The Ultimate Travel Guide to Shopping at Street Markets

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Some of the best gifts and keepsake items are the products you purchase during your travels abroad. Local guidebooks usually recommend shopping at local malls or tourist friendly souvenir shops. Yet it is well known that the best products are located in local street markets. Unfortunately, street markets have a reputation for being chaotic, dangerous and overwhelming which causes many travelers to be apprehensive. If you are able to dismiss these exaggerated perceptions than the next street market you encounter can be the most enriching experience you have as a traveler. Vendedy is here to help! Here we outline the top 10 rules for shopping at global street markets!

  1. Dismiss the Guidebook. Usually, the first point of informational authority on local experiences is a travel guidebook., Guidebooks though informative, usually feature the most standardized recommendations for travelers. Take their tips as a way to navigate through the country, not experience it.
  2. Remember the name. One of the most obvious but overlooked reason why travelers find it difficult to find street products is because they do not know what it is called in certain countries. Countries like the United States usually call open air street product congregations-flea markets. In the Middle East- the name Souq comes to mind and in parts of Asia, it’s a bazaar, floating market or marketplace. Whatever the name, make sure to search for name descriptions that go beyond the word “street market” .
  3. Some Cities never sleep. Unlike storefronts, street markets do not have to adhere to strict open/close hours. Street vendors can sell 24 hours a day 7 days a week and many do! Find out if the local city you are visiting has night markets. Many of the best foods and products are sold during a very festival like night markets throughout the world.
  4. Learn the art of haggling. Let’s face it- the street market has never fixed prices and the best deals go to buyers who know how to negotiate with style. Do some research on average pricing for items at local street markets and feel free to browse a couple of stalls before buying anything. This due diligence can save you tons of money in the long run. Try buying multiple items at once for the best deals.
  5. Travel solo or as a pair. If you want the best deals don’t ever travel in large groups because it screams tourist! Street vendors always increase prices for foreigners so act like a local and travel with a casual number of people.
  6. Dress like a local. Try your best to blend in and wear local attire to help you blend in with the culture. Wearing your typical style of dressing can make you stand out which leads to bias pricing.
  7. Know the impact of you accent. The sad truth is, if you have a western accent- there is an expectation that you can afford higher price points than other foreign areas. In many ways it is true. Yet, your best bet is to not get frustrated by this reality and just be informed of averaging prices and learn to haggle.
  8. Don’t accept the recommended product. It is in the vendors best interest to have the most popular items up for sale. As a result, they will always promote the go-to product to new travelers since it will increase their chances of a sale. Unless you want a common product that all tourists buy- refuse and take the time to look through the items for a more unconventional product.
  9. Know where to place your money. It is already a given that you should enter the street market with cash but where you place it is very important. Not to protect you from a robbery but to increase your chances of getting a better deal. Don’t put all of your cash in one place. Place it in 3 different areas so you can pick which pocket to pull out your cash in front of the vendor. It’s safe to assume that all of your cash is not for shopping. Your budget is also reserved for eating and other activities. So place that budgeted amount separately from your shopping amount so it can look like you have less when haggling for better prices.
  10. Roam the streets before you shop. As a novice to the street market scene, it’s best you check multiple spots first and “window shop” for different prices so you can know what the average price is for certain items. Furthermore, if you are in the city for several days, come back another day. Weekend prices tend to be higher than weekly prices.

Finally, have fun and use Vendedy as your ultimate resource for experiencing global street markets! For a curated list of more tips from articles cited at Huffington Post, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic and more- check out our 35 Tips For Shopping at Street Markets. Do you have any recommendations? Feel free to add them in the comments section.

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