Shopping is a whole different game in Cancun, Mexico. Unless you go to one of the malls to hit up international stores also found in the U.S., don’t expect to see price tags and do expect haggle, a lot. The good news is, especially if you’re a pretty girl (or really just a girl from the United States), you’re going to be able to charm your way into a sweet deal. Better yet? Go with your girlfriend and get a great two for one deal. However, even with my man on my arm, finding a bargain was no problem for me in Mexico. If you’re up to the challenge, head out of the hotel zone, press on past the malls, and explore one of the sprawling flea markets in the heart of downtown Cancun.
The City Hot Spot in Cancun, Mexico: Market 28
Market 28, or Mercado 28 as it’s known by the locals, is an outdoor market with handcrafted goods and authentic food options. Speaking Spanish is a bonus but absolutely not required (I can’t say much other than hello, my name, and “I don’t speak Spanish”). There are hundreds of stalls, or booths, at this market with handmade leather goods, silver jewelry, embroidered bags, woven sunhats, and every other souvenir or trinket you can imagine. There are also some genuine Mexican dining opportunities, and, of course, ice cold cerveza to keep you cool. Definitely don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes. As you trek around, you will break a sweat! Carve out a couple hours before sundown to hit up this hot spot. We took a very reasonably priced bus from our hotel that dropped us just a few blocks from the market.
How to Haggle
Perfecting a haggling technique is essential when shopping in authentic Mexican settings.
1. Make a game plan with your group. Create signals to let your shopping partners know when you’re haggling and when you’re ready to move on to the next stall. These vendors give the word persistent a whole new meaning. They will not take “no” for an answer if you show the slightest inkling of interest in one of their wares.
2. As I said earlier, there are no price tags. If you find something you like, ask the vendor for the price in pesos or dollars, whichever you prefer. There is a chance they will alter the price depending on the form of payment, so sometimes it’s beneficial to carry both pesos and dollars. Definitely carry cash, as most vendors will not take credit cards. They will either give you a starting price on the spot or in some cases, particularly with jewelry, they will weigh the item and declare a price by weight.
3. From here, you can either make a counter offer or start playing the game: show hesitancy, say you need to think or look around, etc. There’s also the option of simply telling them you think the price is unfair and see what type of counter offer they come down to. If you are looking at more than one item in a particular store, you can ask them to make a deal with you for multiple items. It’s essentially a process of trial and error, but don’t feel like you’re scamming the vendors. They expect to haggle with you! It’s part of the buying and selling technique in these markets.
4. If you make a purchase, they will treat you like a queen and if you decide to leave without making a purchase, they will try to prevent you from leaving. Do not let the vendors intimidate you if you decide not to make a purchase. Full disclosure: it will be slightly uncomfortable and awkward. Just remember you are in control and you have the upper hand. Stay strong and firm and don’t get pressured into purchasing something you don’t want to buy. You are on vacation and your hard earned money is precious! No need to return home with buyers remorse.