Shop The World

16 03 2009


 The wood rhino, renowned for its ability to appear to be an inanimate object


Some time ago I spied an impressive collection of incredibly tacky souvenirs. An office bookcase was crammed with odds and ends from all over the world that had one thing in common: a complete lack of taste. Although it was an absolute treasure trove of tat, there were a few highlights that stuck in my mind and continue to wake me in the night soaked in sweat and screaming for a flame-thrower.


Foremost amongst these was a life-size children’s faux-ivory tusk on a faux-gold stand (for the poacher in your child!) and several tiny little cats that looked suspiciously as though they’d been made of real cat fur. This was a world class collection of kitsch and the staff who returned from their travels knew that inclusion was far more demanding than a simple Leaning Tower of Pisa or stick of Elvis Rock. In fact, even its assortment of snow-globes was discerning and contained the Taj Mahal (because they get oh-so-much snow in Agra). 


I can see the point of collecting funny novelties, and I can see the value in buying really nice items, but I find the fact that many people buy the sorts of things mentioned above as genuine keepsakes, well, just a little troubling!


While you certainly don’t have to buy something on every trip, some places are synonymous with certain things and even if the price is not much better than at home, the selection and quality likely will be and the very experience makes it a treasured memento. However, there are ways to ensure that you make the most of your souvenir shopping while traveling.


Whether carpets in Morocco, masks in Venice or didgeridoos in Australia, do some work before you go and save yourself time, money and frustration!


1) Decide what you want before you leave, then learn as much as possible about that particular item so you know what you’re looking for and won’t end up buying an ebony Tree Of Life carving that’s actually just covered with boot-polish.


2) Go on-line and find good places to shop at your destination. This not only saves you time that can be spent sightseeing, but also prevents your hotel from directing you to the shop that pays them the highest commission, rather than the one with the best quality or most reasonable prices.


3) Have an idea of value. Haggling is nearly always part of the experience, but you’ll haggle a lot more comfortably if you have a rough idea of what that Persian rug should cost you and don’t leave the store feeling as those you’ve been taken for a ride on a flying carpet!


4) Have it shipped home. If you’re shopping for a big item that you either don’t want to carry home or can’t carry home, look into having it shipped before you actually buy it – either by the store, your hotel, or a local freight company.


5) Carry cash and credit cards for that big purchase. Take cash because it might well get you a better discount. Carry credit cards if you’re having it shipped because that way you may be protected if it never reaches you.


6) Make sure you can bring it back into your country. Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean it’s legal there or that you are permitted to bring it back into your home country.


And if all of that doesn’t work, just give me a shout and I may just have a Taj Mahal snow-globe that you’ll like!



Photo and post by:  Simon Vaughan




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