Buying goods at local markets on your overseas holiday is a tangible way of capturing a memory of your destination and a great way to put some money into the local economy. The markets are often treasure troves of locally made clothes, jewelry, produce and knickknacks, and because the good ones are frequented by those living in the neighbourhood, they also give you a fun and authentic way of experiencing the local community.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate your way around...
SHOP THE RIGHT MARKETS:
For ideas on the best ones to explore, ask your accommodation provider, tour guide or, even better, the locals you meet on the street. Reading travel magazines and blogs, or simply wandering the streets and keeping your eyes peeled, work well too.
LOOK FOR HANDMADE ITEMS:
Markets are gems for handmade goods that the region or country you’re visiting is known for. In Sapa, Vietnam, it’s belts, bags and clothing that Hmong tribeswomen spend up to several days weaving, and in Kupang, West Timor, it’s the intricately made Sasando, their traditional musical instrument.
Unless you’re with a reputable local guide or another in-the-know local, be mindful when buying high-ticket items, such as fine jewelry, in markets. Also, avoid vendors with advertising in English that’s marketed to tourists such as “Special Pricing for Americans,” especially if English is not the country’s primary language; you most likely won’t get any special pricing or find goods worth buying.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO HAGGLE: Haggling at markets is customary and expected. For any item you’re interested in buying, you can generally negotiate a price that’s 30 percent lower than what the vendor initially quotes — start by offering half the quoted amount, and go back and forth until you settle on a price. But don’t haggle if you’re not serious about the item; it’s insulting to the vendor.
AIRPORT MARKETS ARE WORTH A LOOK: Don’t discount markets at airports, especially in smaller countries not known as shopping destinations. You may well be surprised at the bargains that are to be had!