One of the first things that you’ll likely notice when you arrive in Langkawi is the inexpensive beer and beachside cocktails compared to elsewhere in Malaysia. The island was a relatively unknown tourist destination in Malaysia before the government awarded it duty-free status in 1987; this was initially initiated to make tourism more affordable for Malaysians, but there’s since been a steady increase in international tourism as well.
Not only are your favourite alcoholic beverages sold at almost 20 per cent of the cost for the same ones on the mainland (very fine whiskeys and top of the line cognacs to wine and beer), on Langkawi there are many more duty-free items to be found — cigarettes, cigars, perfume, electronics such as cameras, kitchenware and chocolates.
There are bargain prices at any shop you pop into, but it does pay to shop around. Prices can vary as much as 60% depending on the store. The bigger shops in Kuah, like the one in the PL Soon Huat shopping mall, and the larger ones in Pantai Cenang have a greater variety of just about everything, but with the convenience of a one-stop-shop comes the much bigger price tag. These stores also cater to the tour buses so you can find yourself in a mob of people and long lines.
Look around and you’ll find the smaller shops tucked into the more local shopping areas. These shops tend be more specialised so it may take a little more pavement pounding to find what you’re looking for, but not only will you find better bargains you’ll get to explore the less tourist laden areas of the island.
There’s a mandatory 72-hour stay for shopping Malaysians to prevent duty-free product trafficking, but this rule doesn’t apply to non-Malaysians. There’s also a limit of one carton of cigarettes and one litre of alcohol per departing traveller, so choose your limited departing gifts wisely otherwise you’ll be donating them to immigration. No exceptions.
By Vanessa Workman
Last updated on 27th August, 2014.