Shop and travel – How to get the best bargains and style abroad

There are so many benefits to visiting an exotic location. Savouring authentic local cuisine to lounging on beaches to soaking up the cultural nightlife, are all parts that make a fantastic trip. Especially for Western tourists in places like South America or East Asia, the dollar exchange means a person can get 4 times as much for 4 times less than would normally cost. In gorgeous locations such as Thailand or Bali, for instance, a tourist can stay in a fancy 5 star hotel for as little as £15 a night. A lavish dinner, a spa treatment, and classy cocktails on the beach, cost even less. In these places, it is easy to feel like Royalty. One major highlight of any trip is shopping. While the popular spots and areas near the hotels can be tourist traps, a journey to the local market is well worth the finds and bargains. However, this can appear daunting, especially for a foreign traveler unfamiliar with the currency and overwhelmed by the multitude of goods on offer. 

The first step to finding the best shopping spots is to speak with a local or someone familiar. This can be asking the attendant at the hotel reception, chatting with your restaurant waiter, or by speaking with other tourists. This way you can get great recommendations often unmentioned in travel brochures. From here, you can identify what type of market you are looking for as there can be many. There are broad markets that cater to virtually every odd and end to those with vendors selling specific goods like clothing, jewelry, or food and spices. Always make sure that you double check on a map where the market is, to determine whether it is worth it and whether you are comfortable travelling a longer distance from your hotel. Also exercise safety when travelling and do a quick search on whether the market is in a dangerous area. Pickpockets and thieves can sometimes circle the stalls like sharks looking for easy prey and markets attract them because tourists arrive with full wallets ready to spend. 

Upon arriving at the market it is a great idea to do a full sweep to get a sense of what each vendor offers and try to take note of any sellers of interest. Some markets even have a vendor map or layout that visitors can highlight, yet even what seems like the most chaotic places may have aisle and/or stall numbers to find the vendor again. Another valuable reason to make a brief sweep of a place is that, especially in East Asia, shop owners really want to make the sale and so they often promise better prices. With this in mind you can return with that amount in mind and negotiate from a much better point. Whether simply browsing or with a specific item in mind to purchase, it is important to note the vendors that seem to offer reasonable prices and also good quality. Places such as Thailand or Bali are notorious for their comical rip offs, such as Adidogs for Adidas and Balibong for Billabongs. There are also other items that may be cheaply made, however, for every bad quality find there is a gem. It is useful to highlight those vendors that advertise handmade, as often factories try to cost cut with inexpensive materials. Therefore, look at the quality of the cloth, the stitching, metal over plastic, so that you do not get fooled into paying a high price for a cheap item with a short life. 

In regard to not being duped, negotiating or bartering is part of the process and is expected. Do not fall for the naive tourist trap of paying the first offered amount or what is listed on the actual item as, depending on the vendor, this can be astronomical. Depending on the merchandise, many times the vendor hikes up the price anywhere from £5 to £500 to catch unsuspecting foreigners. For example, a foreigner could be offered a ‘deal’ for 2 Ray Ban sunglasses or a Canada Goose Jacket and think they are getting a bargain because it is much more expensive in their home country, when in reality these items are not authentic at all and in reality are worth only £4 when the vendor charges £50. Being unfamiliar with local currency is another pitfall and/or not understanding the exchange amount. Places like Thailand or Bali are notorious for the amount of zeros in their money and misreading an extra zero or more can easily have you spending more. 

Those with the travel bug love interesting and exotic finds in these marketplaces as it is part of the experience of a new culture. To get in the travel mood, a jetsetter often watching travel movies or reads books or even plays online games. For instance, there are many online casino sites that have travel or adventure themed slot games to explore. Online slots like Microgaming’s ‘Jungle Jim: El Dorado’ with Aztec Ruins, Yggdrasil’s ‘Penguin City’ for the energy of a bustling Asian food market, or Pragmatic Play’s ‘Chilli Heat’ for a Mexican fiesta. These online games are also great as mobile slots and have a simple grid of 5 reels, often 3 to 4 rows, a set number of payways, and many different features and bonuses that offer exciting rewards. A similar thrill can be felt when getting the best deal at the market. 

Here is a fantastic trick to get the best price. Approach the item you want, but look uncertain, like you are sitting on the fence to buy or not. The vendor will approach and either offers a better price or you say “Is this the best price?”. When they give their offer, look shocked and say “that is still too much for me, sorry.” They will often counter with another offer. Then you can really negotiate by asking for less or a deal with another item. If you really want to check if that is the ultimate best price, because you are not sure if the vendor can go lower, say politely “Thanks, but I’ll have to think about it” and then turn to walk away. More often than not the vendor will call out to you with their best, just so they can make the sale. If you want to be a skilled bargainer, you can turn and offer back even a couple dollars less, but this may be pushing it. However, if you do not ask you will never know. 

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