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. $1,757 – Tokyo, Japan
  2. $1,814 – San Francisco, USA
  3. $1,850 – Bangkok, Thailand
  4. $1,969 – New York, USA
  5. $2,012 – Dubai, UAE
  6. $2,127 – Sydney, Australia
  7. $2,128 – Prague, Czech Republic
  8. $2,152 – Mumbai, India
  9. $2,180 – Warsaw, Poland
  10. $2,272 – London, England
  11. $2,277 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
  12. $2,315 – Paris, France
  13. $2,342 – Dublin, Ireland
  14. $2,361 – Athens, Greece
  15. $2,393 – Helsinki, Finland
  16. $2,393 – Stockholm, Sweden
  17. $2,441 – Vienna, Austria
  18. $2,450 – Copenhagen, Denmark
  19. $2,509 – Brussels, Belgium
  20. $2,520 – Oslo, Norway
  21. $2,540 – Cape Town, South Africa
  22. $2,555 – Vilnius, Lithuania
  23. $2,572 – Moscow, Russia
  24. $2,583 – Madrid, Spain
  25. $2,717 – Rome, Italy
  26. $2,744 – Lisbon, Portugal
  27. $2,965 – Reykjavik, Iceland
  28. $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.

Also, it’s surprising to me to see that these items were quite a bit cheaper in Stockholm compared to Lisbon because they are generally at the opposite ends of the price scale for most other things.

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.

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  1. Nico says:

    Switzerland is missing… And at the top of the list.
    Most goods are more expensrive in Switzerland than elsewhere in the world, except for electronic goods.
    Prices are usually 15-20% less than in KL or Singapore (my experience: apple products, smartphones and digital cameras).
    VAT is only 8% and can be refunded.

  2. Julian says:

    I’m not totally sure if this includes sales tax or whatnot…but I just compared the Tokyo prices to Hong kong, and HK is cheaper, albeit by a small margin. You should really include HK in this list, as they’re often the cheapest in the world, especially with the whole no tax thing.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      The research in this article was done by Pricerunner in late 2011 and I was just someone they allowed to publish it. At the time, the Japanese yen was much stronger, and prices have readjusted quite a bit since then. I have no way of adding or updating to this list, although I do keep regular updates on my own iPad prices around the world article. Thanks for the interest. -Roger

  3. ganesh says:

    Iam Travelling to USA and Hongkong, Let me know Which items are cheaper to purcase in USA and which are in Hongkong . like Tabs,laptops, phones, dvd players, clothes, bags etc.
    Any body knows pls share.

  4. Ashish says:

    hi guys, this is ashish from india. i will be at pattaya in may ’14 just to know is that worth to but samsung smart phones and sony play station from there and tell me if yes so where i can buy ? thanks in advance

  5. Jonathan says:

    Singapore has to be the cheapest. A new uncontracted Galaxy Note 3 sells here for SGD$800, and as a tourist you can obtain back the additional 7% GST refund so overall it comes out to only US$588.

  6. Prranjal Shrivastav says:

    i’m surprised to find Mumbai on 8th position. i’ve always been told that Dubai & Singapore are much cheaper. i never buy gadgets that say ‘made in China’ cuz my experience wid chinese electronics hadn’t been good. but i m sure global gadgets must be cheaper too in mainland China.

  7. louis brown says:

    brasil is the most expensive country you can buy eletronics from

    1. Marcos says:

      I am American and regularly travel, so far 27 countries.
      I buy NO electronics in Brassssil unless I have to.
      50-400% over MSP is common.
      BTW been living n Brazil sine 92.
      Not only are the prices exorbitant in any cases the options are few and I never buy Brazilian made, they are equal to what China used to be.
      Products made in Brazil are built to Brazilian standards, not 1st world standards.
      No this is not bias, it is fact.

  8. Marcos says:

    If you import anything through a courier such as DHL you pay up to 100% in import tax.

  9. José Gustavo Alves says:

    Brazil has 60% import duties for everything.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      José, that’s interesting and that definitely explains the crazy prices. Thanks for the info. -Roger

      1. Caue says:

        He was talking about taxes charged on the airport, when you bring items on your bag.

        Importing taxes are different, and not so simple. I’m pretty sure it gets higher than 100% for electronics.

  10. spp says:

    no china at all?

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Yeah, I would also have liked to see Beijing or Shanghai as well as Hong Kong and Singapore, but this is all PriceRunner’s data and these were the only cities included. -Roger