing (note: it also doesn’t tend to follow logical numerical order!). We normally start on the top floor and work our way down from there. Get your bearings by strolling around for a bit and sampling the goods on offer.
Shopping in Shenzhen isn’t relaxing. Be prepared to be pestered, followed, and sometimes ignored! Especially when you first arrive, people will approach you and ask you to come and look at their wares – and then follow you on the escalator for a bit. This is totally normal and is always accepted if you politely decline.
There are little pockets that focus on different products. On the third floor, you will find jewellery – from dramatic costume jewellery to strings of pearls, you can find anything you want here. The fifth floor is predominantly tailors and fabrics whilst the fourth floor caters to the techies.
Snaking your way up and down the different floors of the Lo Wu Commercial Centre can spark a pretty serious appetite. Without fail, our go-to spot for lunch or a light snack is Taste Café, located on the third floor.
Unlike a few of the mall’s other food joints, Taste has an extensive menu, comfy seats and – although the food won’t set the world on fire – it’s clean, consistent and reliable. We generally tend to steer clear of meaty dishes, opting for vegetarian fried rice or vegetarian Singapore noodles. The sautéed broccoli with garlic isn’t a bad shout either.
Outside the mall you will find staple fast food joints like McDonald’s and KFC.
If dining in isn’t your style, it’s best to swing by somewhere like Pret A Manger and take food to snack on with you.
SASSY TIPS FOR HAPPY SHOPPING…
SORT YOUR MONEY!
Trust us; it will save you stress (and shopping time) by converting a suffucient amount of SGD into RMB, as it is the best to shop with and preferred by most shop keepers, but in some cases USD is accepted – if need be. If you’re unsure about how much moolah to take with you, do some ground work ahead of your trip. Think about what you want to buy and ask around as to how much friends and colleagues have forked out for similar items.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT:
- Comfy shoes
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- Print-outs of specific items; visual aids are essential if you have a particular handbag or pair of sunglasses in mind. Detailed imagery of anything you want tailored is also critical! Make sure you have decent sized, colour images that cover multiple angles. This will help ensure that nothing is lost in translation (once again, we’ve learnt this the hard way) – Pinterest is a great tool for this!
- A small suitcase or trundler if you’re planning to make a big haul
- Handbag-friendly nibbles like nuts, popcorn or granola bars
COLLECT CARDS & MAKE FRIENDS!
Loyalty makes the Lo Wu Commercial Centre tick. If a certain handbag lady or tailor is recommended, head there and mention the fact you were referred to them. If you stumble across any gems while you shop, be sure to learn the names of the people who sell to you. Don’t forget to grab their business cards too (it’s easy to forget where shops are located otherwise!).
As touched on earlier, if you’re unfamiliar with Shenzhen shopping, do some research before you go. Ask around to gauge average prices and discuss how other people have found bargaining there before. If you don’t have Chinese language skills, try not to be taken for a ride. Decide how much you think something is worth and stick to your guns until you land on a dollar value you and the seller are both happy with.
Unfortunately, Lo Wu has a bit of a seedy side, and if you flash your cash or over dress, you may attract unwanted attention. Keep your wits about you while you shop; know where your wallet and phone are at all times. If you’re unfamiliar with the place, head there with a friend so you have each other’s backs.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, ENJOY!
Although it’s definitely not an ‘easy’ shopping destination, Lo Wu is packed full of fashion finds and can be really fun. As long as you head there energised, prepped and ready to hear a non-stop chorus of ‘Excuse me, missy, missy’, you’re sure to return with some great buys and a few good tales to tell!