I’m rounding off a bit of a travel-focused week of posts with some thoughts on holiday shopping. Judging by my aptitude for it back home, it’s maybe quite surprising that I don’t really shop much when I’m away. I love wandering round markets and nipping into antique stores, and you can’t keep me away from a good foreign supermarket (Lays instead of Walkers crisps. What’s that about?!), but proper, all-day-long, browsing-for-bargains shopping? Nah.
Maybe it’s because there’s so much else to see and do when you’re in a different country. Why spend all day in H&M when the Empire State Building is a few blocks away? Plus, carrying a load of shopping bags whilst heading up the Eiffel Tower is tourism in its purest form. So rather than bulldozing round a Spanish Zara in the same way you’d tackle Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, here are my tips for sensible shopping in more exotic climes.
Buy things that are unique to your location
One of life’s greatest joys is uttering the sentence “oh, this? I haggled for it with a toothless man at a street market in northern Bolivia.” MUCH more satisfying than admitting your necklace is from Primark’s bargain bin.
Look out for traditional goods that represent the culture of your location. Street markets are great for local crafts and produce, and you know no one will have something similar. This hand painted traditional shawl is from Indonesia.
Buy things you love, cheaper
Despite our contracting economy, the Pound is still a strong currency which means exchange rates are often favourable and you get more ‘holiday money’. Obviously, many destinations are crazy expensive (particularly in Europe) which can negate any saving, but if you shop carefully there are bargains to be had.
French pharmacies are having a bit of a moment, and Brits are flocking to City-Pharma to stock up on Bioderma, Caudalié and all those lovely products you raise your eyebrows at the price of in Space NK. Pharmacy culture is huge across Europe and many popular cities have shops on every corner, locally priced and without the added cost for importing to the UK.
Duty Free is another place to pick up high-end products at cheaper prices. Perfume is always a good Duty Free purchase – use up your leftover notes and stock up on bigger bottles.
Buy things you can’t get at home (yet)
I really do think Sephora does more for European tourism than any other brand. By keeping us here in the UK Sephora-less, they force us to travel across the continent and hunt down precious Make Up For Ever in their many European stores. But a visit to a foreign city is a great chance to pick up brands and products we don’t have at home, and Sephora is pretty much the mecca.
If you’re heading to America, make sure you leave space in your suitcase for all the products we see on TV but can’t buy in the UK. Cover Girl, Lucky Charms, the weirder M&Ms flavours… even products we do get in the UK, like the iPhone, are released in the USA first and it can take months for them to filter over the Pond, which makes them worthwhile investments if you’d probably them buy at home, anyway.
Buy things that remind you of a fantastic holiday
It may be cheesy, tourist-tastic and totally uncool, but buying souvenirs is a fun way to remember a great time. A ridiculously expensive ‘professional’ photo from the top of the Sears Tower, a keyring that says ‘Barcelona rocks!’, an I <3 NY t-shirt – all little reminders of places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. Well worth the inflated prices.
What do you buy when you’re abroad?