A Shopaholic’s Guide to Artisanal Markets in Ecuador

…or anywhere else. 

I can’t count how many times I bought an item from an artisan on the street or in an outdoor market in different cities in Ecuador. I’m not new to artisanal markets, but my trips here in Ecuador were definitely more successful and kind to my pocket because of a few tips I picked up while shopping.

I like to shop. I don’t enjoy spending money so much as I enjoy looking to find things I like. Jewelry and knick knacks are my preferred items to spend money on in a market and you can be sure I have no problems convincing myself to spend on these things, but sometimes my bank account lets me know that there’s only so great a limit to my habits. F627E17F-A6B8-46F6-A157-371536014282.JPGSo, I’ve learned not simply how to save money for the things I like to buy but to be smart when I shop for them. While I was in Ecuador, I was determined to buy unique pieces of jewelry for myself, as well as gifts for my loved ones without breaking the bank.

Because…if there’s one place where you can go broke as a traveler, it’s at an artisanal market. Here are a few tips I use to stay within budget + satisfy my desire to shop.

1.The first price is the WRONG price. Always. Don’t even consider the first price. At least in outdoor markets where haggling is the norm. The artisans and vendors know you’re tourists with money to spend and are determined to get the highest possible amount for their goods. I always know how much I’m willing to pay for an item (often close to half of what the vendor asks) and will start bargaining at $1-$2 below that price. This way, I’m either paying lower or the amount I was willing to pay. Even the toughest vendors I’ve met never stayed at their original price. So even if you only get a couple dollars off the price, it’s worth it to bargain!

2.You CAN’T buy everything. I learned this lesson the hard way. You’re going to find a lot of things that you like, and can even convince yourself that you need, but let me be the first to tell you before your bank account or luggage weight limit does, you cannot buy everything. Of course, I’m speaking to people who have tight limits on both of those things. Haha! Seek out a few unique items that you won’t regret having purchased months from now. I found and bought beautiful handmade earrings that I know I’ll be wearing for a long time!. VSCO Cam-1-2.jpg3.Patience is NECESSARY. If you’re going to get the most value for your money at a market, you need patience. Patience to look through the market (some of them are large) for what you’ll be taking home with you and patience to bargain. I’ll admit, patience is not my strong suit, even when I’m shopping but I’ve learned that impatience usually leads to me regretting my purchase so I’m working on being a patient shopper.

4.You need TIME on your side. Oh man, the worst thing that can happen to me while I shop is having time constraints. I end up not being able to bargain properly or pay enough attention to what I’m buying. The result – ending up with something defected or not worth the amount I paid for it. Depending on the size of the market and the distance you have to travel to reach it, give yourself a few hours to explore and make smart decisions!2E961E08-5D25-4F8F-BD75-28B56E45F68B.JPG5. LANGUAGE is important. In Ecuador, I’ve noticed that vendors will often say what they’re selling in English, and some even add simple phrases like “what would you like?” and “how much do you want it for”. In the same vein, you should learn simple phrases when you go shopping in a country where your native language is not spoken. I don’t know if this is a fact but I think that speaking Spanish did not hurt my success at haggling for a better price. VSCO Cam-1-1.jpgHere are a few Spanish questions + phrases that I think are helpful when shopping. I’m using Spanish because it’s what I know but if you’d like to know these phrases in other languages, Google Translate is a great resource. You can download the app on your phone.

To greet + be polite | ¡Buenas Tardes! – Good afternoon! | ¡Buenos Dias! – Good morning | Gracias – Thank you.

To ask | ¿Cuánto vale/cuesta(n)? – How much is it/ are they? | ¿Tiene cambio/suelto? – Do you have change? | ¿Puedo probarlo? – Can I try it? [I used this especially for earrings].

It’s also important to learn numbers, at least up to 50. That way, you know what price your vendor wants for the item and can name your own price in a language your vendor will understand.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of shopping, artisanal goods are often nice to look at. So you can feed your eyes and save some money for anything else you might be interested in. Are any of you fans of shopping (especially when you travel)? Leave me a comment to let me know what tips you use to get better prices.

If you liked this post and/or found it helpful, please click any of the social media buttons to share!.

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As always, 

thank you for reading + happy shopping!

All photos shot and edited on iPhone 6S+


Same footprints, Different sands

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