Ok so we have a fun post for you today! Stef and I have been to Thailand quite a few times, and if there is one thing we have mastered, it is shopping. Shopping quickly, in extreme heat, and literally shopping until we drop. I consider Stef and I to be two of the fastest and hardest shoppers you will ever meet, and after years of shopping in Asia, we have learned that the stores all start to look the same after awhile, so if you don't see something that catches your eye immediately, just keep walking. There are literally hundreds of shops to get to.
If you have ever been, or are planning on going to S.E.Asia, particularly Thailand, this is the post for you! Ok, let's get to those tips!
1. Get an early start!
The early bird definitely gets the worm when it comes to shopping in Thailand, especially at markets. There are two reasons why it's best to get out early are to beat the rush, and temperatures won't be as ridiculous than if you would go out in the afternoon. By the time 2 pm rolls around, the sun is unforgiving and the crowds can make you feel a little crazy! Also be sure to find out what time markets and malls open and close because a lot of night markets don't get going until late afternoon, while others close at that time.
2. Bring only the necessities (see collage above).
-You will need a big purse, the bigger the better. A backpack would be great too, to free up your hands!
- A headscarf to keep your sweaty bangs off of your face.
- Sunglasses for when you're out in the sun.
- Water, water, water! Drink as much as you can, because trust us, you will sweat most of it out! Stay hydrated friends it it so important!
- Sunscreen. Lather it on before you go out.
- Lipgloss with SPF.
- Comfy shoes. This is probably the most important thing to bring with you. Now is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes. You will walk and walk and then walk some more, so it's so important to have comfortable shoes. There is nothing worse than cutting a shopping trip short because of sore feet or blisters.
- Measuring tape to make sure what you're buying will fit you.
- Calculator to help you out with figuring out exchange rates and to make sure you aren't getting ripped off.
-Wallet. Preferably something in a bright color or print so that you can find it easily!
-We like to bring a small purse to keep our wallet accessible and to keep it from getting lost, as well as our cell phone from disappearing underneath bags of stuff in our giant purses.
3. Wear light clothing!
Let's get one thing straight. There is absolutely NO need to look even remotely cute when shopping in a market in Thailand. There is no air conditioning in markets. They are crammed with people and temperatures are usually sky high, so don't even bother with make up. It will literally melt off your face. Our advice would be to wear as little clothing as possible without being disrespectful or scandalous of course! We like to wear light sundresses, or a skirt or shorts with a cropped top or tank top. Another piece of advice? Don't wear white - it probably won't stay white!
4. Take out money before you go.
Almost all places operate as cash only, and it's pretty easy to go a little crazy because things can be pretty cheap! We use our ATM cards as soon as we get to Bangkok because most ATM cards have daily limits of what you can take out in one day, so we like to go prepared. You can use a visa or other credit card too, but make sure you call your credit card company before you go so that they don't de-activate your card. You could take out money at home before you go on the trip, but you won't get as much bang for your buck- you'll lose about 10% and what girl wants to throw money into the wind like that? Not us!
5. Make a list of wants vs. needs.
It's so easy to get carried away with unnecessary purchases, so we have found it helpful to make a list, either put it in your phone, or memorize it so that you can avoid getting back with a suitcase full of wacky things that you will never wear or use.
5. Know your size.
It's important to go into a big shopping trip with an open mind. You may have a lot of luck and you may leave a little disappointed, but there is always something for everyone! As most of you know, sizing in Asia can be on the teeny tiny side of the spectrum, and most shops won't allow us sweaty foreigners to try anything on. We like to know our measurements before we go so that we can whip out a measuring tape if we are unsure if something will fit properly or not.
After many years of shopping in Asia my favorite go to trick to know if something will fit in my waist is the quick neck test! It's simple take the garment you are looking to buy and holding it at each side of the waist, wrap it around your neck. If both ends meet at the back of your neck, it will fit you! Cool hey? If you don't want to use the neck test, just pull out your trusty measuring tape.
6. Take breaks!
Another key ingredient to a successful shopping trip is to stop, and re-fuel! It's so incredibly overwhelming with all of the peter pan collars, vintage dresses and polka dots that it's easy to forget to stop and eat. Our favorites are a quick bowl of pad thai, or chicken shwarma, and a refreshing coke in a bottle, or as the day progresses, something a little stronger like an ice cold Chang beer! It will feel so good to sit down and re-charge (and cool off!) and get ready for round two...or three or four!
7. Don't be fooled by fakes.
As many of you know there are a lot of cheap knock-offs to be had in S.E.Asia, some of them are easy to spot, and others not so much. A good rule - if you have to ask, it's probably not legit. We tend to stay away from this kind of stuff in general and stick to cute dresses but we have to admit, we have recently found an exception for the make-up. It may be fake MAC, but it works just as good as the real stuff!
8. Be patient & friendly.
You'll have a lot more fun if you don't get stressed out by the crowds, and just try to have fun! The shopkeepers definitely respond better to courteous and friendly customers, and chances are you will get a better deal in the long run!
9. Be willing to walk away.
At the beginning of your trip, your bartering will probably need some brushing up on, but by the end of your trip you'll probably be trying to get a discount on a bottle of water! A good rule of thumb is to start at two thirds to half of the shop keepers starting price and from there they will work the price up. You have to decide what that item is worth to you before you even make an offer, and don't make an offer unless you are pretty serious about purchasing it, because you will just be wasting their time as well as your own when there are plenty of other shops to get to! If all else fails, start slowly walking away after you make your final offer, and if they want the sale they will chase you down, I promise!
10. Watch out for defects/cheap fabrics.
They pump out a lot of clothing and a lot of it is dirt cheap for a reason. Check each piece carefully for any defects and don't get suckered in to the cheap fabrics that will quite possibly fall apart after a few wears.
11. Be responsible and watch your pockets.
This rule is pretty basic, just use common sense. Make sure that your purse is zipped up and keep your wallet at the bottom of it just to be safe.
12. Get it or regret it!
This is one of our best tips we could possibly give you, and one that we have unfortunately learned the hard way. With markets and malls alike being so extremely huge and maze-like, it's easy to find something adorable, but if you leave it behind thinking you can simply go back and find it later, you are highly mistaken! If you find the top of your dreams, why bother hemming and hawing over something that costs the equivalent of a coffee back home? Get it, or leave it, but be quick and move on because there are hundreds of shops to get to.
Ok, now that you've shopped till you dropped, go and sit by the pool or go have a drink, or better yet, both! After a long day of shopping, we can honestly say you've earned it!