[pullquote]If you’re new to the shopping-while-traveling game, you need to be smart about how, what, and where you purchase your items.[/pullquote]
Many travelers today focus on shopping as their primary reason for traveling overseas. Indeed, there are a number of international markets that hold a certain allure for many of us. But if you’re new to the shopping-while-traveling game, you need to be smart about how, what, and where you purchase your items. The following is a list of a few do’s and don’ts as well as the how, what, and where you can get the biggest bang for your buck.
First and foremost, you need to protect yourself from fluctuating currency rates – a lot of time is spent negotiating their purchase using a foreign currency such as euros (€) or pounds (£). During negotiations, it is not uncommon for the US dollar to fluctuate. By the time the agreed upon price is set and the sale is completed, the cost may have fluctuated dramatically.
Secondly, do your homework – start by doing some comparison shopping online while you are still at home. Otherwise, how will you know what’s a deal and what isn’t? The VAT (Value-Added Tax) is already included in the price and depending on the country where you are making your purchase, it could vary considerably.
Buy like a professional shopper – most salespeople overseas will ask if you want to apply for the VAT refund. However, you may find that the more mainstream ones are not going to offer that unless you ask about it. You’ll need to think a step ahead. Thus, researche well before you visit the country. Different countries have different rules, so be aware.
Don’t be afraid to shop department stores – unlike shopping in the US, the European department store is a completely different experience. They aren’t anywhere near as hectic and are rarely picked over. Some will even give you that VAT refund at the point of purchase and that in itself will save you a lot of grief in customs at the airport.
Savvy travelers know that luxury European goods are much more expensive in the US – if you’re looking at buying designer goods, you might want to mark that down on your travel agenda. Just keep in mind that there is a process to follow such as applying for a VAT refund (see above) before departing from the overseas airport.
Talk to your credit card company – let them know that you are going to be purchasing items overseas with your card. You should find out if you are going to be charged a fee for the currency exchange that is involved. It’s best to get a credit card that won’t charge this fee.