Electronics shopping Thailand

cameraThe fast-paced markets in Thailand are overflowing with inexpensive electronic devices and accessories, some authentic, others imitations that are competitively priced for the local economy. Whether shopping for phones, MP3 players, laptops, movies, music, video games or software, you won’t have to look far in Thailand.

Barebones electronic devices like DVD players and stereos are priced very low. As a rule, these devices are imported from China, and while they may not be of the highest quality, they’re certainly good value. Keep in mind that returns and exchanges aren’t the norm in Thailand, so it pays to be sure before you buy.

Be warned that what appears to be a name brand accessory or device may in all likelihood be a fake. Pay close attention to the details of the device as well as the marketplace where you’re shopping for electronics (department store vs. street vendor) before you pay name brand prices.

However, strolling around the malls shopping for electronics in Thailand you’ll realise there is a rich market here. The upmarket places in Bangkok and major centres are full of impressive displays of the latest electronic devices, ranging from LCD panels and widescreens, to ipods, laptops, stereos and all sorts of computer or entertainment gadgets. All are made in Asia, many in Thailand, making them significantly cheaper. Brands range from Chinese no-names to top end audio.

Panthip Plaza in Bangkok is the number one destination for shoppers of electronics goods, particularly computer items. But the many malls in the Siam Square and Sukhumwit areas also hold their own with an envious selection that is sure to have you reaching for your credit card. In Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya there are also malls with well stocked electonics shops.

Shoppers are sure to encounter shops and street vendors selling hoards of DVDs. Titles range from classics to new releases and even to movies that are currently in theatres. Prices on these discs are ridiculously cheap, and it nearly goes without saying that the film is an illegally pirated copy. Shoppers with a heavy conscience may with to stick to Thailand’s more mainstream electronic shopping venues where DVDs are sold in sealed, hard-plastic cases.

In Thailand, VCDs are even more abundant than DVDs. The discs look exactly the same as DVDs but the playback quality isn’t as good. Legitimate copies cost considerably less than their DVD counterparts and most DVD players are outfitted to play them at home and abroad. If you opt to purchase a VCD, just take care not to buy a copy with dubbed audio in Thai. VCD cases are often clearly marked, but it never hurts to ask. This is less of an issue with DVDs, which carry multiple audio tracks that are easily switched on and off.

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Any time you’re shopping for electronics in Thailand, specifically videos and accessories, pay special attention to the region assigned to the device or video. Most DVDs are region three, and may not be compatible with your player at home. On the other hand, DVD players purchased in Thailand aren’t usually assigned a region and will play all discs.

Rampant piracy across Asia has prompted software companies to lower their prices to keep a hold on as much business as possible. As a result, international shoppers have access to legitimate video games and name-brand software for a fraction of the price paid at home. Pirated copies are still relatively easy to find but are often problematic, but you can take your laptop to the counter and ask them to install the software for you to be sure.

If you make a big electronics purchase, like a camera or a notebook, make sure and ask the store you’re buying from to fill out a VAT tax refund form. Tourists in Thailand are not required to pay this value added tax, and can collect a refund from a counter in the airport before heading through security.