Shopping

Almost everyone who visits Peru will end up buying a souvenir of some sort from the vast array of arts and crafts (artesanía) on offer. The best, and cheapest, place to shop for souvenirs, and pretty much anything else in Peru, is in the street markets that can be found absolutely everywhere. The country also has its share of shiny, modern shopping centres, especially in the capital, but remember that the high overheads are reflected in the prices.

What to buy

It is possible to find any kind of
handicraft
in the capital. The prices are often the same as in the highlands, and the quality is high. Good buys are: silver and gold handicrafts; hand-spun and hand-woven textiles; manufactured textiles in indigenous designs; llama and alpaca wool products such as ponchos, rugs, hats, blankets, slippers, coats and sweaters;
arpilleras
(appliqué pictures of Peruvian life), which are made with great skill and originality by women in the shanty towns; and fine leather products that are mostly handmade. Another good buy is
clothing
made from high-quality Pima cotton, grown in Peru.

The mate burilado, or engraved gourd found in every tourist shop, is cheap and one of the most genuine expressions of folk art in Peru. These are cheaper if bought in the villages of Cochas Grande or Cochas Chico near Huancayo in the Central Highlands. The Mantaro Valley is generally renowned for its folk culture, including all manner of
artesanía.

Alpaca clothing
, such as sweaters, hats and gloves, is cheaper in the sierra, especially in Puno. Another good source is Arequipa, where alpaca cloth for suits, coats, etc (mixed with 40% sheep's wool) can be bought cheaply from factories. However, although Lima is more expensive, it is often impossible to find the same quality of goods elsewhere. Genuine alpaca is odourless wet or dry, wet llama 'stinks'.

One of the best places in Peru to look for
artesanía
is Ayacucho in the Central Highlands. Here you'll find excellent woven textiles, as well as the beautifully intricate retablos or Saint Mark's boxes. Cuzco is one of the main weaving centres and a good place to shop for textiles, as well as excellent woodcarvings . Also recommended for textiles is Cajamarca. The island of Taquile on Lake Titicaca is a good place to buy
ch'uspas
(bags for coca leaves),
chumpis
(belts) and
chullos
(knitted hats).

Bargaining

Sooner or later almost everyone has to bargain in Peru. Only the rich and famous can afford to pay the prices quoted by taxi drivers, receptionists and self-proclaimed guides. The great majority of Peruvians are honest and extremely hard working, but their country is poor and often in turmoil, the future is uncertain and the overwhelming majority of people live below the poverty line. Foreigners are seen as rich, even if they are backpackers or students.

You will not have to bargain in restaurants, department stores, expensive hotels or airline offices. However, almost all the rest is negotiable. Almost all better-class hotels have 'corporate' rates. If you think a lower price is appropriate in a cheaper hotel, ask for 'una rebajita, por favor'. You can negotiate the price of a tour booked through a travel agency, but not an aeroplane, bus or train ticket. In fact, you will probably get a better price directly from the airline ticket office.

Bargaining is expected when you are shopping for artwork, handicrafts, souvenirs, or even food in the market. Remember, though, that most of the handicrafts, including alpaca and woollen goods, are made by hand. Keep in mind, these people are making a living and the 50 centavos you save by bargaining may buy the seller two loaves of bread. You want the fair price not the lowest one, so bargain only when you feel you are being ripped off. Remember that some Peruvians are so desperate that they will have to sell you their goods at any price, in order to survive. Please, don't take advantage of it.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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