Shopping Abroad: Where to Go and What to Buy

by Jean Chatzky
Photograph: Illustration: Chad Hagen

If you’re wondering about the best travel destinations for your dollar, consider Thailand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Vietnam and Iceland. But note: You won’t necessarily save on luxury hotels. They know they’re dealing with tourists and have repriced their rooms accordingly, says Peter Greenberg, author of The Travel Detective series. “You’ll save on the things the locals buy. So the hotel may be $300 a night, but the cab to the hotel will cost $5,” he says.

Among the best deals, says shopping expert Suzy Gershman, are kilims in Turkey, silver and pewter in Thailand and leather, wine and antiques in Argentina. But other items may be no bargain. “If you’re a Chanel shopper,” she says, “I have found that Chanel prices are generally similar around the world. Whether you’re in Argentina or Paris, you’re going to pay the same.” Other items, particularly health and beauty products, are typically cheaper where they’re produced (so buy Clarins in France but Neutrogena in the U.S.). If you have some idea of what you want, look up prices online before you go, for a point of ­reference.

Price shouldn’t be your only consideration, however. “Colors are cultural. So are styles,” Gershman says. “Think about what it means to you to have a style that nobody can buy anywhere else.” And then there’s shipping. I almost bought a set of dishes in Vietri on the Amalfi coast. Then I realized I’d have to pay as much to ship it home as to buy it. I put one decorative bowl in my suitcase and called it a day.

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