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More Solo Travel-Shopping Abroad-Tips to Save

Shopping abroad-Tips to save:

For Shopaholics. Travel abroad can be a real treat. I, myself, have not been thrilled by shopping at home or on travel. In any case, there are “treasures” that can be found prowling through local markets with gifts for friends and family. Here are my 9 tips found from trips to Mideast, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Tip One: Treat yourself to a custom tailored shirt or suit. I took a US made “kurta” shirt to India to have ones made in colorful local silks in Jaipur.  Although the choice of fabric can add to the cost, it is still likely to be well under the prices at home for such high quality.

Tip Two: When dealing with street vendors: Know what price range is fair for what you are buying. As every tourist knows, in many places, you won’t have to look for deals on the street. They will come directly to you for better or worse! Bargaining may be the name of the game, but you may not know what the price should be. On a river cruise on China’s Yangtze River, I bought a bright red jacket in a silk-like synthetic for just $10. Still pleased with my deal, I learned my lesson when I met up with my fellow travelers. They had the same “steal” for only $5, half of what I paid!

Tip Three: Holiday shopping for friends and family. can be a real find Get unusual treats that you could never see at home. This is a great way to share your trip. Birthday and holiday gifts from around the world can range from household items to scarves and earrings as well as ski hats and sweaters or practical hiking gear. You may pass up on some of the more exotic finds. One I saw was a small gift box which when opened a “cobra” popped out. Fans of Josh Gates my recall his televised visit to a gift shop that featured smiling “shrunken heads”!


Where to Go to Find Deals:


Tip Four:

Try out the suburbs- and large chain stores. City shops tend to pay the highest rent and charge steep prices. In addition, many are focused on tourists and may deal in knick knacks only. Besides getting outside downtown can be a real inter-cultural experience. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, I took a public bus to a shopping center. Although I could only communicate by sign language, I managed to make some purchases with the help of a student who personally took me around. One challenge: On the way home, no one mentioned that the return bus took a different route away from my hotel. As luck would have it, I was once again rescued by a student who understood my dilemma.

Tip Five: Do good and do well supporting charity shops. In India, I visited a boutique run by women sewing with local fabrics. They had a wide range of products from outerwear and pajamas to silk carrying cases for cell phones. (Since women’s clothes never have the right pockets, I was pleased to find a wearable cellphone case so I don’t have to tote a purse everywhere.)

Tip Six: For designer clothes at a discount, shop the resale boutiques in chic neighborhoods. Those in Paris are well-known. They offer up Chanel and other top brands at deep discounts, albeit still not cheap. Long before the Internet made this commonplace for fashionistas, major cities have had designer boutiques for decades. As a student, I discovered treasures in Manhattan boutiques filled with previously owned couture resold for a discreet but wealthy clientele. More recently, while soaking in the Old World culture of Budapest, I found a designer resale boutique on the way back to my hotel. If you look, you can find everything from ski outfits to evening dresses.

Shopping Abroad-Tips to Save: Timing is Key.

Tip Seven: Take advantage of end of season sales. In the past, my work took me often from Washington, DC to South Africa. This had two real pluses for shopping. First, many outfits had designs and fabrics unavailable in DC. Secondly, even better, being below the Equator, they had end of season sales 6 months ahead of those at home. Since I was working in an office, I loaded up on 2-3 suits each visit. (I still wear 3 of them today!)

Tip Eight: Try out the Paris and Milan sample sales following their fashion weeks. Between trips abroad, online you can check this option out as well. See, for example, Rent the Runway. Although model’s sizes used to be a perfect 6-8, more designers are adding plus sizes and those somewhere in between. For more tips on shopping in Milan, click here

Tip Nine: Donate on the way home, or repurpose on return. It’s easy to fall in love with clothes worn at your destination like elegant saris. The problem? The style may be wrong for where you live and your life style. I for one am still the proud owner of not one but three pairs of elephant pants. I found they make great pajamas!

Worse case? When you get home, you may find your carefully packed china souvenir mugs have broken handles, and replicas of ancient statues are now headless. What “mistakes” you brought home can be tossed or donated for the next garage sale.

For more of our up-to-date personal advice, please see our “5 Tips on Shopping Abroad“.

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