You’ll often see travellers armed with their list of must sees, must eats and must do’s, but at the top of Laura Harman’s list is simply meeting local people. Laura believes thats learning about the local culture and experiencing everyday activities is the best way to turn your average trip into an amazing adventure…
“Tanzania is one of my most memorable travel experiences to date. I opted for a volunteer work term in Arusha, the hub of safari travel. I was able to travel to the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro National Park and even down to Zanzibar, all spectacular memories. However, when I think of the actual country, I think back to the people I met and my interactions with them. One of the simplest experiences that I enjoyed frequently was taking the local transport (the dala dala) to the Maasai Craft Market with the other volunteers.
They are the thriving hub of villages, town or cities. They are where people come from miles around to trade their wares or take home a bargain, and they are where visitors get to see the local community in action. Even if you’re not a shopper, there’s so much to love about markets. Here’s a few favourite places to enjoy the local flavours and hone your haggling skills…
During the day the Marrakech main square is full of touts, performers, snake charmers and more, then at night it transforms into an outdoor food festival. The square is surrounded by souks, otherwise known as local markets, selling everything from brass pots and pans, to linens, antiques, colourful spices, local dresses, leather slippers and delicious Moroccan food.
It would be near impossible to have enough space in your backpack to souvenir all the wonderful handcrafted treasures of Jordan. The intricately decorated sand bottles, rugs woven by Bedouin women or kefiyas to keep out the red Wadi Rum sands. Fortunately for Tina Gerets, her weakness when it comes to shopping only takes up a little room…
“I had a most unexpected souvenir shopping opportunity in Jordan. We were spending two full days at Petra and I planned to make the most of my time there by hiking around the place. As soon as I arrived, I realised hiking was not the only possible activity at the beautiful carved city. There were souvenir stalls scattered around the grounds. Usually I avoid those ‘tourist traps’, but when one of my fellow travellers showed me a gorgeous necklace she bought, I gave in.
Lisboa Menina e Moça is a well-known fado (Portugal’s famous mournful music) that talks about the city being the ‘women of one’s life’. So who better to show us around Lisbon from a female’s perspective than Ines Courela, our local Urban Adventures guide…
“Lisbon is like a menina or girl, with its many personalities and moods, but it’s also the ideal setting for a girl’s adventure. Why? First the sun, then the fantastic shopping and of course the delicious food. Just one thing: no dieting is allowed during your Lisbon visit!
Even if you’ve got no intention of buying a carpet in Turkey, you need to read this travel tale by Tori Salman. Once travellers are swept up in the magic of the moment, it turns out that very few can resist the temptation of taking home a hand-woven memento of Turkey…
“Carpets and kilims, warps and wefts… I never realised that buying a carpet in Turkey would be so difficult. Many different styles of carpets have been produced in Turkey for centuries, so it wasn’t a lack of choice causing my dilemma. Should it be silk on silk, wool on cotton or wool on wool? Ahh, decisions!
One of the world’s great shopping experiences is the mayhem of Chichicastenango markets. The prices are way too tempting, so before she could stop herself, Intrepid’s Rachael Harvey was bagging bargains in Guatemala…
“Jostle for space with traditionally dressed locals, haggle to your heart’s content and ponder whether or not the whole Guatemalan population has turned up. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a backpack overflowing with vibrant textiles and handmade jewellery that you won’t find anywhere else.
Just across the border in Ecuador, and a short distance north of Quito, is a small town where the women are renowned for their remarkable weaving skills and vibrant textiles. Visit mid-week and you might think this to be a quiet village, but as Intrepid’s Summer Davis explains, come the weekend you’ll see the true colours of this Indian market town…
“Rowdy roosters ring in the sunrise as the faint sound of clanging metal and bustling vendors signals Saturday morning in Otavalo. Not yet six o’clock, early risers assure their tables will be set-up before the mayhem of marketing begins.
From Berber robes and bracelets to carpets and ornate treasure chests, there are so many incredible souvenirs to purchase in Morocco, but as Intrepid traveller Casey Wallen discovered, the items and prices become even more appealing when you leave the main tourist thoroughfare …
“Marrakech is a highlight of Morocco for many people and you tend to hear most about Djemaa el-Fna, the main square. During the day there are touts, performers and snake charmers, then at night it transforms into an outdoor food festival. The square is surrounded by souks, otherwise known as local markets, and exploring it all is a fabulous experience, but that is not what I want to share with you.
Local culinary delights and buying special souvenirs are part of the joy of travelling, but there a few principles you can apply to ensure you shop and dine responsibly. Rather than seeking out imported familiar products from home, eat local food and drinks and your money will support the locals. Buy handicrafts and art directly from the makers when you can, instead of from department stores, which may not be locally owned.
The art of bargaining is something you can work on during your trip. Here are a few pointers to help you on your way: