Most of your shopping will probably be done in hotel stores, department stores, or factory stores--or from vendors at attraction sites. Remember to keep a log of your purchases; this will make it easier to complete customs forms. Include in your log what you paid in Chinese currency along with the U.S. dollar equivalent.
Antiques may be purchased only in licensed shops. Chinese government authorities generally have restricted the sale of items older than 120 years. They regulate what is purchased by marking items with a special red or brown hard wax seal requiring a special customs declaration form to be issued at the time of purchase.
Caution: Old artifacts are often offered for sale at urban "free markets." Should you purchase a genuine antique at one of these markets, it will be confiscated by Chinese customs officials. You will experience considerable embarrassment in addition to the loss of your purchase.
As far as handicrafts are concerned, you should always bear in mind that these items are usually regional products and may not be available in another part of the country.
You can bargain in tourist stores. If you are not sure about the appropriateness of bargaining in a particular situation, ask your local guide.
Beware of duty-free shops, especially in Hong Kong. Most of them do not offer any real bargains. You may find a bargain if you are an experienced shopper or at least have a target price in mind.
There is no sales tax in China.
If you travel with a Regent group, our guides will take you only to reputable, government-approved tourist stores. Still, disputes may arise. For example, a US$1,000 jade piece may be appraised for only US$200 by your local jeweler in the U.S. It could be that the store overcharged you. It could also be that your local jeweler does not recognize the value of the jade piece, given the many varieties of jade available in China.
Our suggestion: When in doubt, do not buy. However, your credit card issuer may provide some help in carefully documented disputes.
Shipping large purchases
Remember that Regent will provide its tour group members with a collapsible tote bag to carry home souvenirs. (You may also find the tote bag to be a convenient means of carrying essential personal items for daily touring.)
However, should you purchase large items, the outlet where you make such purchases will provide reliable packing and shipping to your hometown at an additional charge. We suggest that you request door-to-door shipment. In many cases, due to freight consolidation, air shipment is cheaper than surface shipment; remember to inquire about these rates at the time of purchase.
Also, keep in mind that you will be liable for U.S. customs duties, prevailing state user taxes, bonding, customs broker fees, trucking charges, etc. that may total well over US$200. It will take six to twelve weeks for your shipment to reach you. You will be notified by a U.S.-based shipping/delivery company when your shipment arrives in the U.S. If in doubt about shipping procedures--or concern about a late delivery--contact the store where you placed your order, remembering to include the invoice number.