‘Shop on your own!’

This item appears on page 13 of the August 2010 issue.

Everyone knows that the first rule of travel is ‘Don’t drink the water,’ but on my trip to Egypt and Jordan, Feb. 23-March 12, 2010, I was amazed at how few people had learned the second rule: ‘Don’t shop where your guide takes you!’

Throughout the world, owners of tourist-trap shops pay large kickbacks (read “bribes”) to the guides, tour companies, taxi drivers and even street people who bring you to their stores.

Whatever it is, I can buy it for you at half price just down the street! I’ve even had shopkeepers whisper to me that they would cut the price by a large amount if I came back later without the guide.

In Cairo, a merchant watched me chase away our guide, then came over to me and said, “You are a very smart man.” Maybe, maybe not, but visiting about 100 countries has taught me a little.

Shopkeepers have got us figured out. They know we believe that we get goods cheaper at the factory, so now all the tourist shops have become “factories.” Few of these “factories” actually produce anything, however, and, still, you can buy the same thing downtown for less.

So shop on your own! It’s far cheaper and a lot more fun. A good way to start is to find the part of town where the locals shop. Staff at your hotel can usually help you find this area.


Bradenton, FL