Cheapest countries for buying electronics gear
With so many digital nomads and long-term travelers out there, I'm sure I haven't been the only one who has wondered which cities and countries have the best bargains in the world for electronic items. As someone from the US, I'm almost always disappointed when I travel through cheap countries to discover that the gadgets I desire are actually more expensive there than at home.
Doing this sort of exhaustive research is far too difficult for me so I was very happy when I discovered that a proper company had done it, and they gave me access to their data. All the figures below are courtesy of the fine folks at Pricerunner, which is a comparison shopping site based in the UK, and this sort of thing is their specialty.
The research was completed late in 2011, and I'm confident that they went to great lengths to find the best price for the items they surveyed in each of the 28 cities. If you are a fan of iPhones, iPads, or other Apple products you might be interested in a similar list of the cheapest countries to buy Apple products.
Electronic items included in these numbers
- Movie Blu-ray: Thor
- Canon Powershot s95
- Sony Playstation 3 Slim 160GB
- Mobile Phone: Samsung Galaxy S2
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 WiFi
Each of the 5 items above was researched in each city to find the best price, and then the total for all of them was added together to create the list below. For most items, they were proportionally cheap or expensive in each city, although prices for the Blu-ray DVD were somewhat unpredictable (cheapest in Mumbai and Moscow).
Cheapest countries for electronics
(Research was done in GBP and converted to USD in March, 2012)
- $1,757 – Tokyo, Japan
- $1,814 – San Francisco, USA
- $1,850 – Bangkok, Thailand
- $1,969 – New York, USA
- $2,012 – Dubai, UAE
- $2,127 – Sydney, Australia
- $2,128 – Prague, Czech Republic
- $2,152 – Mumbai, India
- $2,180 – Warsaw, Poland
- $2,272 – London, England
- $2,277 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
- $2,315 – Paris, France
- $2,342 – Dublin, Ireland
- $2,361 – Athens, Greece
- $2,393 – Helsinki, Finland
- $2,393 – Stockholm, Sweden
- $2,441 – Vienna, Austria
- $2,450 – Copenhagen, Denmark
- $2,509 – Brussels, Belgium
- $2,520 – Oslo, Norway
- $2,540 – Cape Town, South Africa
- $2,555 – Vilnius, Lithuania
- $2,572 – Moscow, Russia
- $2,583 – Madrid, Spain
- $2,717 – Rome, Italy
- $2,744 – Lisbon, Portugal
- $2,965 – Reykjavik, Iceland
- $3,387 – Sao Paolo, Brazil
Some surprising results
Unless you've researched a lot of this sort of thing yourself, you might naturally expect that prices for electronics would have at least a little in common with prices for food or housing or local wages, but they really don't.
Tokyo is the cheapest in spite of high wages and astronomical rents at electronics stores, so it appears to be partly related to aggregate demand (total number they might sell in each place). In other words, since a chain store in Tokyo can sell 100,000 units a month, they get a lower price than a chain in Reykjavik that only sells 100 per month.
However, the difference seems mostly due to local taxes and import duties. If San Francisco has a 8% sales tax and London has a 20% VAT, that will show up as a pretty big difference in the total. I'd have to think that Brazil must have very high import duties on electronics to be so much more expensive than the others. Rents are high in Sao Paolo, but not compared to Tokyo or London or New York City.
Apple products in another list
The PriceRunner data also included prices for 3 different Apple products, but since Apple has a monopoly on all of its own devices and it controls pricing tightly, those numbers would not fit this list. A different list of the cheapest countries to buy Apple products is also available, with some rather different results in some places.