There are a number of different items that you may wish to purchase as souvenirs on a trip to Cambodia. Avoid buying any archealogical artifacts, and instead stick to the authentic looking replicas. A favourite item to purchase is a krama, which is the ubiquitous head scarf worn throughout the country.
Shopping around in Cambodia is bound to be an enjoyable and interesting experience!
Use this Cambodia shopping guide for tips on how best to shop and what to (and what not to) buy. Staff at hotels in Cambodia can also give you local Cambodian shopping tips. Whilst shopping, experiencing the tasty local food in Cambodia is a must. You can see what the local Cambodia shopping scene is like in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville, as well as some suggestions on places to grab a bargain or souvenir!
Cambodia Shopping Guide
There are basically no official prices in Cambodia. Bargaining is essential. However, it can be a difficult - even traumatic - experience for some people more accustomed to buying at fixed prices. When the situation is understood, it is easier to bargain happily and more successfully. Look at it this way.
- has the goods
- has made an investment - in money to buy or time/skill to make - what they are offering
- wants to realize a return on their investment
- would like the highest return they can get.
- has the money
- has an interest in exhchanging their money for the seller's goods
- wants to minimize their expenditure
- would like the highest savings they can get.
Bargaining is how they can achieve an outcome that is acceptable to them both. The correct price gives the buyer and seller something they both want - the goods or the money!
Ultimately the price is a measure of how much the buyer values and wants the seller's goods in comparison to how much they value the money in their pocket, balanced by how much the seller wants and values the buyer's money in comparison with the value of their investment!
Something to try: If the seller just will not come down to the price you believe is fair and reasonable, be polite, say thank you and walk away - the goods are overvalued for you.
If you keep thinking about the goods and how much you really liked them/it - you undervalued your desire for the goods as against your desire to keep as much money in your pocket as possible!
Go back and start bargaining again. You may find that while your "bidding" price was going up, the asking price was coming down. We smell a successful sale to a happy customer when this happens!
Archeological/Historic relics and artifacts
Cambodia is home to some of the most valuable and important archeological artifacts and relics ever created in the span of human history!
DO NOT BUY THEM! There is a system for certification of replicas. Be sure to ask for the "replica certification" documents. If you can't get them, don't buy it! Don't even buy any obvious fakes or imitations without the docmuntation - they are likely to be confiscated when you leave!
Why? The sale of these items creates a demand that loots and plunders some of humankind's most important treasures, and steals them away from future generations forever. We think thousands of years of human heritage are more important to the world than any amounts of pleasure to be had by illegally owning a Khmer archeological artifact!
Buy with a Conscience
Like the "Dine with a concience" idea, buy with a conscience shops are involved in real-life, grass-roots, humanitarian assistance aimed at giving self-sustainable incomes to needy Cambodians through skills training and self-help learning.
You can play an active part yourself by buying from these shops. Alternatively, for many goods it is quite simple to seek out the producer's and buy directly from them rather than buying from shops. And the prices are cheaper too!
When you buy handicrafts directly from the producer, your money goes straight into the community economy and helps to maintain traditional craftsmanship.