Making the Most of Local Shopping

Tahitian Pearl Shop

By Hannah and Chris of Love, Play, Work

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. Our hosts in Tahiti took us to the last day of a special week-long market, where locals showcase a year’s worth of work. We bought several bottles of Manoi Oil, which smells amazing and feels marvellous on your skin. The intricately designed jewellery crafted from shells and black pearls were also very tempting!

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.

A Basket weaver in Tahiti

4. Make sure your purchase will be 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. Not only might it be confiscated when you reach customs, you may also be supporting illegal trade in goods such as ivory or endangered animal products.

Do you have any shopping tips to share? Where did you have your best shopping experience?


About the author

We are Psychologist Hannah and IT expert Chris and we’ve spent 5 years traveling the world whilst running our own business. Home exchanging has been a big part of making that happen! You can learn the 7 refreshing ‘get there quick’ shortcuts to creating your own location independent lifestyle from our homepage. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates.

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