For many people, the prospect of shopping in a new location has their fingers itching to whip out the credit card. Whether you are an enthusiastic or reluctant shopper, here is some information to help you find the best bargains and goodies while enjoying your Home Exchange vacation.
Markets offer a great source for handicrafts and speciality goods, and give you a wonderful taste of local life. The sights, smells and bustle of a market will be unique each place you go. The markets which are away from town centres are often the best (and the ones you’ll find the locals heading to). You’ll find much better souvenirs at these markets than on the usual tourist trail, and often the prices and quality are better too.
If you get to meet your Home Exchange hosts and they offer to take you shopping, take them up on it! You’ll get an insider’s perspective on what’s good to buy and learn more about the history behind the shops and items.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your visit to a local market:
1. Bring Cash
Most local markets don’t have credit card facilities and you don’t want to miss out by not having enough local currency. Also, take more than you think you’ll need (unless you are on a very tight budget) as there may be some surprises which you don’t want to miss out on (keep an eye on your wallet though, pickpockets love a busy market).
2. Find out about local customs to see if bartering is standard practice
In some countries the seller doesn’t expect the first price they suggest to be the one you pay – haggling is half the fun! Don’t worry if you are a bit shy, it gets easier with practice. Just choose a price about half of what they have suggested; the seller will look horrified and suggest a price half way between your and their position. Somewhere around that price will usually leave you both feeling like a fair bargain has been struck, but you can continue to barter if you are enjoying yourself! Remember though: not all countries follow this custom, so do check first.
3. Only buy what you can carry
More and more airlines have strict baggage allowances on checked-in and carry-on luggage. If you exceed this you may end up paying high excess fees, and undo all your good bargain-hunting efforts.
4. Purchase Only What is Allowed into Your Onward Destination
When we arrived in New Zealand we had to declare all plant and animal based materials as they have very strict policies about what is and isn’t allowed into their country. If in doubt, do declare it.
5. Shop Ethically
Don’t buy anything which is likely to have come from a protected species or may have caused damage to the environment. It might not only be confiscated when you reach customs, you may also be supporting illegal trade in goods such as ivory or endangered animal products.