Between must see and must do attractions, few travelers resist the lure of shops, bazaars and local markets. Grab your cash, credit cards and a shopping bag and test these savvy shopping tips from a veteran flight attendant who has shopped the world.
Research guidebooks and websites to learn about port of call shopping specialties. Make a list of things you want to buy and a gift list. Study prices so you donít pay more for items than they cost at home. Check prices on EBay or by searching items on Yahoo or Google for comparison.
Read Know Before You Go from U.S. Customs at www.customs.gov. When shopping abroad, it is easy to accidentally purchase prohibited items. Donít depend on what shopkeepers tell you. For instance, markets in Mexico , Central America and parts of Asia are filled with prohibited and restricted items.
If shopping internationally, print a pocket-sized copy of the currency exchange cheatsheet for your destination at www.oanda.com and a common phrase language translation cheatsheet at www.travelang.com.
If you enjoy shopping in markets and bazaars, learn to bargain with best. Ask your travel agent or cruise director about local bargaining protocol. Compare prices at several local shops before buying. Begin bargaining at 50 percent off the asking price and expect to settle for about around 60 percent of the sellerís original price. Decide what you are willing to pay and walk away if you canít agree on a reasonable price. Donít haggle over pennies. When negotiations reach that point, give in. Consider the economic conditions where you are and how much a few cents means in a poor economy. Expect to get ďtakenĒ occasionally. Itís part of the experience and makes a good cruise travel story, if you admit it!
Pay for expensive purchases in ports (especially if they are to be shipped) with a credit card that offers buyer protection benefits. However, remember that the exchange rate you are charged is the rate the day the charge posts to your account, not the day of your purchase. If exchange rates are volatile, you could pay more than you thought for charged items.
Keep a log and receipts for all your purchases. Use your log to complete your customs form and verify purchases on your charge card statement.
Give as well as take. Pack a few small gifts. Inexpensive items such as sunglasses, bandannas and ballpoint pens are sought after in many countries. Use the gifts to barter or simply enjoy the pleasure and goodwill they bring.
Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where and how to shop. Shopping is an art. Hone your skills and buy some happiness.
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