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Shopping Smart

Friday, July 14, 2017

There are many reasons why you’d want to shop for electronics abroad, but make sure you know the basics before you swipe your card, says Khevna Pandit

We’re not saying that shopping for electronics overseas is only restricted to the times when your camera falls into a ditch or the ocean swallows your cell phone. There are many reasons why shopping for your favourite electronics abroad makes complete sense. Maybe you saw something that you haven’t seen in India, or you just happened to stumble upon your dream gadget available at a surprisingly pocket-friendly price.

Whatever it is, we can’t be spared from this practice. After all, if you’re looking for something that isn’t available here, you may just have to turn to other shores in your search for electronics. However, it isn’t as scary as it sounds. We all that beloved uncle who got us the latest DSLR camera model or a colourful Game Boy video game console from abroad when we were younger, more because they’d “get it cheaper abroad”. So, what we’re saying is that it is absolutely possible to go on a shopping spree abroad and still get a bargain, as long as you know what you’re doing.


Here are a few vital aspects to consider before you make a purchase abroad.


While some products and manufacturers have embraced international warranties, these aren’t very flexible yet. Laptops are usually the best when it comes to international warranties, whereas cameras can be a tricky bet. Companies such as Nikon have separate divisions in every country, making the process of claiming the warranty a difficult one. A typical Nikon lens comes with a 5-year warranty in the country of purchase, but generally has an international warranty of only 1 year. Mobile phone warranties are considered the worst, as a lot of nations want to curb the importing of phones from other countries. So, some of these phone warranties will only be valid in the country in which they were purchased. So, look out for the warranty before you buy!


While you did save on the VAT (you have to apply for a refund), your country may charge you that amount (or more) upon your return. However, since this varies depending on the country in which you have made the purchase, check the allowed limits (the total value of the products that you’re bringing back) as custom officials may demand a receipt and charge tax on your new gadget. Some products may even be charged an additional import duty — yikes! It’s best to check customs duties and rules before you come back with a bag full of electronics.

Compatibility issues

We get it, electronics abroad look absolutely fascinating and you just end up buying them because you’re not going to get them at home. However, sometimes that is for a reason. Make sure the device you purchase is compatible in India. Europe and the USA have different plug and socket standards, so you may need adapters if you want to use the electronics in India. Is the GPS preloaded with the maps for the country of purchase or do you have to make additional purchases to use the device here?

Beware of knock-offs

While this isn’t very common abroad, locals in certain countries do attempt to  fool unsuspecting tourists. And sometimes, we’re so enamoured by shiny new gadgets that we forget to check for authenticity while we’re shopping. Ask the vendor to open the box so you know how the product looks and feels. If it seems different or aesthetically strange, chances are it is a knock-off. Look out for similar (and fake) names that could fool you into buying the product (remember Blueberry?). It is best to do your research so that you know what you’re buying the next time you’re shopping in a foreign country.


Why indeed. Wouldn’t you rather place an order online? However, if you’ve noticed a suave new item on display that isn’t available here, you’d want to grab the opportunity to pick it up. We know we would! Here are a few reasons why you should be shopping for electronics abroad.

  • To save money: First and foremost, you can save a chunk of money if you’re buying a device abroad. Electronics are generally cheaper in Singapore, Malaysia as well as some parts of the USA and more expensive in Australia, UK as well as Europe. (And, it helps if it is an older model that you were looking for in your country.)
  • To save on local taxes: In many countries, you can claim the local VAT back when you depart. However, you may have to fill in a few forms to get this benefit. And, make sure to follow the points to a tee in order to be awarded a refund.
  • To get stuff before it’s out: One of the main reasons why people buy electronics from another country is to get their hands on the latest releases. You may even bag some cool gadgets to bring back home.
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