Those other shopping heavens

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The Independent Online
: While the January sales may represent consumer-goods nirvana for some, genuine shopping obsessives often need to look further afield. The following five cities offer something a little different to the average High Street experience, as well as value for money and a range of goods not necessarily obtainable in Britain:


The Big Apple has been described as the consumer capital of the world, and no matter how obscure your tastes, Manhattan will almost certainly cater for them with its vast array of shops. From world-famous department stores to tiny boutiques, there are enough ways to spend your money to induce a panic attack in even the most mild-mannered bank manager. Clothes and compact discs are far cheaper in the States than in Britain, but watch out for sales tax (waived on goods costing less than $500 until 25 January). Virgin Holidays (01293 617181) runs three-day shopping breaks from pounds 349 per person, inclusive of flights and accommodation.


Our soon-to-be-former colony was renowned as the cheapest place in the world to buy electronic goods, but increased availability of technology world-wide and a soaring standard of living mean better prices can be found elsewhere. The city's reputation now rests on the sheer number of outlets per square mile, the huge variety on offer and the trade in goods hand-produced in China. Luggage, clothes and footwear are all inexpensive. STA (0171 361 626262) offers return flights from pounds 475.


This is unique among cities on the Arabian peninsula, because its wealth was originally founded not on oil, but on trade. Ever since 1894 ,when Sheikh Maktoum exempted foreign merchants from taxes, the city has thrived on the re-export trade, and it is now the king of duty-free stopovers and the best place to buy a lap-top, a video camera or a Walkman. Lunn Poly has three-night holidays in five-star luxury for pounds 549 per person.


A far less serene shopping experience is likely, but for those prepared to brave the bartering there are several markets offering cheap craft items, leather goods and, of course, carpets. Touts desperately promoting their brothers' businesses can irritate, but all the hustle and noise is part of the appeal. STA (0171 361 6262) sells return flights from pounds 191.


If all the above seems like too much work, Calais is for you. Sophisticated and bijoux fare may be lacking, but you can buy cigarettes and alcohol for almost nothing. Ferries are still the cheapest way across the Channel: Stena Sealink (0990 707070) runs day trips for pounds 15 per car plus pounds 1 per person. Otherwise, National Express buses leave Victoria for Calais hourly; a day-return costs pounds 21.

Compiled by Andrew Purcell

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