Souvenirs: Tips for smart shopping overseas

A man looks overwhelmed at the selection of souvenirs in Mexico.
A man looks overwhelmed at the selection of souvenirs in Mexico.

(Director’s note: One of the joys of traveling abroad is souvenir hunting. However, it’s difficult to negotiate the local markets and shops without falling prey to tourist traps and overpriced items. Guest blogger Vikki Gerrard of La Crosse, Wisconsin, gives some handy tips on how to find authentic, affordable souvenirs.)

Research before you go

Before traveling to your chosen destination, research local markets and shops and read up on the types of souvenirs that are unique to the region. This will give you an idea of what to expect regarding prices and authenticity and help you avoid tourist traps that sell the same generic souvenirs.

Another way to research is by seeking recommendations from trusted sources. Ask locals or friends who have already visited the area for their advice, and use online reviews and blogs for additional tips on where to find the best deals.

Bargain but be respectful

While haggling is common in many countries, it’s essential to be respectful and polite when bargaining. Don’t lowball the seller. Be willing to compromise to reach a fair price. Remember that haggling is part of the cultural experience, so don’t be afraid to give it a try.

One way to make the bargaining process smoother is by learning a few key phrases in the local language. This will help you communicate with the seller and show respect for their culture.

A souvenir stand in Morocco.

Check for quality and authenticity

Always inspect items carefully for quality and authenticity before purchasing them. Look for local certifications or stamps, and check for any damage or other imperfections. When buying clothing or textiles, check the material and any care instructions.

Buy from artisans and local producers

To ensure your souvenirs’ authenticity, try to buy from local artisans and producers. This helps support the local economy and ensures that your souvenir is truly unique. You can often find local artisans at markets and community events.

One of the benefits of buying from local artisans and producers is that they are usually more willing to negotiate prices than large shops and stores.

Shop outside tourist hotspots

Avoid souvenir shops and markets near tourist hotspots, as they are often overpriced and target tourists unfamiliar with the local prices. Instead, venture off the beaten path and explore smaller markets and shops in local neighborhoods. You are more likely to find authentic and unique items at affordable prices.

You can also ask the locals what souvenirs to buy and where to go shopping. This can be a great way to discover hidden gems. The locals know their city best, so they will be able to give you the scoop on the best markets and shops offering unique items at the best prices.

A postcard stand in Turkey.

Be mindful of customs regulations

When shopping for souvenirs abroad, being aware of customs regulations and restrictions is essential. Some items may not be allowed back into your home country or require special permits. Check with your country’s customs regulations before making any purchases.

Additionally, some items may require extra packaging and shipping to get them back home safely. Make sure you factor this into the cost of your souvenirs before buying them.

Consider shipping options

If you’re concerned about fitting all your souvenirs into your luggage, consider shipping them back home. Many markets and shops offer shipping services, or you can use a reputable shipping provider. This can be more expensive, but it ensures your souvenirs arrive safely and securely.

For example, if you’re traveling to India, remember these tips when shopping for souvenirs. You’ll find beautiful jewelry, textiles, clothing and home decor items throughout the country but it’s essential to do your research beforehand and familiarize yourself with local prices.

Buy gifts for friends and family

Shopping for souvenirs is a great way to bring home memories of your travels, but don’t forget to pick up some gifts for your friends and family, too. Whether it’s clothing, jewelry, food items, or crafts, you can find something special for everyone back home.

Not only will your friends and family love the gifts, it’s also a great way to introduce them to new cultures and traditions. Plus, many souvenirs make great conversation pieces that can be enjoyed for years.

A woman in a picturesque alley in Morocco.


Shopping for souvenirs is an exciting part of any trip abroad. Follow these tips to ensure you’re getting the best deals without sacrificing the quality or authenticity of your purchase. Remember that the best souvenirs are often unique and reflect the local culture. By shopping local and supporting the economy, you’ll not only take home something special, but you’ll also create a positive impact on the community you’re visiting.