Shopping in port is one of our favourite pastimes. Here’s Cruise Passenger’s guide to finding the world’s best buys. Words: Kris Madden
6. PHOTOGRAPHIC/ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT
Yokohama and Tokyo in Japan offer the latest-model cameras and electronics. Many of the goods for sale here have not yet been released elsewhere in the world. The Akihabara precinct in Tokyo has an almost overwhelming choice. Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok are other good cities for buying electronic goods, but do some research beforehand to determine what is a good deal.
Because of its tax-free status, Dubai can sell electronics more cheaply than virtually anywhere in the world and merchandise bought here is generally reliable. Al Fahidi Street is a terrific place to browse for electronic goods.
If you’re buying electronic goods overseas, remember to ask for an international warranty; check whether the voltage and electric plugs are compatible with those in Australia as otherwise you’ll need to buy converters; and ensure there are local repairers for the brand you are purchasing.
7. GEMS & JEWELS
Bangkok is one of the best places in the world to buy gems and jewellery – from diamonds to emeralds and everything in between. Indeed, dealers from around the globe buy from the wholesalers here. Rubies and sapphires are also good buys in Thailand if you are prepared to bargain. The Jewelry Trade Center in Bangkok is one of the largest in Asia and in the surrounding Silom Road area, there are more than 1,000 gem shops. Silom Road is the best place for the novice gem-buyer; for retail jewellers, go to The Old Siam Plaza.
The place to shop for emeralds is Colombia in South America: the sparkly green gems here are considered the world’s finest. Antwerp in Belgium is renowned as having the best wholesale diamond prices in the world.
India, in particular Jaipur, is well known as a centre for trading semi-precious gems – but some knowledge and a lot of bargaining power is needed to bring the salespeople here down from their original asking prices.
8. LEATHER GOODS
In and around Kusadasi on the eastern coast of Turkey, you’ll find high-quality leather goods and clothing. The shopkeepers can be aggressive but if you view it as a game the experience will be more pleasurable. You will be wooed with conversation, offered tea and made to feel like royalty – and chances are, you’ll come away with some good-quality merchandise at a great price. Kusadasi is also an excellent place to buy rugs, if you’ve done your research and have time to sort through the near-endless choices of colour and style.
Barcelona, Spain is a fabulous port in which to buy distinctive men’s and women’s shoes and boots as well as trendy, reasonably priced clothes. The areas around Las Ramblas and the El Corte Ingles department store are good places to start. You’ll also find some of the world’s cheapest authentic Cuban cigars along Las Ramblas. A word of caution: keep your money and personal items close by, as Barcelona is known for pickpockets.
Fine leather goods have been crafted in Italy for centuries. In Rome, try the Fabris Leather Outlet. Florence’s Mercato Centrale and Mercato Nuovo are open-air markets that have a wide selection of leather goods. Gucci and Prada also have outlets in the area – you can find last season’s shoes, luggage and accessories here for a fraction of their original retail prices.
Parabiago, near Milan, is the location of many of the factories that make garments for famous designers. Often, the labels are removed to protect the brand, but everything else is exactly the same.
9. GOLD AND SILVER
One of the best places to buy gold is Dubai: at the Dubai Gold Souk, rows upon rows of shops are filled with dazzling displays of jewellery in every conceivable design and degree of purity. Gold here is sold by weight at the market gold price – so the cost of a given bracelet might change twice in a day. And you’ll find 90 retailers under one roof at the Gold and Diamond Park on Sheikh Zayed Road. Gold is cheaper in Dubai because it is not subject to taxes. You’ll get a much better deal if you pay in cash.
The goldsmiths of Santorini are experts in their field and the Greek island’s Gold Street is world-famous. Prices for the precious ore get higher the farther north you travel along the street.
Gold jewellery in Laos is 99 per cent pure and is a better bargain than that sold in Thailand. One of the best places to buy it is the Talat Sao Market in Vientiane. Though Laos has its own goldmines, they are scarce, so most of the gold sold here is imported from Australia.
The Conquistadors first saw Mexico from the shores of Cozumel while searching for gold and today, visitors continue to seek out gold and silver jewellery in the shops of San Miguel de Allende. Cozumel also offers excellent bargains on diamonds and gemstones.
The souks of Cairo are a great place for cruise passengers seeking gold and silver jewellery at knock-down prices, but haggling is essential.
10. BOOKS, ANTIQUES AND COLLECTIBLES
For antique buffs, it’s a must to wander the aisles of the antique shops lining Central Avenue in St Petersburg, or tucked inside Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast. Lovers of old books and first editions should visit Haslam’s Book Store, which has been in business since 1933.
A cruise around the North Atlantic wouldn’t be complete without stopping in at the New England town of Portland, Maine, and nearby Freeport is a great place for a spot of antique shopping; moreover, many of its stores lie within walking distance of the cruise terminal. Bargains can be found in the Arts District as well as along the cobblestone streets of the Old Port shopping district on Portland’s waterfront.
In Venice, the Mercatino dell’Antiquariato (Antiques Fair), at which more than 100 vendors sell everything from 1950s Murano glass to vintage posters and antique postcards of Venice, takes place three times a year. If price is not a problem, you might pick up a length of antique lace or a museum-quality piece of hand-blown glass.
Visitors to Southampton in the UK can find antique coins, medals, maps and other goods in a dozen or so shops in the port town. WestQuay, Mall Marlands and Bargate along with many traditional shops and boutiques have elevated the city into one of the UK’s top 20 retail destinations. Try the Old Curiosity Shop or Mark Patterson Antiques for hard-to-find treasures.
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