Navigating an artisanal market is a rite of passage in most Latin American countries. These different craft markets are filled with beautiful paintings, pieces of clothing, pottery, knick-knacks—basically anything you would want. The women and men in these markets are welcoming, always smiling, and extremely persistent. They are so fun to interact with and get to know. I’ll always remember my favorite lady in Antigua, who I bought all of my gift bags and huipiles from. Bartering is a fun aspect of these markets, and definitely a skill that can be mastered. I’ve compiled some tips to make venturing through these markets a little easier.
- Greet everyone. Different sellers will tell you “Hola Señorita” or “Adelante” or “Algo especial?” or something along those lines. They’re trying to be good business people and treat you with respect. Return the favor and say hi as you pass by.
- Do a lap before committing to anything. Make sure that you see everything that the market has to offer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a glass or a salt shaker or a dish only to find one that I like better three stalls down. Take everything in.
- Ask the prices of things. Recognize that showing interest in items will encourage sellers to engage with you, ask how much you’re willing to pay, and be persistent. Ask anyways. This will give you a good gage of how much different items cost, and how much they are worth.
- If you don’t want to buy something, say “no, thank you”. Say you’re not interested. Keep walking. Be polite.
- Make conversation at the stall or stalls you want to purchase from. Ask how they’re doing, how their day is going. Build rapport. Tell a few jokes. Get to know someone new! These are the things that make travelling fun, and important. Interacting with people is what it’s all about.
- When you find something you want to buy, you should have an understanding of how much it is worth. Is it one-of-a-kind? Is it something every market stall has? Ask the seller how much it costs and make a counter-offer.
- Once the seller tells you their price, make another offer that’s somewhere in the middle. Often, they’ll ask you what the lowest price is you’re willing to pay (“Cual es su precio mas bajo?”). Be honest. If they think it’s not enough, they’ll tell you. If they readily agree to the price, you probably offered something to high. You’ve learned your lesson for next time.
- Say thank you.
- Enjoy your purchase!
Most of the things I get abroad come from artisanal markets. You can find high-quality products for good prices, and its way more personal than shopping at normal stores. Embrace the experience, enjoy the experience, and have fun!