The Ultimate Guide to Shopping Abroad

When people travel, they want to keep a piece of the place for themselves. For some, taking photos is the best way to keep the memory of that place alive. Others document every trip in a blog and post them on social media. For those who are a little more tactile, there is nothing more exhilarating than squeezing through the crowds of a local bazaar, haggling with local vendors, and bringing home little treasures that remind them of their trip. They will always find a spare space in their luggage for trinkets made by local artisans or one-of-a-kind pieces sold exclusively in a certain city. They also want their friends and family back home to experience the city through little knickknacks. If you're one of these global shoppers, you know hard it is to maximize every trip, buy the best items, and stick to your budget. So, here is a guide to help you make the most of your shopping experiences when you're out of the country. 

Give Yourself a Budget 
You've planned everything for this trip, including the best place to sit on a plane, the best pastries to try, and the most reasonable budget for the entire holiday. Now, give yourself a limit for all the extra shopping you will be doing in that city. Call it your purchasing limit. This is the ceiling for all the purchases at malls and markets not related to your trip (souvenirs, memorabilia, etc.). This doesn't include emergency money, too. By having a limit, you reduce the chances of reckless spending and impulsive buying. Whether you're going to the posh malls of Nice or the vegetable markets of Bangkok, you need to limit yourself to a certain amount (preferably in the currency of that particular city). If you're visiting several places and plan to shop in each, give yourself a limit per destination, too. This helps you budget your purchase limit, so you can have a little trinket from each place.  Here are few more tips to keep your hands off your credit card while on a trip: 

List It Down - It helps to have a list of all the things you want to buy. It can be difficult to list them all down, as you're bound to discover glittering items on the way, but as much as possible, make a list of the things you surely have to buy. For instance, as you head out to Moscow, list down matryoshka dolls, lacquer boxes, and replica Faberge eggs, then leave blank spaces for serendipitous finds. 

Get a Shopping Buddy - If you're traveling with friends, make sure to bring one of them when you shop. They will remind you to stick with your budget more effectively than a scribbled list would. 
Bring the Cash You Need - A great way to curb spending is to bring only the cash you need. Just bring enough Russian rubles to cover your dolls and boxes. 

Read Up on Local Market Practices- We hate to admit it, but tourists are easy to spot and easy to sell to, that's why they have to be aware of the market culture in that particular place. 

Take haggling, for instance. This isn't practiced in many parts of Northern America, but it is absolutely expected in the bazaars of Jerusalem. Vendors will expect you to ask for a lower price, which is why price tags tend to be a little higher. While some tourists would be happy to pay the first price, others might be bummed at the fact that they weren't able to stretch their shekels for more souvenirs. As such, read up on local market practices, so you can maximize your funds. 

Assessing Authenticity 
No matter where you are in the world, there will always swindlers who trick and tease you into buying overpriced but inauthentic items. This is especially true in cities famed for certain products, like kimonos in Osaka or Bohemian glassware in Prague. Read up on tips to assess the quality and authenticity of these products. Local guidebooks can direct you to reputable shops. You can also ask the concierge at the hotel to point you to trustworthy vendors. 

Be Wise about Airport Shopping 
The fun doesn't stop when you leave local markets. Airports have evolved to accommodate last-minute shoppers who have the budget to spare, even as they are leaving for home. As such, the world's most sophisticated airports are shopping malls in their own right. Airport shopping has developed a culture of its own, in fact. Airport shopping in Singapore, for instance, deserves its own handbook because of the diversity and abundance of choices. 

Here are a few ways to make the most of your airport shopping: 
  • Identify stores where you can buy duty-free items. 
  • Find out which items are cheaper to buy at airports and items that are cheaper to buy in local shops. 
  • If you're serious about airport shopping, allocate a portion of your budget to your airport purchases 

For travelers, the items that they bring home are more than just pretty trifles for display. They are a testament to the great time they had while exploring an unfamiliar city. And they'll stay on the shelves for years, so no matter how quick the international trip was, it will always feel as if they never left.

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