Tunisia is a shopper’s paradise. Colorful markets packed full of all sorts of locally made goods line the streets; shady and narrow side alleys burst with a tempting variety of places to relax with a glass of mint tea; and rich, exotic colors and scents of spices flood crowded marketplaces.
From high quality, brightly designed rugs and carpets, to jewellery, ceramics, perfumes, henna and gold, the medinas and souks of Tunisia are full of endless possibilities. And, in a country where the price is never fixed and haggling is expected, shopping is a thrilling and exhilarating experience, and has never been closer to a sport!
Africa’s northernmost country, modern day shopkeepers are becoming more and more influenced by the lavish offerings of Morocco. Tunisia is seeing an increasing number of fashionable and affordable outlets, offering travelers a range of atmospheric alternatives to chain monoliths and tourist souks. From carpets, leather and antiques, to traditional woodwork, silver and gold; it’s all available, and all ready to be haggled over.
An important part of the shopping culture in Tunisia, haggling is both expected and encouraged. Ensuring enough time is set aside for the bargaining and tea-drinking process is necessary to a successful shop. Travelers who can play along with aggressive sellers and enjoy the experience are in for a lot of fun, and will undoubtedly walk away with the best bargains.
Begin by offering only a quarter of the asking price. Prices start out ridiculously inflated, but shopkeepers know they are asking too much. Sellers will always moan and complain about how your offer is too little, however this is almost always a show, and where the real haggling begins!
Aware that tourists now aim for a quarter of the asking price, some shopkeepers deliberately inflate the price even further. For those serious hagglers who believe the price could be reduced even more, the best strategy (and one which works every time) is to just walk away.
Don’t attempt to say you found similar goods for cheaper somewhere else, as sellers will dismiss this as the other product having been of lesser quality. It is also incredibly helpful to understand a little of the Arabic language before you travel; hearing which prices the locals paid, and which prices were offered to them, will give an indication of how much an item is truly worth.
There is never any shortage of authentic local goods in Tunisia. Traditional handicrafts include pottery and ceramics, and travelers can pick up exquisite articles of copper cutlery – metal trays, teapots, cups, plates of all sizes and coffee sets are common items for sale.
Unique basketwork, distinctive carpets made from local fabrics, gold and silver jewellery, and attractive leather products which include handbags, briefcases, shoes and much more, shoppers are offered a gluttony of choice.
Marketplaces overflow with spices –pepper, saffron, clove, bay leaf, cumin and other Middle Eastern specialties like henna and khol (eye makeup). Scents of jasmine cling to the air, and the aroma of thousands of foreign blends washes over shoppers, flooding their senses as they explore each ancient medina.
It’s difficult not to be seduced by the atmosphere, and between the culture of haggling and affordable Tunisia flights, travelers should have plenty of money to dedicate to days full of shopping here!