By Rory Boland. Hong Kong/Macau Travel Expert
Rory Boland has always been a global citizen. Born in the UK to Irish parents, his mixed nationality inspired him to travel the world. A life-long expat, he has spent time living in Maine in the US, Poland, as well as short residences in various other countries.
Usually found foraging through the remains of a Dim Sum feast for that last pork dumpling or raiding the Lan Kwai Fong 7-Eleven for a pair of back pocket San Miguels when in town, Rory Boland splits his time, both living and writing, between the sweaty streets of Hong Kong and the windswept tundras of Warsaw.
Given that this is a city obsessed with technology and the latest and greatest gadgets and products it's perhaps surprising that Apple didn't actually open a store here until a couple of years ago. Or it might not be.
Hong Kong has a rampant trade in grey market technology products, known locally as parallel imports. This is hardware and software legally purchased in another country and then sold in Hong Kong for less than the recommended retail price – sometimes significantly cheaper.
Mostly laptops, phones and games consoles.
You're probably on this page because you want to get an iPhone, iPad or other Apple product cheaper than the RRP. It can be done but there are risks.
Can I buy an Apple iPhone or iPad cheap in Hong Kong?
Yes, but it's more difficult than the grapevine suggests. While Hong Kong's Apple store once sold the cheapest iPhones and iPads in the world that's no longer true – the US is now cheaper.
But there are of course unofficial channels.
Hong Kong's computer markets are legendary.
Stacked full of laptops, phones and other devices usually from the grey market. They've usually been imported from Japan or China, allowing retailers to sell them at a cheaper price.
But while you can certainly pick up a Dell laptop or HTC phone on the cheap it's harder to get hold of Apple products. Sales and shipments are so tightly controlled that even for Hong Kong's wheelers and dealers getting their hands on significant amounts can be difficult.
For new products it will be impossible to buy one anywhere except the Apple store.
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Hong Kong gets Apple products on the initial launch date and attracts buyers from around the region.
Older models will
be available cheaper through the parrell market.
Where can I buy an Apple iPhone or iPad cheap?
You'll need to buy from an independent retailer. Most parallel retailers can be found inside Hong Kong's fantastic computer centres and the one in Mongkok computer centre is particularly good for phones.
Inside you'll find booths no more than a couple of square feet wide. Somewhere between a shop and a market stall these are full time retailers – they will be here again tomorrow. However, different rules for returns and guarantees apply on parallel imports (see the section below) and you shouldn't expect the same service as a big brand electronics store.
There's no point recommending individual booths as there is little to tell them apart and by and large they will price match eachother on products.
Look for the mobile phone shops and those that carry an Apple symbol. They will sell both new iPhones and iPads and second hand models so make sure you know which one you are getting.
Problems with parallel imports and prices
While the products are official, parallel imports generally don't come with a manufacturers guarantee so if they develop a fault you have nowhere to go for a refund or replacement. The retailers themselves have very restrictive returns policies. This can range from 30 days to just 24 hours. For these reasons alone parallel imports can be a risky business.
It's also fair to say that the chance of being rip offed by an unscrupulous merchant is higher, although the risk is still low. Look out for these classic Hong Kong scams. For parallel imports make sure that the product isn't set and fixed to its home market; iPads that come in Japanese or iPhones that only work with Chinese sim cards. Make sure you try whatever you buy on the spot.
You should also shop around to see what the average price is for the product you are interested in. Haggling and bargaining is a way of life in Hong Kong so you need to be sure how much you are willing to pay – how much you want to save on the RRP.
Buying from the Apple store
The days of Hong Kong being shunned by Apple are over and you can now buy from the official Apple store in the IFC Mall. There are also numerous official stockists around the city, including Lane Crawford in the Harbour City Mall.