Cultural Experience | Resources

4 Ways to get Unique Souvenirs Abroad

How to get special souvenirs you and others will love forever!

It’s the last few days of your trip and you realize you haven’t gotten anything for everyone! You don’t want to get them cliché gifts that are made specifically for tourists and don’t actually speak to the culture and climate of the place you traveled to. What to do? Never fear, The College Tourist is here

Go to the tourist areas but don’t buy your souvenirs there.

Vendors know that when you’re in London you have to see the London Eye or when in Paris you have to see the Eiffel Tower, which is why they set up shop there. It’s an easy way for them to make money and you to get tricked into buy a knick knack you won’t use once you get home as anything more than a paperweight. Go to the tourist areas but don’t buy your souvenirs there. And, if you really want to incorporate said monument into a gift for yourself or someone else, take a really cool picture that captures the moment and experience. Frame that, and let that be your Tower of London souvenir.

Big Ben souvenir guide image

Big Ben, while a must see site in London, isn’t the best place to find your souvenirs.

Find the market.

Outdoor flea market, indoor makeshift thrift shop, don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path to find great gifts! If you’re in Ghana, go to the art market on the side of the road in Accra. London? Camden Market has unique, hand made gems. Bangkok, go to a floating market and buy a unique wooden set of Thai bowls that you can’t get anywhere else. Finding souvenirs at markets will not only enable you to bring back unique gifts that better highlight the culture of the county you’re visiting but, it also gives you a totally new experience in and of itself. Talk about a great gift for yourself- what a memory!


An aerial view of the market in Kumasi, Ghana - one of the largest in West Africa.

An aerial view of the market in Kumasi, Ghana – one of the largest in West Africa.

Don’t be afraid to bargain/barter.

If you’re taking my advice, then you’ve wandered off the beaten path, done your research, and found out where the market district is! Now, and this is important, don’t be afraid to bargain! In most countries outside of the US, it is not considered rude to bargain for goods. In fact, it’s expected. Of course, never say an amount that you aren’t willing to pay and don’t overly low-ball anyone, selling goods is often some of these individuals only way to make a living. Get your deals, but be respectful.

Shop with things that you’ll use now or in the future in mind.

One of the best ways to ensure you get unique souvenirs for yourself and others over the course of your travels is to buy with things you will use in the future in mind. You’re a graduating senior or relocating to a new city for a job? Buy things you can use to decorate an apartment with! Buy things you’ll be able to cook with or art you’ll be able to frame. Every time you use the pieces or have someone over, you’ll remember your trip and smile. Love fashion? Find the fashion district wherever you are and buy yourself something nice! You’ll always remember where you got it and be filled with delight when someone asks you “Where’d you get that?” and you can answer “Oh, you know, England, Thailand, Peru, Australia, etc.”

If you follow these tips, you could walk away with some unique gifts like framed postcards, handwoven baskets, or vintage books or records. You will leave your trip with items that truly speak not only to the country you visited, but that honor the experience you had there.

Happy souvenir hunting! What’s the most unique souvenir you’ve ever gotten for yourself or someone else on a trip? Let us know in the comments!

Gabrielle Hickmon

Cornell University | 7 stories

Gabrielle Hickmon is a senior at Cornell University who just returned from studying abroad at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @gabgotti. She rants and writes regularly on her blog The Reign XY. But, when she isn't, you can find her laughing with her friends, binge watching way too much Netflix, and planning her next adventure!

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