Peru presents many exciting shopping opportunities for handmade artisan items of all styles and qualities. Markets, street vendors, and small shops all offer a variety of options for travels with a low-end budget. Elegant boutiques and fair trade organizations offer a different kind of shopping experience for those willing to foot the bill of high quality products.
Markets in Peru
Whether you intent on making purchases in the traditional markets of Peru or not, we highly recommend that you visit a few of the local markets while in Peru. Although most of the markets visited by tourists are now highly commercialized toward international visitors, they are still fun to explore. The Pisac market and the San Pedro market in Cusco are two of the most popular and biggest markets you should not miss.
Small towns like Chinchero close to Cusco hold weekly markets, normally on Saturday or Sunday, where souvenirs are up for sale alongside a mix of local agricultural products.
Tips for Souvenir Shopping in Peru
One of the most popular items among tourists to shop for in Peru are textiles.
Keep these tips in mind when shopping for textiles:
Quality of the products
Most merchants will tell you that what you are interested in is pure alpaca or pure baby alpaca. Rarely is this true. Many merchants have techniques to make the product look or feel like pure alpaca when it is actually a mix of alpaca and synthetic fibres. Many merchants will also promote their products as “all natural”, dyed with only natural dyes. This is often false. There are cheap chemical dyes available that mimic more expensive natural dyes.
Fair- trade production
Many merchants will also claim their textile were hand-made or made on a fair-trade basis. However, many textiles are either industrially produced or are were not made under fair-trade conditions. Most merchants work as middle men and buy-up textiles for a very low price from rural women who do not have access to tourists or the tourist market.
They then re-sell these textiles at a much higher rate in their stores and pocket the difference.
It is their trick to claim “fair-trade conditions” as they know tourists will be more likely to buy a product if they think they are supporting local indigenous weavers.
Luring customers into the stores
These tips can be applied to other products for sale in Peru.
Don´t feel obligated to buy anything even if store owners might try to convince you that you will make “the best deal”.
Be aware that even tour guides sometimes have special agreements with store owners. The tour guide receives a commission for taking his group to a certain store and profits from the sales.
If you are in a store looking at a certain item, don´t feel bad for not buying, just say “gracias” and move on. Stay calm, compare prices in the next store and if you really want to buy it, you can always come back.