Tunisia is a great place for shopping with a wide choice of souvenirs, from fun items like stuffed camels or simple tee-shirts, through to more expensive hand-made jewellery and traditional carpets.
Shops are generally open Monday to Friday from about 8-9am to midday, and then open again about 2-3pm until 6pm or so. On Saturday they open in the mornings only. Souvenir shops tend to stay open as long as there are souvenir-hunters around, usually quite late in the summer. In summer banks usually only open from 7.30-11am because of the heat, and at other times will also open for a spell in the afternoons. In most tourist resorts there is usually one bank which opens on a Saturday morning, so if you need one then ask your rep or at the hotel.
Some people are better than others at haggling, but whichever you are you can’t deny that it adds to the fun (or stress) of shopping.
If a seller quotes you a price he’ll probably be prepared to come down to half that amount, or even less. Try offering a third, which will no doubt cause the seller to protest and tell you how much more the item is worth, but he will also come down a little. Don’t immediately meet him halfway: only increase your bid by the amount he came down.
Walking away is one way to tell if the seller really has come down to his lowest price. It might suddenly come down some more, and even if it doesn’t you can always wander back later and say you’ll take it.
A few things to bear in mind:
- No matter how hard a bargain you think you can drive, the locals do it every day of the week and won’t sell you something at a loss.
- If you’re tempted to think you paid over the odds for something – well you probably did. But if you like it then just take it home and enjoy it.
- One place not to take shopping lightly is in expensive carpet shops. Once you start negotiating a price, the owner assumes you are seriously interested. He may get annoyed if you stop bargaining and say you’ve changed your mind, especially if he’s spent time showing you things and perhaps offered you tea. Don’t start bargaining here unless you do actually want to buy something.
Genuine gold and silver items have a hallmark stamped on them: a horse’s head, a scorpion or a bunch of grapes. Anklets, bracelets and ear-rings are popular, and the sellers will usually be happy to tell you the significance of the piece you are interested in. Many are traditional Islamic or African designs.
These are best bought in Kairouan, the centre for carpet making where quality is best and prices are cheaper as many carpets originate here. Ask if the carpet has a sealed quality certificate.
Again, the best place for these is Kairouan. Tunis is also good but has a lot of imported goods from Morocco, which is not necessarily inferior but you don’t want your Tunisian souvenir to come from another country, do you? If you’re buying leatherware, take a good look at the quality of the stitching, to see if it’s sturdy or likely to come apart.