February 25, 2010
By Judy McEuen
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Feb. 25, 2010/ Troy Media/ — While it is fun to go to flea markets and bazaars when you travel, I thought I’d offer a few practical tips to make the experience even more fun.
The most important flea market tip is to watch for pickpockets and practice all your travel safety skills. Flea markets all over the world attract large crowds of locals and tourists alike. Everyone is bumping and jostling, and you’re probably distracted by just looking at everything. Can you think of a better place for pickpockets?
Then we get into the practical tips. Wear comfortable shoes because you’re apt to be walking miles . . . literally! Bring along an umbrella and rain gear. Some markets are under large roofs, some are outdoors. Those outdoor ones won’t usually be cancelled for rain because the vendors are often under tents and awnings, so they’re dry. You might as well try to be in case of rain.
Check opening hours. Some flea markets open at dawn! Serious collectors and buyers get there early for the “real finds.” You don’t have to shake yourself out of your hotel bed that early if all you want to do is browse but remember, some markets close by early afternoon, so don’t dawdle in bed for too long.
Bring along cash. Some flea markets have gone a bit upscale, and you may be able to use credit cards, but don’t count on it. If it’s really a flea market, the vendors will want cash. Bring small bills that are easy to get change for. You don’t want to be haggling over that last dollar then hand them the equivalent of a hundred dollar bill! (A note for responsible travel: Haggle, but don’t go for the last dime. Remember that in poor countries, they need the money more than you do.)
Take along a pen and paper. If you don’t speak the local language, and the vendor doesn’t know any English, you can bargain with them by writing the numbers on the paper instead of scratching them on the palm of your hand. Also, if you think you might want to go back for an item, write down the stall number or location so you can find it again, but . . .
. . . Don’t count on that great find being there when you return. If it really is “a find,” it may well have been snapped up by someone else. If you see something you just can’t live without, purchase it right then. Just remember that, in most cases, these are the types of places where you won’t be able to return it if you change your mind. Decisions, decisions!
Here’s a flea market tip that could save you money: Don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment. It’s easy to get into looking and haggling for something you don’t really need or want. Remember this especially if you’re looking at a large item. If it doesn’t fit “under the seat in front of you or in the overhead rack” of your plane, you’re going to have to check it or ship it or trust the vendor to ship it.
Shipping is expensive
You may not save any money at all if you have to ship it. (We’ve had no problems when we had merchants send us rugs, but we’ve heard horror stories about goods not being sent, broken in shipping or even switched from what you bought, so beware.)
Take time to eat and drink. Many flea markets have food stalls, which are a good way to try some local fare and keep your strength and spirits up.
And one last flea market tip: If you’ve haggled and found something that you really, really want, go for it. It’ll make for a great travel story and a “priceless” souvenir.