Tips for shopping abroad

March 6, 2010

By Judy McEuen
Travel Writer
Troy Media

Judy McEuen
Judy McEuen

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Mar. 6, 2010/ Troy Media/ — Do you buy things on your travels? We do, and we have a few tips for shopping abroad.

We’re not talking t-shirts or souvenirs but articles that will bring back memories of the city or country you are visiting.

You’re not going to get the best “deals” or the best “stuff” unless you  get really lucky, but you’ll get some fun things and fun memories of finding them.

Such as art . . .

Purchasing art while on vacation can be a great way to add some excitement to your trip. Think of all the fun that can be had searching out that special piece that will bring back the memory of blue seas, snow-capped mountains, a memorable ruin, or tropical birds.

Each travel destination you visit is sure to have a distinct flavor that can be captured in art or crafts that are unique to the area. Your souvenir could be a painting or it can be fabric, woven panels, embroidered work, or batik.

You can buy native works of art like wood sculptures and masks. We’ve brought home unique musical instruments such as a balalaika, a Tibetan horn, a didgeridoo, and a few drums.  

It’s fun shopping for a little antique piece or some ethnic clothing, but no matter what you go looking for, there are some tips for shopping abroad that you should keep in mind.

If you’re going to look for something specific on a trip, do a little research before you leave home so you know about how much you should expect to pay for it.

Don’t forget to also research how to judge the quality. There are a lot of fakes and cheap knockoffs out there so a little knowledge may help you avoid getting ripped off, though, with many items, even experts can be fooled!

Always assume that what you’re getting isn’t old or authentic, that’s it’s made new for tourists and made to look old. Many countries won’t let you take antiques out of the country anyway.

If you buy anything for a price you can live with, assuming it is just a souvenir and not a valuable treasure, you’ll be happy with it whether it’s new or old.

Don’t give in to the impulse

Think before you buy. Can you get the same thing at home cheaper without the hassles of shipping? Will you really use it? Display it? Or is this an impulse that’s a great idea when you’re in that little shop, but something that will end up collecting dust in a box or in your closet?

Our trick to “get over” that impulse to buy is to buy some little thing that will remind us of the trip, preferably something that lays flat and packs easily such as hand made cards or cloth items or little pieces of inexpensive jewelry. When all else fails, we buy what we call “tacky tourist curios,” funny little pieces that we bring home and hang on our Christmas tree.

That is really our best tip for shopping abroad: really give it some thought before you buy it.

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