Planning a trip to Cuba? Looking to make some cultural purchases? Consider yourself a good haggler? You should definitely have a read of this…
Considering over 3 million tourists visit this Caribbean island every year (and this number will only go up with the recent USA rule changes), this little trick could well be worth a shot.
During our recent trip to Cuba, our eyes were opened to so many incredible things. Number 1 being the high level of visible poverty in the streets, number 2 being the genuine feeling of safety, and number 3 being their approach to business and negotiations… they’re all entrepreneurs!
Throughout our world trip, we came across countless markets. You know the ones, rows and rows of food, clothes, books and WATCHES. It is quite possible that I am the only person buying these cheap watches, but you should get involved too and here’s why.
So I am a fan of watches, I am also a tight ass… Hence the reason why these watch stalls are perfect for me. You can pick up some genuinely nice looking watches for ridiculously low prices. US$1 – $10 seemed to be the going rates depending on your selection and depending on which country you’re in. The cheapest I found were in Turkey, where I purchased a simple, little beauty for around US $1.90.
In almost every country we visit, we love to explore and admire local artworks. In Havana, Cuba’s capital, the Main Arts & Crafts Market is located around a 20 minute walk from the city centre. Believe me, it is worth the trip. Literally thousands of hand painted beauties greet you as you head under the shade of the newly renovated San Jose warehouses. We spent a full day roaming around and choosing our favourites.
“Oh if we were rich” could be heard slip from our lips on more than one occasion. Not necessarily because the paintings were expensive (they ranged from between US$5 to $100) but so we could afford to buy them all and ship them back home.
Now here’s where this story gets interesting… on at least 10 different occasions (we spoke to many, many vendors and artists) I was offered various discounts and exchanges for my watch. One painter was happy to do a straight swap for a $7 painting, others were happy to reduce their prices between $5 and $10.
You are correct, this is not a lot of money but this story isn’t about the $$$! These people have grown up with very little their whole lives and a new watch is something to cherish within their society. When you think that in 2013 the average monthly salary was $US19, the opportunity for a watch mustn’t come around all that often.
You’re probably thinking that I tried to rip them off. That I told them the watch was expensive. Well I didn’t! Every one of them who questioned me was told it cost me less than $2 and they didn’t care. All they wanted was to get their hands on it in exchange for their artwork.
In upcoming days I was also offered discounted taxi fares and cheap drinks for the exchange, proving it was not just a fixation developed by artists.
I didn’t end up accepting an offer, I am particularly fond of this watch. But I do suggest this for future travellers to Cuba. Load up on cheap watches! Get the cheapest and nicest looking fakes you can find and take them to Cuba… You won’t regret it. Even if you don’t actually make any good money from it you will make someone’s day and you will have a story to remember and share for the rest of your life.