Best Global Shopping
We thought we owned everything, right? With the Euro and British Pound very low, travel shopping is fun again. Combine exchange rates with 15-17% VAT refunds, there are bargains to be had. Here are our favorite bargain spots.
India is the bargain basement full of markets, shops, and street vendors offering irresistible gifts: a $1 pen encrusted with rhinestones? An $4 embroidered umbrella? Or hand made papers and books? Cotton clothes for as little as $3? Herbal soaps and creams? Gems and more gems? Jewelry from $5 earrings to $5000 gold and precious gem bracelets? household goods to make your tired living room alive again?
India’s top hotels have shopping malls attached to the lobby. So, if you are not adventurous, you can shop but stay on the premises. Vendors will take credit cards for a small surcharge and US Dollars in cash. The rupee is also at rock bottom rates to the US Dollar. If shopping at a major festival like Pushkar ( our November 2019 trip), bring cash.
Before you ship an item, ask to see complete paperwork. Take a photo of your purchase from several angles. You need to know both shipping costs, insurance, and the extra expense of freight forwarding. Your carpet can be shipped to a port near you, then sit in a warehouse if freight forwarding is not included in your invoice. A final caveat is to try to find if the item was made locally. Much Chinese ware is now sold in SE Asia.
Some women will pack a collapsible bag-something like you get from Ikea or Fresh Direct. These are sturdy enough to be checked in on departure or refolded in your suitcase if you do not find your dream gift.
Middle East souks have fascinating things. Look further East to the Emirates and Oman for exotica. Dubai has its Gold Souk for 24 carat gold – warning it is too soft for daily wearing. Oman’s ancient capital, Muscat, has a traditional souk for gems, jewelry, pottery, fabrics and dried fruit to nibble as you shop. In the mountains of Oman is Nizwa souk where pottery sits alongside Frankincense, basketry, textiles and local clothing. Women might find that men’s shirts fit them and look wonderful at home. One year a woman with us bought myrrh and frankincense, put them in little local boxes and gave them as Christmas gifts.
Here is the glitch, most women are scared about bargaining. If you proceed on the theme that you WILL overpay, go for it. Merchants in a souk even a huge Indian market know each other’s prices. You are facing a cartel. Choose the color and size of what you want. Ask the price in a few stalls, settle on one where you feel comfortable with the merchant. Offer 40% less and offer cash.
There are bargains in Europe also. The countries that do not use the Euro are where to look. Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, etc. These are newer economies. The population still hand makes crafts and sells from stalls. Markets date from Turkish times and look it. You find beautifully tooled knives with bone handles (often signed by the maker) and other home goods. Embroidery is common. For highest quality items, go to the museum shops.
On our trips we visit local markets if and only if they are also scenic and culturally interesting. Women who are more serious shoppers only have to tell our guide and they are free to shop until they drop.
Happy Shopping and do make it a cultural exchange and thank the merchant.
Travel tips from The Women’s Travel Group: https://www.thewomenstravelgroup.com/tours/