Here it is. Our FIRST non-saving money post. Today, we will blog about the CHEAPEST destination in Europe to shop for Brand New Luxury Brands.
This post is written for all the "materialistic and self centered posers" out there who earn peanuts for a salary and yet rake up a pile of credit card debt to buy "Luxury Items" to impress people they don't even know (or colleagues/friends who frankly can't care less)
Disclaimer: For those of you are RICH and earn loads of money. Please splurge. You deserve all the luxury goods money can buy. I'm not against luxury, in fact, I'm really happy for you.
We, are NOT budget travellers.
(Despite what you may think; Refer to our FAQ)
And Yes, we enjoy luxury; just like most Singaporean couples out there.
Besides travelling, I am also an avid collector of "Luxury Timepieces"
Many Singaporeans hanker after luxury brands regardless of the amount they earn. It's common to find Singaporeans earning as little as $4,000 a month thinking they deserve a Chanel handbag, a Rolex watch or even a $10,000 European vacation.
Thus, to satisfy their appetite for luxury items (besides installment plans and low balling for items on carousell), Singaporean's head overseas to satisfy their shopping obsession. "Lets go to the US! Got factory outlet! Europe also very cheap! Go Milan buy Prada. Bring back Singapore still can sell somemore!"
A Singaporean's favourite. European Holidays, Luxury Timepieces, and Branded Handbags
The golden question is, "WHERE in Europe should we tourists go to shop for luxury brand names at the lowest possible prices?" Most people THINK they know. "My friend is an aircrew, she says.......blah blah....." OR, "that time (somebody) went (wherever) and came back with a lot of shopping. Said it was so cheap!"
So, we all know we can get a VAT Refund when we do our shopping in Europe. For you to understand what i'm talking about, you need to first understand how VAT works. (You think you understand but no, you don't)
I'm not going to bother to ask you to guess because i'm sure the only European destinations Singaporeans know are Paris & Milan. Oh, and perhaps Switzerland.
Anyway let's move on......
How Is It Cheaper Than The Rest Of Europe?
Let's say you were to buy say a Loewe bag from Barcelona.....
First, that bag would have an "Inflated Price Tag" (inclusive of VAT Tax) on it.
Next, you would be given a "VAT Discount" which you can get a "Refund" at the airport of your "LAST" European destination.
However, IF you had bought that same Loewe bag in Andorra (Being the Tax Free Haven of Europe) the price stated would "ALREADY" have taken into account the "VAT Refund" you should have gotten. This means you get the cheapest price possible WITHOUT having to waste time at the airport trying to get a refund for your VAT.
In recent years though, Andorra has been loaded with sales/business tax because other countries in the EU were unhappy with Andorra's "Tax Haven" status; resulting in Andorra not being as "cheap" as it once was.
What's Cheap Here?
With electronics at ridiculously low prices, Andorra is a heaven for the "gadget geek". Ladies can shop for their luxury bags while the men check out the electronics shop.
I'm not sure if they have Leica's. I'm not a camera guy, so the above photo is just a representation of branded camera's you MIGHT find.
A new Go Pro Hero will cost you around $200 SGD! If you're a "photographer" (everyone in Singapore seems to call themselves a photographer these days), Andorra is the one stop you need to pick up cameras or anything electronic related.
2. Cigarettes & Liquor
Andorra is also a smokers and drunkards dream. Imagine DFS prices (duty free) but in shopping malls instead of the airports. Think of Sim Lim Square but rather than handphones and laptops, half of it is stacked with tobacco and liquor.
3. Luxury Goods & Jewellery
What else? Branded bags for the women of course. Loewe & Balenciaga are among the more prominent womens brands and Hugo Boss for the men. Lower down the luxury brand ladder, you'll find Mango & Zara at "pasar malam" (Singapore's version of a night market) prices.
Prices for these brands are either similar or cheaper than those in nearby Barcelona. Even if some prices are similar, it'll save you the trouble of trying to claim VAT Refund at the airport.
Luxury Brands Available In Andorra
G Star Raw
Dolce & Gabbana
Diane Von Furstenberg
and many more........
(NOTE: No Prada, Gucci, Hermes, LV & Chanel)
If you're a tourist, don't buy a Rolex in Andorra though. Barcelona sells it cheaper (after VAT Refund). Luxury watches in Andorra are cheaper for Europeans who don't qualify for VAT Refunds elsewhere.
What Can I Do Besides Shopping?
1. Caldea Thermal Spa
Image: ©Travel Addicts (https://www.traveladdicts.net/2015/07/spa-caldea-inuu-andorra.html) - 2015. Used with permission."
Don't worry, there is more to Andorra than shopping. Europe's Largest Spa, Caldea Thermal, is right smack in centre of Andorra's capital. The perfect place to unwind after a long day of shopping.
At 24.5 Euros for the first 3 hours (excluding treatments), it is rather costly. For more details on treatment pricing, click here
2. Skiing/ Hiking
The slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains are one of Europe's premier skiing destinations. There are many Ski Resorts open during the winter season who will be extremely happy to take some cash off your hands.
Hiking in Andorra. Ramblersholidays.co.uk
Hiking is a very popular activity after the winter season comes to a close. There are lodges in the mountains for you to stay the night should you find this activity preferrable to shopping. If you're a Singaporean, this is highly unlikely.
3. Explore The Capital, La Vella
Andorra La Vella. Well, a part of it anyway.
You could call Andorra a mini Switzerland. Luxury goods? Check. Snow mountains and Skiing? Check. Oh wait, i'm talking about the capital of Andorra aren't I?
Alright. I'll admit this is a silly activity. Most of La Vella doesn't look like the picture above. Rather, more like the picture below.
Shopping Street of La Vella, Capital of Andorra
Besides the main shopping streets, the rest of La Vella is filled with ugly boring buildings. You're better off finding a cafe with a good wifi and a cuppa coffee.
Food & Accomodation
The Girl at the balcony of our room in Andorra La Vella
Accommodation is higher than that of its Spanish neighbour. We paid 40 Euros a night for the both of us in a private room. Normally, we try out the local cuisine in every country. In Andorra though, we didn't come across anything special, and prices were similar to that of Barcelona's. You'd expect to pay anything from 7 - 10 Euros for a mid range (Hans equivalent) restaurant.
Where is Andorra?
Andorra is only accessible by road. There are NO airports and don't expect to get in by train.
It took us less than 3 hours by coach to get there from Barcelona. It's cheaper if you've your own rental car. The coach comes with wifi though and costs around 50 Euros for a return ticket. Check out AndorraByBus.
It's not the only bus that goes there of course. If you're in Barcelona, just walk to the Nord Bus Station and buy a ticket. Buses to Andorra run daily and they have a few timings to choose from.
Would We Recommend A Holiday To Andorra?
Probably not. At least not specifically for Andorra.
Of course, if you're already holidaying in Barcelona (a touristy Singaporean favourite) and sick of Gaudi architecture, tapas and churros, give Andorra a few days. Shopping for the ladies, gadgets for the men, and skiing for the family, what could be worse?
With rock bottom prices on certain items though, it'll take some of you a superhuman effort not to end up buying redundant stuff like Nespresso Coffee Machines or a suitcase full of shoes. (unless you're rich)