Abundant colorful art pieces, tasteful local delicacies and the fragrant aroma present in markets can make even the most experienced traveler consider purchasing souvenirs which they wouldn’t normally. These environments are often filled with fast paced, pressure sales tactics that will leave your head spinning and arms full of unwanted souvenirs. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before buying to help you avoid getting caught in these tourist traps!
1. Is it legal to export and import this souvenir? Does it exceed exportation/importation allowances?
Did you know that there are regulations as to what you can and can't export and import from countries, along with limits on allowances for certain products? For example, Canada has limits of importation surrounding alcohol and tobacco products, as well as a maximum on the total value of goods that you are bringing into the country. These might be universal, country specific or dependent on the length of time out of country. Canada also requires that you disclose if you're bringing back any untreated wooden items so that customs officers may verify that it is safe from bugs or other concerns. Other items like certain meats, produce and plants are prohibited. Make sure to inform yourself before leaving to make sure you don't run into unexpected difficulties at customs!
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2. Will this souvenir fit in your suitcase without breaking or being too heavy?
There's no point in purchasing the most beautiful souvenir if you can't bring it back! Make sure that whatever you are considering bringing back will actually be able to fit in your suitcase and won't bring it overweight as per your airline’s specific guidelines (unless you're willing to pay extra to cover the costs associated with overweight luggage or for shipping the item back home, of course!).
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3. Are there any ethical concerns with this souvenir?
It’s important to be aware that things aren't always as they appear. It may seem completely harmless at first glance, but it could be that the souvenir you were about to purchase was produced through cruelty, abuse or even illegally. Examples that are seen often in countries with fewer regulations are items that are made from animals. When you purchase anything made from an animal such as items made of ivory, a little snake skin clutch, or one of those key chains with living animals inside, you’re supporting the cruelty and abuse of these animals. Other souvenirs such as paintings made by various animals definitely don’t scream cruelty, but the back story on how the animals were trained to do this is appalling. Remember, the main reason this inhumane practice continues to happen is because people are profiting from it. The only way to stop this is by removing the profit from the equation, and it starts with stopping the demand for the product! So instead, buy yourself meaningful souvenir that you will be proud to show off.
4. Once I'm home, what will I do with this souvenir?
We all have them: the tea set from Morocco that collects dust in the back of the kitchen cabinets, the elephant wood sculpture from South Africa cluttering the bookshelf in the living room, or the necklace purchased from Cuba with the intention of wearing it daily that has never seen the outside of the jewelry box. These items may have seemed like a great idea at the time of purchase, but they accumulate through the years and eventually one has to take a critical look at any new potential purchases. Of course, for some these may be wise purchases that are not only useful but also highly valued, but for others that is not always the case. So ask yourself: Will it be useful? Will I actually wear it? Will it fit the décor within my home? Think about it twice before taking out your money!
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With 4 questions to ask yourself before buying souvenirs, go and do your best to resist the impulsive acquisitions that occur far too often for enthusiastic tourists! Of course, you can't neglect bringing yourself or loved ones a relic from your new experience! Just make sure that you will be able to bring it all of the way back to your home!
Now, go enjoy your travel shopping adventures, take in the atmosphere and relish the fact that you're lucky enough to experience being there!
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