The world is smaller than ever, and one of the greatest pleasures of any trip is to explore local bazaars, to browse the shops of artisans or to stop by a posh designer boutique for a new pair of fancy shoes. However, it’s not always easy to avoid falling into a tourist trap, getting ripped off or paying more than you should have.
Here’s our advice on shopping overseas like a local, not a tourist:
Anywhere in the world, perhaps with the exception of the Western world, it’s normal to negotiate and bargain before settling on the final price. Especially if you look like a Westerner, it’s likely the sellers will try to pass the goods to you for a higher price anyway - so tuning up your bargaining skills is essential. Let the seller call the first price, and then try to half it. Have the exact amount in your wallet that you want to spend, showing it to the seller and saying you didn’t bring more money. And if you are not alone, agree with the other person beforehand how much you will want to spend.
In many touristy destinations, there will be merchants trying to pass their fake goods as authentic ones - this can include leather goods, silk, jewelry, art, designer clothes, or anything else. It’s important to know about the item you want to buy beforehand, and to have an understanding about how an authentic one differs from a fake one.
For example, did you know that in Hoi An, Vietnam, you can find the best custom tailors for your suit or a wedding gown, and for incredibly low prices? Or that Seoul, South Korea is known for its beauty products? Don’t miss the chance to find out what is your destination famous for, besides all the museums or best beaches.
If you don't care about designer items or custom-made suits, you might still get excited about Christmas markets with lights, music and all the local artisan goods. Head to Eastern Europe or Germany to enjoy the most fun, bright and happy Christmas markets with all the shopping that comes with it.
If you are you are up for stylish designer shopping, speak to your concierge. It might be that all you desire are fancy boutiques and glamorous designer items. For that reason, especially if you are in Asia, inquire about special shopping trips at your hotel. Palace Hotel Tokyo, for example, offers a shopping package that includes a personal concierge when shopping at Japan’s most luxury department store.
Whether you are searching for local art, clothes, silk or spices, make sure you know what to expect and come prepared. Avoid touristy shops, and see where locals like to go. That might also be one of the best places to shop.