Traveling the world can be a richly rewarding experience. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing new places, meeting new people, and exploring a world unlike your own. While most of the enrichment that travel offers can’t be measured, there’s one way that visiting a foreign country can be materially valuable: by offering you a cheaper way to get your hands on some coveted items.
That’s right - even in the age of online shopping, going to the source is still sometimes the best way to get a bargain.
Here’s a list of a things that are cheaper to buy overseas than the United States. When in doubt, be sure to use a currency converter to find out how much you’re really paying for that special item you’ve got your eye on.
Custom Suits in Vietnam
There are few things worth owning more than a quality, well-tailored suit. Unfortunately, looking your best doesn’t usually come cheap in the US. If you’ve dreamed of travelling to Asia — and specifically Vietnam — you can get your hands on a beautiful, custom-tailored suit for a fraction of the price you’d find in the U.S. Hoi An, located just south of Da Nang, is well-known as a great place to get a deal on a good suit.
While you’ll get a good deal no matter how you slice it, the price you pay will largely depend on the material you choose. Cotton suits are generally inexpensive, and high-quality silk-lined suits with a wool and cashmere blend will increase in price accordingly.
The potential is there to pay a fraction of what you’d pay for a similar quality suit stateside. To avoid counterfeits, look for the same qualities you’d expect in a suit you’d buy stateside: make sure to check for silk lining and the quality of the wool and cashmere blend (look out for polyester!), as well as the quality of the stitching.
Scotch in Scotland
It might seem like common sense, but it’s true that Scotland’s favorite spirit is cheaper there. If you’re visiting, be sure to check out a tasting to find a local favorite that might be hard to come by — orprohibitively expensive — back in the states.
Leather goods in Italy
Italy is known for its trendsetting styles and fine luxury goods. Chief among them is Italian leather.
Florence, in particular, offers plenty of smaller shops, as well as The San Lorenzo market, where you can buy leather products direct from the artisans themselves. With a little bit of bargaining, you can get your hands on some of the finest leather goods you’ll find anywhere without having to pay the markup.
Berber Rugs in Morocco
The traditional Berber rug, a traditional North African weaving style that dates back thousands of years, is as elegant as it is historic. While there are many imitations available today, there’s no substitute for the real deal. In Morocco, it’s not uncommon to find a high-quality, hand-woven Berber rug for sale at a local marketplace. These locally-produced editions feature intricate designs with a long cultural history and are made from the finest blend of natural materials. They offer the perfect blend of form and function, and are a perfect, affordable way to invite the cultural heritage of northern Africa into your own home long after your trip has ended.
Of course, it’s important to be on the lookout for counterfeits before making the final purchase. Authentic Berber rugs are made from 100% sheep’s wool. Be sure to check on the back of the rug to see how it was woven, and pay attention to the quality of craftsmanship as well. If you make an effort to avoid fakes, you can walk away with the perfect addition to any home.
Pashmina Textiles in India and Nepal
Pashmina is known as some of the softest cashmere wool you’ll find anywhere in the world. Many of the cashmere goats that provide the wool for pashminas are bred in and around the Kashmir region of India and the Himalayas of Nepal, where pashmina clothing is spun and woven by hand.
In addition to the beauty of the mountains that dominate this region, you can find authentic, handmade pashmina scarves and shawls of the highest quality, without the markup you’d find at a boutique in the states.
Jade Jewelry in China
For many thousands of years, Jade has played a prominent role in Chinese culture. In addition to playing its part as an important role in decorative art, jade is a coveted material for Jewelry, often viewed with the same reverence that people here in the US regard diamonds. That doesn’t mean that Jade costs a fortune - in fact, many markets in large Chinese cities (like Beijing’s Silk Street) sell jade jewelry at a price far below what you might expect. Quality jade jewelry like bracelets can be purchased for under $100, and a good pair of Jade earrings will set you back less than $10. Just make sure you aren’t being sold fake jade, which is often a darker shade of green than the real thing.
Crystal Glassware in the Czech Republic
Known as Bohemian glass or Bohemian crystal, this decorative glassware is praised for its impressive craftsmanship and intricate, ornate designs. While some pieces can run at a very high price, visiting certain areas of the Czech Republic makes it possible to save some money on some of the finest glassware you’ll find anywhere in the world. When visiting a city like Prague, be sure to head a bit off the main tourist drags and you stand a better chance of finding a quality piece of Czech crystal at a good price.
Tequila in Mexico
This agave-based liquor is one of Mexico’s finest exports, and you won’t have to look too hard to find a higher quality product at a better price than you’d find over the border in the US, including plenty of quality brands you won’t be able to find back in the states. The important thing when buying Mexican tequila is to make sure it’s made from “100% Blue Agave” as opposed to “mixto” tequila that many lower quality brands popular in the US are made from. Some decent blue agave options are available for around 100 pesos, meaning you can sip some good tequila for under $10 a bottle. That’s definitely reason enough for a celebratory margarita.
One more important note: these deals don’t take into account the possibility of tariffs, importing fees or shipping costs, which may ultimately impact how much money you actually save by purchasing these goods outside of the United States. Then again, sometimes there’s just no substitute for a high-quality specialty item you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Hopefully you now have you some ideas for your next trip out of the country. Just make sure to save some extra space in your bag!
If you have a friend travelling internationally that you’d like to buy something for you while they’re over there, send then some money online through Western Union. WU makes it easy for them to get cash in the local currency and save on something special to bring back for you.