The Bahamas has all the qualities of the perfect vacation – great weather, abundant beaches, yummy food and friendly locals.
An unforgettable highlight of my first cruise was the Bahamas Straw Market in Nassau.
Right past the Pier, on the way to the infamous Senor Frog’s lies a wondrous outdoor souvenir bazaar. As you approach the rows of knick-knacks and accessories, be on the lookout for the most adorable and cunning salesman.
Merchants Come In All Shapes and Sizes
She ran up to me and my sister yelling, “Hey, Sister! Welcome to the Bahamas!” Her smile was genuine as she tied a fabric bracelet reading “BAHAMAS” to our wrists. I was immediately excited by the Bahamian hospitality.
As we turned to walk away, we heard the words, “Sister, small donation, please?”
I looked at my sister, genuinely tickled. As I’m sure many tourists before and after me have done, I looked at the bracelet which was double knotted on, then decided that grabbing a few dollars from my pocket would be less trouble than fighting to remove that bracelet.
Between the both of us, the girl made out with $5 for two minutes of work. Pretty good for a preteen.
We quickly learned that all of the sellers were skilled in their art. As I like to say, “They ain’t new to this, they true to this.” And enticing travelers to spend money is their expertise.
When you find yourself in the Bahamas – because it’s the starter island, especially if you cruise – here’s what you need to know about the straw market.
And really, these tips could be used at any large market you encounter around the world.
Most Items Are Not One Of A Kind
Merchants will showcase items claiming that they are handmade. And maybe they are. But somehow, everyone has the exact same items. So, either someone has a Santa-like elf factory making gazillions of these trinkets or everyone has the same instruction manual.
Either way, you don’t need to spend a bunch of money on things that aren’t really unique to your trip.
That’s right, you will find the same sandals, hats, toys, and bags in multiple countries.
The main difference, the stitched “Bahamas” will be changed to “Costa Rica” or “Belize” or whatever tropical paradise you visit.
You’ll notice super deals on Coach, Louis Vuitton & Prada items. No matter how much we so desperately want to believe they are authentic, these souvenirs are copies. The design is great, but the materials and construction are cheap. Buy them at your own risk of them falling apart and your life spilling into the streets.
With that being said, don’t say yes to the first offer a vendor makes. Get the best deal by showing up to the straw market with a strategy.
Browse As Much As You Can Before Buying
Pack comfortable shoes because the straw market is maze worthy and huge.
The strategy I use is to walk the entire market. It may sound like an arduous task, but what you’ll realize is that most vendors have a souvenir specialty. And after a bit of walking, you’ll start to get a feel for what’s available. If you’re lucky, you can find rare items that you haven’t seen a dozen times, and those are the types of souvenirs that I consider.
Once you’ve decided what you want…
Wait. I’m about to go off on a mini tangent about buying souvenirs. Y’all don’t mind, right?
Okay, so, too many of us spend too much darn money on things we don’t really need. We have homes full of things that take up space, that aren’t used, and that are dust collectors. Let’s do better by adulting and deciding if we really need to spend money in these market and how we’re going to spend it.
First, know how a souvenir will be used. Will you hang it on the wall, wear it, display it on a coffee table, or share it with your coworkers? Any souvenir you buy should have a purpose or it should stay in the straw market.
I don’t buy souvenirs for family or friends unless I see something that reminds me of someone and I know it will bring them joy. We have too much crap in junk drawers around the world to contribute to the pile.
This ends my PSA.
Back to what I was saying. Once you’ve decided what you want, ask different vendors how much those items cost. Prices will vary and by asking different people, you can get a better sense of how much you should offer to pay for your favorite souvenirs.
Take the lowest offer you’ve received from vendors and take 1/3 off that price. This is your offer price.
Don’t Spend Too Much On Your Souvenirs
Bartering is a foreign concept to some cultures, but it’s an expected, way of life for others. Bartering at the straw market will help you save coins for future travel. Don’t be bashful – the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the better you become.
I will be the first to admit that I am not what you’d call a frugal traveler.
I don’t skimp on travel experiences, but I am mindful of what I spend on and thoughtful about where I can save money while on trips.
Even though they are fun to buy and give, souvenirs are a huge money drain. I suggest putting aside a set amount of money to spend on souvenirs and sticking to it like the Gramma’s prized casserole recipe. No deviations, no additions.
In the rows and rows of items, you will find something that you should spend your money on (if you need to spend money at all for the best souvenir.)
The Best Bahamian Souvenirs
During your exploration of the market, you will find souvenirs that are worthy of your money. These items will make you feel good when you hold or look at them for years to come. They will be useful and relatively unique to the Bahamas.
Popular souvenirs from the Bahamas include conch shells, guava jam, Batik fabric, music, and rum.
My favorite souvenirs from anywhere include clothing items including shoes and jewelry. Food (except for fresh plant-items) is also a good option so you can enjoy the taste of the Bahamas at home. I’m also partial to artwork and home decor items because the items have a specific purpose and will be used.
In the end, I bought a beautifully fake silver chain with a starfish charm made of silver and encrusted with rhinestones. I also bought a real, dead starfish that STILL smells like the ocean. It hangs in my ocean-themed bathroom.
So what will you buy from the Bahama’s Straw Market?
Wanna hear about the crazy souvenirs you can find in Tokyo? Read this post.