Pantip Plaza shopping centre is the best place to buy electronics in Bangkok, including smartphones, tablets and all the accessories, software and add-ons that go with them. Not too long ago, I preferred to buy these things in Singapore, and more recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but the range, price and quality of electronics available in Bangkok has improved dramatically over the past few years. You still have to be careful, as there are lots of fake goods, factory seconds and dodgy vendors around in Bangkok, but here’s some tips on the places I trust the most.
Bangkok is not necessarily the cheapest place to buy all electronics goods, but it is a pretty good place to buy smartphones (iPhone, Samsung, etc), computer software, camera lenses, DVD players and accessories. If you’re after a laptop or desktop computer or a portable hard drive (and are travelling around), Kuala Lumpur is a better bet.
My favourite electronics shopping mall in Bangkok is, without question, the computer centre of Pantip Plaza (read our review of Pantip Plaza and the other best places to shop in Bangkok) because it has the biggest range, the most competition and something of a reputation for selling the genuine article (at least in most stores). It’s the place Thai Buddhist monks go to buy their cellphones, so that says something! You can also buy electronics, especially camera, video recorders and DVD players, in other major malls like MBK Centre (which I also love) and Siam Paragon, but they don’t have as big a range and the prices are often not as good. Also, the shop staff in Pantip Plaza usually speak better English than those in the other shopping malls, which helps when you’re trying to understand what you’re buying.
I first went to Pantip Plaza to get my Australian iPhone unlocked so I could use it in Thailand. It was a scary introduction to Pantip Plaza as I had to give my brand new $1000+ smartphone to a guy I didn’t know, who would not give me any kind of receipt, and told me to come back in two hours. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I could find the same shop two hours later! But it all worked out. Not only did he unlock my phone, he fitted a Thai SIM card and hooked me up with the cheapest, most reliable 3G internet access deal in Thailand.
If you’re going to Pantip Plaza to try to buy a cheap iPhone or iPad, you need to know that not all of them on display are real. The most expensive models will be coming out of Apple Thailand; those a little cheaper are most likely coming from Apple Hong Kong or Apple’s factory in China; but the cheapest of all are most likely to be clever copies made in cheap Chinese electronics factories and you should just walk away from them. The best place to buy phones in Pantip Plaza is on the top floor, and usually down the left hand side. I find the centre shops are more suspect, even though they look much flashier. Try to stick to the stores that appear to be representing a known brand, rather than the “general electronics” places.
The advertised price is usually only considered to be a guide to the actual price. Bargaining for a better price is not only possible, but expected in most stores and even on popular brand name products. Some stores will try to slip you a fake copy of a brand name product if you bargain too hard, but if you insist on the name brand product they will usually oblige and try to meet you in between. While there are a few rogues here, most of the shops in Pantip Plaza have been there for a long time and you can’t do that if you regularly rip people off.
If you want to play it as safe as possible, get up to the top floor, which is called “IT City” and buy there. The prices are a little bit higher but the quality is usually good and the brands are real. There are also some great “bargain bins” scattered around where you can pick up small stuff like cables, flash drives and such for less than $1.
Where to find Pantip Plaza
You’ll find Pantip Plaza shopping centre on Petchaburi Road (see map below). The easiest way to get there is to jump on the BTS Skytrain and get off at BTS Ratchathewi Station. You’ll see Pantip Plaza right across the road.