How To Survive a Caribbean Market and Common Questions about Caribbean Shopping
Caribbean markets are the most fun way to Shop for souvenirs when you are on vacation in the Caribbean islands. It is also one of the best ways to see local culture and economy. Watching how hard the people work in these markets reminds me that although we are staying in luxury here, these countries are for the most part very poor. If you know how to do it right, you can teach your kids some great lessons on negotiation and respect of the differences in cultures.
I personally love going to these markets, and I have brought home some of my favourite paintings and trinkets from them. In the Caribbean markets you will find souvenir vendors, local food vendors, artists, singers and more. They really try to cater to the tourists, as this is where most of their money comes from. Often times there will also be discount tour companies in the markets selling cheap tours. When we go the markets, I give my kids a budget and let them buy something within their budget. This keeps them engaged so that we can shop longer!
The first time I went to one of these markets, I was not comfortable. But over time, I learned to love it. You just have to understand the rules of the game like anything else. In this article, I will teach you the rules of the Caribbean Markets. Please comment below if there is anything you can add, or if you have further questions on this.
16 Tips on How To Survive A Caribbean Market and Shopping Centres
If you have never been to a market in a 3rd world country, get ready for a culture shock. The vendors in these places are usually very poor, they know they will probably never see you again, and they can be very aggressive with their sales. Do not get frustrated as this shows weakness and pettiness. You are on vacation so relax and go with the flow, try to be courteous around the locals. I usually only skim over what each vendor has and if they ask what I want, I tell them I am not sure yet but will let them know if I see anything I am interested in. By being polite, they have no choice but to let you skim the product. Don’t tell them you are looking for something specific, one of their friends will most likely have it and they will take you on a wild hunt for what you are asking for.
When you decide what you want to buy in a Caribbean market, first ask them how much it is. Once they give you the price, offer them 35% less than the list price and see what they say. After they counter offer you again offer the 20% of the original list price. At some point someone has to stop and it is in your best interest if it is you. I know that this type of thing will feel weird at first, but this is how it is done here.
Respect the locals
Be you are nice to them, and they will be nice to you. If you really pay attention around you when you are here, you will realize that the vendors are either all friends with each other or all related. Being friendly will make your experience in the market a lot better, in the fact that they will want to help you.
Do not be rude or aggressive
Coming off some cruises and all inclusive’s, there are a lot of people that go to these markets wasted. Some of the people I have watched have gotten rude and aggressive in the market. This can get you into a lot of trouble, the vendors may be related to police or even gangsters. And you might get arrested or get your ass kicked. The violence laws in some of these countries are not like in the US, and if they hit you it is very unlikely they will get into trouble. They have 30 witnesses around them that will back up their side of the story. Further to this if you are rude and aggressive in a Caribbean market, no one will want to help you.
Sometimes in negotiation with vendors it is best to walk away. The best part about this strategy is it really tells them you are at your final price. If they chase you down you know for sure they will give you the price you want. If they can’t give you your price at this point, you know that they are at their bottom. These vendors do not want to lose a sale unless they are going to lose money.
When you are shopping in Caribbean markets and find something you really want to buy, you can shop multiple stalls for the same item before making your initial offer at a vendor you like. A lot of the stall will have the same stuff, so if you take your time you can pit them against each other in order to get the lowest price.
Check Larger shops for the same products
Most Caribbean locations will have the small stalls and then there will also be storefronts with souvenirs for tourist. The storefronts may have better prices than they can offer in the markets and you will not have to negotiate. I personally prefer to buy from the markets, only to support the smaller business people. But they would have to give me the same price or better than the storefront. If you absolutely hate the haggling of the small markets, then you should be buying at a store.
Understand there are no returns
There are no returns when you buy from a market, however if you buy a chain and it breaks in 10 minutes, they might fix it or exchange it for you. Just don’t try to walk in all pissy and expect them to hook you up, that will definitely not work.
Don’t break anything
You break it, you buy it. That is the motto here. Lots of the stalls will be really tight and they may have breakable things kicking around. If you knock it over and it smashes on the floor, they will try to get you to pay retail for it. I avoid going into the markets when I drink because of this, it would ruin my day if I got into it with a vendor.
Watch your kids closely
Your kids will love these areas because they have lots of little toys you can buy. Keep a close eye on them because the toys are not made by Mattel, they are cheap and can break easily. You will be held responsible if your kids break anything in these stalls.
Watch out for pick pockets
I always have a satchel on with a zipper, tightly secured to my body. Never leave cash or valuables in your pockets. These markets are tight and pick pockets use areas like this to graze by you and steal your stuff. I have been to hundred of these markets and this has never happened to me, but it is something you should be aware of.
Don’t be flashy
If you are too flashy, you will draw negative attention that you don’t need. You will also be perceived as rich and the vendors will try to take advantage of that, thinking you have cash to burn.
It is not real
It is not a real LV or Gucci. The brand name things in Caribbean markets are all knock offs, some immigration departments frown on this if you have a lot of knock off items. Know your countries rules before you buy fake stuff. However if you buy a fake LV purse and are using it on your flight home, it is very unlikely that anyone would ever say something.
Expect low quality
Don’t be surprised if the zipper break or a button falls off. Most of the things are cheap low quality items. he t-shirts for example will shrink in the wash or bleed on your good quality clothes.
Beautiful artwork and Crafts
Some of the things I like to buy in Caribbean markets are woodwork, art, glass crafts and hand made toys. A lot of times the vendors themselves will be sitting there carving a masterpiece. You may also request that they make you something custom for an agreed on price. These are the best buys you can get in these places, as similar items in the western world will be easily quadruple the price.
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Common Questions about Caribbean Markets
Are Caribbean Markets Safe for Women and Children?
Yes Caribbean markets are safe, these are public places and they are used to tourist. The men might whistle at a pretty girl, but thats about it
How much Money do I need in a Caribbean market?
I would take no more than $150. Depending on what you want to buy. Paintings are around $30, and most items are below $20. Food, alcohol and entertainment is also very cheap here.
Do they Accept credit cards or Debit?
Hell no. Not one vendor will ever have these services. Cash only.
What currency do they accept?
They will accept local currency and USD. Sometimes depending on the country they will also accept Canadian, but that is not the norm. It is best to negotiate in their local currency as they will gouge you on the exchange if you are using US dollars.
What time does the Caribbean Markets close?
Caribbean markets are usually open until 9pm. They will close early on Sundays around 5. If you are in a highly christian country, they will not be open on Sunday.
What can I buy in a Caribbean Market?
You can buy cheap jewelry, shoes, t-shirts, artwork, toys, souvenir items like spoons and shooter cups and a lot more.
What is the best souvenir to get from the Caribbean?
There is no best, I like to buy shooter glasses with the country name on it. I also like to buy local art, as it is cheap and good quality.
What should I wear in a Caribbean market?
Dress comfortably, shorts and a t-shirt or tank top. Most of these markets are open air, but they can be really stuffy especially if they are covered.