This was the number one question I would get asked during my morning desk hours as the Port Shopping Guide on board as the ship docked at Prince George Wharf, Nassau, Bahamas.
Nassau is a big port famous for Bay Street Shopping and the Straw Market.
The Straw Market is a short 5-10 min from the ship depending on how far away your ship is docked. Here is an aerial view of the ships docked and an arrow pointing to the Straw Market and Bay Street shopping. Read on for more information, such as:
- What does the Nassau Straw Market Sell?
- How much should you pay for products sold in the Straw Market?
- History of the Nassau, Straw Market.
- When to visit and when to leave the Market?
- Shopping Strategies and tactics for shopping in the Nassau Straw Market.
What does the Nassau Straw Market Sell?
You will find market stalls full of handmade Bahamian hand-woven straw bags, hats, mats, dolls, conch shell jewelry, beautiful wood carvings, gifts for yourself, and souvenirs for friends family back home. You can also find local delicacies like tubs of homemade Guava Jelly and refreshments such as frozen cocktails made of fresh fruit. But nothing prepares you for the energy and excitement in the Straw Market.
You can also find souvenirs made in China and Taiwan very cheap, so it is a great place to bulk buy those souvenirs for back home. You can find imitation brand name bags and goods. Everything in the market is potentially very low prices, so don’t look at the tag price and think it is expensive; start bargaining. You will find tourists and locals shopping in this bustle of activity amongst the 100s of market stores, with vendors always up for hard negotiations with their buyers.
You can use your US or Bahamian cash here in the market. But be prepared if you pay in USD, you may get your change in Bahamian dollars, which is confusing, so stick to one or the other. See below on shopping strategy and tactics along with a currency conversion calculator.
How much should you pay for products sold at the Straw Market?
Not much, but never the asking or the ticket price, that is for sure. All the prices are inflated to accommodate bargaining or negotiation from you, the customer. Use your judgment to assess how much you would be comfortable paying. It is a lot of fun, but it can be a little infuriating if you are not prepared for this culture. If you are from certain countries or have visited the Caribbean markets before, you will be prepared and relish the experience. But if you are from countries where prices are regulated and everywhere you shop back home, there is no bargaining or negotiating; it can get frustrating.
A good indication of if you have the price they would accept is if you put the item down as if you are walking away; if they let you walk, then your offer is one where they will make no profit on it. But if they chase you and come to a compromise or accept your offer, you have nailed it.
In the market, you will find stalls that sell very similar products Straw bags, hats, mats, dolls, etc., so practice with a few vendors and then make your purchase.
It’s important to remember that each market stall owner is a small business owner trying to make a living from the tourists. They will pay for the stock, rent the market stall, and need to make a decent profit for a day’s work. Read below about when to shop and when to leave the market…
History of the Nassau, Straw Market.
The Nassau Straw Market has been a major source of income for thousands of Bahamian families throughout the Bahama Islands. It is an industry that originally grew in the early 1940′s. Originally, the craft and skills of plaiting, braiding, and weaving were useful when Bahamians made baskets for carrying fruit and fishing traps. After World War II, many North Americans began visiting The Bahamas for their vacations, and straw craft souvenirs soon grew in popularity.
The Bahamas straw market’s outdoor locations have moved a few times, with fire destroying the market in 1974 and again in 2001. The indoor Straw Market that stands today opened on December 21, 2011. It is a joy to visit even on a rainy day.
Here is a great video by ZNSNetwork covering the history of the straw market, reaching back as far as the 1940s.
When to visit and when to leave the Market?
When to shop early?
If you don’t like crowds, get off the ship as soon as you can, hit the market, browse and buy your souvenirs, and get out. All the guests disembark the ships and make their way into town. The market can get crowded, feel hot, and overbearing. The only downside is each market stall owner will want to make their first big sale of the day, and you will be fair game. However, there is a theory in sales that if you can make your first sale within the first hour of opening, then you will have a successful selling day, so be that person but negotiate hard to get the price you want.
When to shop Midday?
Markets get very exciting, and you can get a deal if they are busy and there is a type of shopping frenzy, so ride the wave of the crowds. Each vendor will want to close your sale and move on to the next quickly. You can take advantage of that. Plus, the energy of the crowds is so much fun, everyone having a good time with bags full of goodies, Guava Jelly, fresh fruit cocktails in hand, chatting, and having a great rapport with the locals.
But if you hate crowds, this isn’t for you. Get in, stay on the outskirts so you can get out if you feel overwhelmed. Also, if you are getting too hot, go into a boutique on Bay Street. Cool down in the air conditioning.
When to shop before closing?
Going to the market an hour before closing; Usually open 9am – 5 pm but check with the Shorex Team or on board your ship. If the Market stall owners have had a great day, then any more sales are gravy. They will give you their final price without bartering back and forth. The only downside is there might be a little less stock. Or they may have decided to close early if they day is slow. But with so many market stalls selling very similar items, I don’t think this will be a problem. So as soon as you get back from the beach, tour, or Bay Street shopping. Shoot through and grab yourself a few gifts and souvenirs for back home. Get refreshment for your 5 or 10 min walk back to the ship. You may have to finish it before you get back on board.
Shopping Strategies and tactics in the Nassau, Straw Market.
- Use all the same currency; if you start to switch currencies, you will get confused. Use the Currency Converter on the Latest Blogs page of this website here is the link.
- Either shop early or late for good deals and bargains.
- Take it all in your stride. The market mostly has female stall owners, they can come across aggressive, but they are not. They are just trying to get the best price from you. You are trying to get the best price for yourself. Somewhere in the middle is the right price for both of you when you put the item down and walk away. If they come after you with a price or agree to your price, you got a good deal.
- They are all trying to make a living. Decide on a $10, $50, $100 + USD budget and support the local economy in Nassau, the Bahamas. Possibly a 3rd generation Straw Market traders. If the market stall owner isn’t busy, chat, ask their name, how long you have been there, etc.
- Ask for a picture with the market trader you just purchased from. One thing about shopping in the Caribbean is the memories. Every time you look at your souvenirs, you will remember the moment of the person who sold them to you. Please take a photo of you with them (with their permission) and cherish it. Next time you visit, go and see them, they will be there and guess what they will remember you.
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