Thursday, November 10, 2011

Survival Guide to Divisoria

photo credit:
With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to head off to the most popular shopping destination in the Philippines, Divisoria.  Nothing beats “Divi” when it comes to bargain hunting... from Christmas decors, clothes, accessories, shoes, gift items, electronics.. you name it, Divi has it!

But shopping in Divisoria is kinda challenging.  Although there are air-conditioned spaces,  there are also narrow alleys devoid of air.  And because it gets crowded, there are scammers and pickpockets roaming around and shopping for your wallet or cellphone :))  So, I've gathered some tips to make the most out of your Divisoria shopping adventure and experience:

1)  Plan and prepare.  Make a list of the things you need to buy. Prepare your budget, and then stick to it.  This way, you could somehow avoid buying on impulse (if the item is too cheap, you'll be tempted to buy even if you don't need it)...

Tutuban Mall

2)  Before you immerse yourself in the action, check the websites of the 2 most popular malls in Divisoria, Visit Tutuban Mall Website HERE (I didn't realize how cute and informative this Divi mall's webpage is, until I checked it out) and HERE to check for stores or outlets inside the malls and their location map.  Others said that 99 Shopping Mall (just beside 168 Mall..sorry but I couldn't find their website) offers better quality products among the 3, but of course, you need to pay more for quality.

Below are useful links and references from and Divisoria Guide App:

click thru for a larger image

3)  Pack the essentials for your trip:  
  1. Bottled water, hand sanitizer and tissue for easy clean up.
  2. A tote or easy-to-carry bag. A crossbody bag is recommended because you can swing it over your shoulder and wear it across your body to make it difficult for anyone to swipe (or snatch) your stuff. Don't forget to bring an extra large bag, as well for all your bulk buys.
  3. Loose change and small bills.  Put them in a separate pouch or pocket so you won't have to open your bag.  Although some branded shops in Tutuban Mall do accept credit card payments, most of the stores in Divisoria accept cash only.
4)  Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.  NO jewelry.

5)  Keep your cellphones and other gadgets hidden or don't bring them at all.  If you have to check your phone for messages make an important call, do it in an area where there is little to no space behind or beside you for people to suddenly sneak up and snatch you phone.  Go inside a restaurant or the lobby of a building.  Never do so while walking or while you're in a middle of a transaction.

Photo Credit: Virtual Tourist
5)  Arrive early. 168 Mall opens as early as 8am while Tutuban Mall opens at 9am.  The best time to shop in Divisoria is in the mornings during weekdays because traffic (both vehicle and people) is lesser.  This will also give you an opportunity to be the first customer (or what they call "buena mano") of the day, who traditionally is given a bigger discount and best bargain.

6)  Compare, compare, compare.  You may think that you've found the perfect deal but when you get to the other end, you will find the same item for less.  It pays to be patient, take time and look at all the vendors carrying the products you want to buy and then come back to the one who offered you the best deal.

7)  Be alert at all times.  The idea is to be constantly conscious of everything - your bag, the people around you - because if you know what's happening around you, you will have more time to react to every situation.  

8) HAGGLE.  Haggling is the norm in Divisoria.  Vendors expect you to haggle, so go do it!  It's always safe to begin haggling by cutting the price by half then slowly move up until both of you agree on a final price.  More importantly, always be willing to walk away (or pretend to).  Some vendors will give in if they know that they might lose the sale.  You also need to remember that most of the stores in Divi sell by the dozen (or half dozen) and you get bigger discounts when you buy in bulk.

9)  Be ready to rough it.  The streets may be narrow and muddy...the people may be pushy and sweaty ... the weather or temperature may be humid and sticky...and by the end of the day, your feet may feel like you just ran a marathon.  There's a reason why public marketplaces like Divisoria, are popular and it's not because they are a walk in park!  Sometimes, you have to compromise comfort with a great bargain! :)

Happy Holiday Shopping :)

Sources:  Entrepreneur Magazine;; Tutuban Mall Website


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