Insider Secrets: How to get the best deals from your market shopping adventure

Sara Drawwater
1 November 2010
There is a saying that goes, “If you have visited a town but have not visited its market, you have not visited the town at all.” Whoever said this was definitely onto something!

There is a saying that goes, “If you have visited a town but have not visited its market, you have not visited the town at all.” Whoever said this was definitely onto something!

A visit to a local market should definitely be on your must see list of things to do when you visit any town, especially in Zambia. Not only does it give you a chance to mix with the local people on a one to one basis, it also gives you a chance to walk away with great deals that you can’t get anywhere else.

I must warn you however! Shopping in an open local market is not for the faint hearted and it requires a thirst for adventure and a few insider secrets that I have come to learn over the years and will gladly share in this blog.

One of my favourite market places to shop right here in Lusaka is the City market, also known as Soweto market. Walking into City market is an experience you are unlikely to forget, it almost feels like stepping into another world. You are immediately assailed by people yelling and screaming, trying to get your attention so you can have a look at their goods and possibly buy something.

An important ground rule you must remember is to keep your wallet or purse very close and secure. The market is usually very busy and people will keep bumping into you therefore you must be careful not to lose your purse. City market is particularly crowded and is notorious for pickpocketing so be careful to note every accidental push and shove!

The second most important thing is to have a definite shopping list as there is so much to see at the market and the marketers are extremely persuasive, you don’t want to end up going home with everything but what you actually went for!

Also it is essential that you dress for the occasion. The rule is usually nothing too flashy or else you won’t get any good deals as everybody will mistake you for the billionaire you probably aren’t and will hike the prices of their goods. Market goods usually don’t have a fixed price and good bargaining skills are crucial. Ensure that you are comfortable and dressed for the weather, if it’s a hot sunny day, a T-shirt over jeans and slippers will be very comfortable and in the rainy season gum boots are a must because it gets very muddy.

Never look too interested in anything. I have found that a casual inquiry then a slight look of shock at the named price, a disapproving shake from your head then slowly walking a few steps away usually gets you the best deals. Of course there is the risk that you might not get called back but it’s worth a try.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the most exciting parts of shopping at the local open market is mixing with the local people, don’t be afraid to ask questions and listen to advice. I have learnt many new interesting things and ways amazing new ways to cook different dishes from the market women who always have something to share.

Be careful not to eat anything too strange. The market has many interesting restaurants and if you are hungry, the smell of roasted meats will definitely get to you but be careful that you eat from a clean place with running water only if you have to. I would recommend a washed fruit because you don’t want to be running around in panic looking for a toilet!

Once you have mastered the tricks you should be good and ready to go for your ultimate market experience! Have fun!

Posted by Nambeye Katebe