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. Now, this may sound silly but given its close proximity to Hong Kong, 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 the visa office in Wan Chai or ask a representative at China Travel Service (HK). Although the slightly more expensive option, it’s also possible to ask CTS to arrange for your visa.
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! Hong Kongers regularly travel up to Shenzhen so it’s worth asking friends 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 home-ware.
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 to be the East Rail Line. Starting at Hung Hom station, the train travels directly to Lo Wu station, which is literally only a hop, skip and a jump away from the Lo Wu Commercial Centre.
Getting to Hung Hom is a piece of cake via the MTR or taxi. Directions to find trains for Lo Wu are clearly sign posted; there are regular departures from platforms 1 and 4. From Hung Hom to Lo Wu, the travel time is approx. 35 minutes.
Sassy tip: if you’re heading to the Lo Wu Commercial Centre or you don’t have a China visa sorted ahead of your journey, make sure you jump on a train bound for Lo Wu, not Lok Ma Chau. Trains for both destinations depart from the same platforms so it’s easy to get them mixed up if you’re not paying attention. Boarder visas cannot be sourced in Lok Ma Chau… we’ve learnt this the hard way.
Once you arrive at Lo Wu Station, there are a number of gates and check-points to get through:
- You’ll exit the station (using your Octopus card or ticket)
- You’ll have your HKID scanned or – if you’re an out-of-towner – you’ll have your passport checked
- If you don’t have a China visa, you will then purchase your border visa
- Once your visa is sorted, you will line up one last time to have your passport stamped and your visa checked. Finding your way out of Lo Wu station is pretty straight forward. Once you reach the exit, head to an escalator (there are two: one to your left and one to your right). The escalator will take you to an upper concourse where you will find the Lo Wu Commercial Centre in all its industrial glory to your right. #ShoppingTime!
ONCE YOU’RE THERE
The first trip to Shenzhen can be a little overwhelming. 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 having your RMB and a back-up supply of HKD at the ready. RMB is best to shop with and preferred by most shop keepers, however they will accept HKD – and in some cases USD – 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. Hung Hom station has an HSBC ATM that distributes RMB (near the main entrance, next to 7/11). If you need to source funds once you’re there, an HSBC ATM is located near the station exit (as mentioned above).
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!
Read more about Emma and Charlotte’s tips and tricks on their blog here!