The Guide to Becoming Souvenir Savvy
I can almost guarantee that nearly every traveller does one thing: shop for souvenirs! I put together a quick guide to mastering the act, which can be used all over the globe. Happy shopping!
Before you Shop
Make a souvenir list that includes the names of the people you will be shopping for. Add idea items to the list that you think each person will like as your wander through your destination. The list provides a way to stay focused on shopping day and a way to remember who all you are shopping for.
Avoid shopping on the first day of any trip especially when you are travelling to places like Amsterdam, where you could buy so much. Learn about the culture before you buy so that you can get items that accurately reflect your destination. During the trip you will become more aware of the going prices for particular items and will have a better chance of avoiding getting ripped off.
Set a price limit. This will help you to stay focused and will keep you on budget.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making the Purchase
Can I pack it?
If not, can I get rid of some items in my suitcase so that I can pack it?
If not, can I ship it?
Is it unique?
Is it representative of my destination’s culture?
Can I find it cheaper and/or better made?
Is it legal to purchase?
Will it look nice in my home?
Do I need it?
Get to know the going prices before you go shopping. I generally ask taxi drivers, hotel staff, or friends from the area what the going rates for locals are. If you can, get someone to join you – you’ll get much farer prices! This is especially useful if you do not know the local language.
Know the currency conversion in-and-out to avoid getting ripped off. You want to look like you know what you are talking about – stumbling over conversion will decrease confidence, ultimately making you an easy target.
Bring a lightweight day-bag for your shopping venture. You will want to conceal all of the items you purchase so that shopkeepers do not believe you have more money than you actually do. It will also decrease your chances of being a victim of street theft.
Halve the asking price. You will generally be asked for a price that has been jacked up 100%. Just half it and work from there. It’s likely you’ll get laughed at, but that’s the fun of the whole process!
Offer a fair price. Even if you can get an item for dirt cheap, should you? Remember that everyone is working hard and they deserve to be treated fairly, as well. This is their turf, so be polite!
Walk away! This works nearly every time. I can almost guarantee you will get chased down and get offered a much better price.
If you don’t get a fair price walk away – for good! There’s no point in overspending, especially in touristy areas – there will always be someone willing to offer you a better price than their competition.
The Ultimate No-Nos
Avoid shopping in the airport. Airports are often overpriced and the merchandise is generally not authentic and well-crafted.
Do not commit to purchasing an item if you are not ready to. This means NO handshakes. I’ve made this mistake before, which meant that I had to avoid the location for the remainder of the trip.
Textiles are my absolute favourite items to purchase abroad. They can be made into just about anything (pillowcases, wall hangings, shadowbox backdrops, curtains, etc.), are easy to pack, and offer padding to wrap fragile souvenirs with.
Touristy areas are often times filled with similar souvenirs, which makes collecting easy to do. Examples include flags, postcards, stamps, pins (I once saw someone place them all over her passport book and it looked awesome!), and maps. Choose an item and collect them from around the world!
I collect tea cups/mugs from everywhere I go. I do this because I know that EVERY CULTURE uses an item to drink out of. It’s a fun way for me to compare design cross-culturally and the items are generally easy to find.