Shopping Abroad: Dos & Donts

Shopping Internationally: Dos & Don’ts

When you travel, you gain access to amazing goods you won’t find back home. From handmade coconut kitchen accessories to customized clothing, you want your best buy on holiday to be something to stand the test of time. After all - you may only set foot in that place once. Shopping internationally has its own unofficial guidelines. Experienced travelers share their top dos and don’ts when it comes to shopping on vacation.


Do Support Local

Buy local in Asia


Not only can you shop for unique finds on your travels, but you can also make purchases that have a positive impact. For instance, in Cambodia, many items are made by vulnerable women. When you purchase a purse or something similar, your dollars are supporting a better life for her and her family. This type of investment has long-lasting effects, not only on the local economy and the people it supports but the population as a whole.


Don’t Buy Everything

At least, don’t buy anything you think might have been obtained or manufactured in illegal or unethical ways (think bringing harm to endangered species, as one example). If your gut tells you something is a bit off, trust it. It’s okay (and recommended) to ask where a product originated from. If it’s questionable, be safe and take a pass. Shopping internationally is easier when you consult your onboard crew as they may have more local knowledge about what is safe to purchase in an area.


Do Attend the Local Market

Leather in Mexico


Look for items that are unique to the area you’re visiting. If you’re in Mexico, think silver and leather. If you’re in Asia, look for silk and clothing. Do a bit of research ahead of time and see what recommended buys you should shop for at your destination.


Don’t Wear “Loud” Clothing

Standing out in a crowd may be your style at home but it may also draw attention to thieves when you are shopping on vacation. It’s one thing to wear flashy or expensive items in a familiar environment but when you are visiting foreign lands, it might garner unwanted attention. 


Do Try to Blend

While blending in may ward off potential thieves when you are shopping internationally, it can also be a gesture of appreciation to many locals, even if you are clearly a tourist. Keep a handy phrasebook in your bag and try to familiarize yourself with greetings and basic numbers. Or, download Google Translate or a similar app that can help you bargain at various markets - if that is customary in the area.


Don’t Keep Valuables in Sight

Man with wallet out


If you don’t see locals with cell phones out, it would be inadvisable to use yours. Be aware of what others are doing at all times. Keep your most important ID and cards hidden. Some travelers even carry a decoy purse with only a small amount of cash while keeping other valuables in a waistband or tucked in a sock - just in case.


Do Splurge a Little

Many destinations rely heavily on tourism. If you are shopping internationally and debating over just a few dollars, err on the side of splurging. You likely won’t regret it later, especially since you won’t be able to go back the next day. 


Don’t Neglect Currency Conversions

Thai money

When you’re shopping on vacation, using a different currency can be confusing. Do your research and make sure you understand the conversion. Sometimes, keeping a small calculator on hand (in place of a phone) is advisable just to be sure you aren’t making a serious mistake when you pay for goods and services. 


Do Budget Appropriately

This goes especially for travelers setting out on a world tour. You want to make sure you have spending carefully planned for each leg of your journey. Even if you embark on an all-inclusive getaway, shopping internationally would be considered an ‘extra’ and you’ll need to make sure you spend appropriately for your budget.


Read our Luxury Cruise Connections blog for even more tips on travel and luxury cruising.

Posted 2 years ago


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