The Afar Guide to
Shopping the Globe

The Best Mementos

We're of the opinion that experiences are better purchases than things. But we still love beautiful things—especially when they bring back exceptional travel memories. A pair of sandals, handmade for you in Sardinia. A scarf that holds all the gorgeous colors of the Marrakech souk. The hand-dyed rug that you bought in a Oaxacan village, after bargaining for hours. Whatever the price point, the items that you bring back from your travels should be the things that prompt incredible stories, even years later.

The World's Best Cities for Shopping
From New Orleans to Barcelona, Seoul to Shanghai, we are equal opportunity purchasers. Every city has its magic, and that magic, we assert, can be purchased in the form of ceramics, jeans, textiles, honey, and more. Because the magic lies in the stories that those items can tell.
Exceptional Shopping Experiences
The best of the best, curated by AFAR editors.
10 Ideas to Maximize Your Shopping Time
Shopping provides unique insights into a place. Don't save it all for the last day of your trip—pop into stores as you see them, and bring home some treasures.
Do your research. What is the destination known for? In Spain, for example, each town has its special style of ceramics—different colors, motifs, etc. In Granada, buy ceramics in the Granadino style (they feature pomegranates).
If you're in a place where haggling is expected: have a top price in mind, and don't give in! Start low, and leave the store if the price is going too high.
If haggling is never going to be your thing, accept that you're going to pay more. Many cities will have showrooms and stores off the main market area where prices are set, like this pottery cooperative in Fes.
While shopping in big department stores is most often not going to result in very unique finds, don't discount them altogether. Some will sell local designers' wares, and they can be a good place to scout out the local style.
Talking to locals is one of the best ways into a culture—and shopkeepers are locals too. Chat them up at the cash register, and see if they can help direct you to other incredible experiences, like their favorite restaurants or a new, must-see theater production.
Impulse buys happen. That gorgeous embroidered skirt that you were sure you would wear all the time when you were buying it in Mexico City? Sometimes once you get home it will suddenly seem out of place. No regrets—if you don't wear it, perhaps it would make a lovely gift.
Think of shopping as an interior design decision. You might need wall hangings or visual art from local artists, or a covering for your bed more than you need clothing or jewelry.
You can buy large items! Don't be afraid to ship. Many stores will ship for you—and if they don't, going to a foreign post office can also be a great cultural experience.
Any time of year is a good time for holiday shopping. People love getting gifts from foreign lands. Just save them until the holidays or birthdays.
If you're worried about buying knock-offs or junk, check with your concierge. They can help you navigate to ensure the authenticity of goods.
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Davina Baum, Shopping the Globe Curator

Davina Baum is the director of digital content at AFAR. Her travel passions are contemporary art and great food.