I am planning a sept. travel and wonder whether it would be convenient to travel somewhere where you could buy electronics at a very attractive price (more than in the US, Canada, UK). Would Hong Kong, Singapure, Taiwan or Japan be such a place? Can some provide some tips where to buy at factory prices? The idea would be to travel with family and renew all the family electronics (3 laptops, 2 cameras, 4 cell-phones and maybe some other stuff).

  • Are you hoping that the travel costs will be less than any savings?
    – Gagravarr
    Jul 3 '14 at 14:10
  • @Gagravarr: no, but the savings could compensate it partially. Jul 3 '14 at 14:12

Goods bought overseas and brought back home for personal use, usually attract some kind of import tax (the exact rules depend on your home country). For example, in New Zealand, Customs has a web page titled How to determine your fees which has this description:

Working out your fees and charges can be complex. There are numerous factors that you will need to take into account such as concessions, duty-free allowances, preferences, valuation, depreciation, and the goods and services tax (GST).

In particular, if you are bringing back newly purchased goods on the same flight as yourself (as baggage):

Accompanied goods are goods (excluding your clothing and other personal effects) that are travelling with you on the same flight or ship, and that are for your own personal use. When you travel with your goods you have a personal concession of NZ$700. If you are over this amount then you may have some Customs charges to pay.

For other countries, the details will be different but the general principle is often the same. You may find that purchasing multiple laptops/cameras/phones might put you over the limit. If you bring the family, then each person usually gets their own personal concession, but you're probably paying thousands in travel costs. You will have to decide whether this is worth the trip for you.

Naturally, there are good reasons to travel even if you don't purchase any new electronics.

  • If I buy something in another country and use it (let's say a iPod for example) then bring it back home, how are customs to know that I didn't have it with me all along? If it is still in the box and bought duty free then fair enough, but if it is bought retail, I wouldn't think you would have to pay anything else or even declare it would you?
    – Dwev
    Jul 4 '14 at 8:50
  • That's true, you have the option of not declaring the goods. However, not declaring imported goods is an offence under the law. Your choice. Jul 4 '14 at 8:52
  • @Dwev Circumventing the law is always an option albeit not a foolproof one. Jul 4 '14 at 15:17
  • It is not my intention to break the law, and I will check it before I do anything. However, I have crossed inumerable times a border and customs officers never got interested in any electronic gizmo (all used), unless to scan it for security reasons. Jul 4 '14 at 17:01
  • It's not necessarily circumventing the law. Many countries allow a certain value of personal goods to enter the country without declaration. I can bring in up to €430 of "personal items" with no problems. If the entire family is travelling, this would be an allowance 'per person. I'm not sure about the laptops, but the rest would certainly fit into that limit.
    – Dwev
    Jul 8 '14 at 6:29

There are a few things to consider in such a plan.

  1. Cheap goods are often cheap for a reason. For branded goods they may be fakes, unbranded goods may be bottom of the barrel crap. Either way they may well not comply with safety regulations.
  2. Most countries have a value limit on what you can legallly import tax-free. For the UK it's £390, other EU countries will be similar. That might be enough to cover a bottom of the barrel laptop, phone and camera but it will be pretty tight.
  3. Some manufacturers may limit warranty service to the country or region in which the product was purchased.
  4. The plugs may be wrong for your country. On devices with mains power cords you can just swap the plug or cord but on devices with a wall wart you are stuck with using adaptors.
  5. The keyboard layout on laptops varies by country and may not be what you want.

Overall I have my doubts as to whether this is worthwhile on cost savings grounds (if you actually want to buy stuff that is not available in your country that is a different matter).

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