Need new peepers? If you have your script handy there are plenty of places around town to get a stylish pair of glasses at a fraction of the cost you’d pay back home.
When I was a wee new expat I was scratching my head at some of the asking prices of glasses around the centre of town in Shanghai – it seemed like prices were almost a 3rd more expensive than back home. Considering the amount of people in Shanghai who wear glasses and relative income of locals this just didn’t make a whole lot of sense – were people spending almost half a month’s salary on a new pair of glasses?
“Of course not!”, I was soon told by my Shanghai friend more than a year ago now – and that week I was introduced to the world of cheap, cheap glasses in China.
While I’m only slightly short-sighted, keeping up appearances that I’m a
nerd smart guy is important, which is probably why I’ve puchased almost 4 pairs already – all of them still in good working order.
For better or worse, here are my recommendations on where to buy glasses and some extra tips you may want to consider before forking out your hard earned RMB.
- Glasses shops which offer cheap glasses are all through the city. I visit my local shop in Jing’an where I get a good price for helping the shopkeepers son practice his English while I wait for my lenses to be put in the frames. Like most things in Shanghai, the better you know the shop keeper, the better the price.
- There are whole glasses markets around town. For foreigners the easiest one is the markets just near Shanghai Railway Station on Meiyuan Lu – it’s called 3yes Optical and located on level 5F – there are two levels of camera equipment below it which is also worth checking out. It’s full of fashionable glasses made to order but you need to bargain to get a decent price. Most shopkeepers understand English and foreigner’s poor Chinese. If you’re more adventurous there are more markets located north of town – prices are actually about the same but no English.
- It does cost more for better lenses. An 80RMB or 100RMB pair of glasses will probably include cheap lenses.
- The frames are most probably fake. Personally, I hate having brands on my glasses but I’m guessing that the D&G branded glasses and the like are probably imitations. If you have a moral objection to it then it might be worth avoiding these shops and paying 3000RMB+ for a pair of original frames.
- Get your eyes tested by a professional. I’ve never had my eyes tested here but when a friend was in town recently they did their testing and it was off slightly. It might be best to get your eyes tested by a doctor back at home or someone who is professionally qualified in China. I’m guessing the people at the markets may not be university qualified (but I’ve been wrong before).
- Don’t spend too much. Unless you’ve got some seriously complex eyes I wouldn’t be paying over 500RMB for a pair of glasses at the markets.
Feel free to add in further tips in the comments section below.