Top Secret Tips for Flea Market Shopping Abroad


Okay, so maybe I fibbed a little. These aren’t really ‘top secret’ tips. In fact, if you’ve ever been to a flea market stateside, chances are you’ll have a pretty good handle on things abroad. It generally goes a little something like this: 1) you find something you like, 2) engage the seller in a conversation about the item, and 3) agree upon a price and take your prize. I’ve collected flea market finds from Geneva, Paris, Chiang Mai, Amsterdam, and more, and I can tell you that while the format is essentially the same across the board, finding success is not always a piece of cake. To help you wrangle some amazing goods on your shopping adventure, I’ve put together some of my tested and approved tips for flea market shopping abroad.


  1. Be pleasant. No one wants to deal with a stuffy/snobby/frowny tourist.
  2. Ask before you touch. Some people are funny about that sort of thing, but better safe than sorry.
  3. Be interested, but not too interested. Unless you get the impression that the seller will be more likely to work with you when he/she knows how much you want it. This one’s tricky… try to feel it out through conversation. A little restraint may pay off.
  4. Know your budget. Especially if you’re shopping early in the trip!


  1. Prepare to haggle, but don’t insult the seller with a too-low ball offer.
  2. Time is your friend. If you show up to the market early, the supply will be ripe for the picking. Go late, however, and you might be able to snag a better deal.
  3. Come prepared with cash. I have yet to encounter a seller with an iPad and square at a flea market in [anywhere abroad].
  4. Have your money ready to go before agreeing upon a price. Only want to spend 10£ on the leather bag? Spare the chafed look from the seller by having that 10£ ready to go. You don’t want to be rifling through a wad of larger bills in front of them. Awwwwkward.


  1. Be prepared to walk away. If it’s just not meant to be, try not to be too heartbroken. I assure you, life will go on.
  2. Don’t get overwhelmed by foreign currency. You might be dealing with large numbers, but do the conversion and understand how the local money equates to yours. 300 THB sounds like a lot, but it’s really just over $9.
  3. Do as the American Pickers do: bundle! Buying more than one item? See if the seller will give you a bit of a discount.
  4. Consider how you’ll transport your treasure. Will it fit in your suitcase? Is it fragile? Can you manage to carry it around for another however many days/weeks/months are left on your trip?


  1. Make sure you know what you’re buying. Some markets are notorious for knock offs. Don’t care if it’s fake? Fine by me… just don’t pay an arm and a leg for it.
  2. If you don’t speak the language, learn it. No, not all of it, silly. Just a handful of words/phrases that will help with the transaction. At the very least, you should know how to say ‘hello’. Believe it or not, that goes a long way. Prepare a cheat sheet to keep in your pocket, or better yet, have a calculator on hand.
  3. If you can find it at home, skip it. UNLESS it’s a really amazing deal, in which case buy away.
  4. If you reeeeally love it, and you can afford it, buy it.

Now, get to wheelin’ and dealin’!



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