Thailand is a retail hub and a shopping paradise. In Koh Samui, shopping is a way of life and we are not just talking about malls and giant shopping centers. The real deal on the island are the walking streets. These venues are set outdoors. The experience of buying in these small lined up stalls can be both exciting and scary. Exciting because your eyes will be overwhelmed with the variety of goods in front on you. Scary because it can easily be all too confusing, what with the traffic of people coming from all directions and the music playing everywhere. Not to mention the fact that the medium of trade is baht. So unless you can compute mighty fast or have lived on the island for a while, you need to be oriented with the whole system before you head out there. Koh Samui walking streets are fun but it is a real shopping jungle out there. Check out these tips to help you shop like a pro.
Dress for the occasion.
Walking streets in Koh Samui are not like outdoor shopping streets in Europe that are relaxed and pretty laid back. The ambience in these places can be compared to a war zone, commerce wise. Outdoor markets are busy, noisy and crowded most of the time so wear comfortable clothing and leave your important valuables at your hotel or villa. Also roaming around the shopping venues means a lot of footwork so wear comfortable shoes. Avoid jewelry and make sure you have an umbrella ready in case it rains or it gets too hot.
Observe for a while.
Take some time to explore the entire street before you purchase anything big. Soak up the sights, chill in one of the food stalls and just take in your surroundings for some time before you do some serious shopping. Holding back will give you an idea how everything works and prevent you from overpaying for an item.
Have enough baht.
Outdoor markets don’t accept credit cards so have enough cash with you. Also, it is wise to have sufficient baht with you rather than attempt to change currencies there. Plan ahead.
Haggling is a way of life.
The best part of shopping in any of Koh Samui’s walking streets is that you can haggle. It is a welcome practice and is actually expected. A charming friendly approach yields good results as opposed to an aggressive manner of negotiating which gets nowhere. Always ask for a bargain with a smile so you can increase your chances of getting good prices on your desired items.
Buy more items for better deals.
It is a lot easier to ask for discounts for multiple purchases than a single one. If you like something in a stall, check out other things they have for sale. Maybe there are other stuff there that you might also be interested in.
Reserve the haggling for non-food items.
While it is recommended that you negotiate prices for clothes, handicrafts, paintings, and souvenirs, it is never wise to haggle when it comes to food. Anyway the street foods are priced pretty cheap so you will still get amazing savings if you decide to go on a food trip in these street markets than dine at a conventional restaurant or fast food chain.
Shop with a local.
If you have a local friend that you can take shopping with you, grab the opportunity. Sellers are more likely to offer lower prices to a local or at least one who can speak the language. It is also nice if you can learn a few Thai praises. Traders will appreciate your effort to communicate. Plus, seeing you try can charm them to give you great deals.
Have a large eco-bag ready.
You know those big foldable tote bags? Yes those. Have one of those giant eco bags with you when you shop. Place all the goods you have purchased inside to ensure that you don’t leave everything behind. This way, you won’t be overwhelmed with carrying a lot of stuff and only have to watch out for this bag and your essentials.
Have a drink on hand.
Shopping outdoors in the tropics can leave you feeling hot and dehydrated since you will be walking and maybe sweating a lot. Always have a water bottle ready so you can drink up and stay cool on your shopping expedition.
Consider going at night.
Although some walking streets are operating during the day, the entire experience is a lot better at night since more stalls are open and the sun is no longer there. If you have elderly people with you or any small kids, it is much more comfortable to shop in the evening especially if any of you is prone to sun stroke.
Take your smarts with you.
Have a pocket calculator and a currency converter ready. Have loose change and avoid bringing a large amount of money unless you are planning to buy a pricey item such as genuine jewelry or a painting. Also, have some cash hidden somewhere in your person. Stuck a few bills inside your shoes or a few dollars inside your bra or a secret pocket in your pants. In case your wallet gets lost or left behind, at least you can still head back to your hotel or resort.
As you shop you will notice that two or more stalls have the same items. Compare their prices before shelling out some money. Avoid buying on impulse unless it is a rare or unique item.
Always check for quality.
Since these are small establishments, some may not even give you receipts so make sure that you check your items carefully before you leave. Also inquire if you can return the product if it is defective. They may say no but you never really know unless you ask.
Don’t stress too much about haggling. If you fail the first time, try again in another stall or vary your approach. Don’t lose your cool over a few bahts. Just enjoy the experience and learn. We promise you that it’ll just get better the more practice you have.