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Some gurus advise not to buy travel souvenirs in order to lower your expenses and travel light. It’s a good advice, but it’s not something that I can apply, and I imagine that the same thing happens to many of you. We’ll probably not come back to the country we visited, and we want to have something that reminds us of that wonderful experience.

But of course, we can not buy everything we like (even if we wanted to). And we can not bring a gift to all the people we know. Typical that before your trip everyone asks you to bring him or her a souvenir. Well, no friends, it’s not possible. Neither will you get the money, nor will you have space in your suitcase. So select a few people who deserve it.

What to buy as travel souvenirs?

I love shopping for travel souvenirs and gifts. Most of the times I do a research of the most traditional of each place before traveling. I like to buy original products and preferably not “made in China.”

Crafts and handmade products

I like ethnic, artistic, vintage and handmade things very much. My first advice is to buy handmade and representative items of the city. You will take home something different, besides, you will support the local economy. For example, in Florence Italy, you can buy leather goods. You don’t have to buy something expensive like a handbag, but how about a coin purse?

There are countries where it is easier to get local crafts. For example, in Sarajevo, I bought a beautiful coffee set made of copper by local artisans. Also a bag and a small rug with Ottoman design. In Croatia, traditional textiles in white and red are also produced.

coffee set, bag and mat, my souvenirs from Sarajevo
Coffee set and ottoman mat from Sarajevo

Read here about my experience in Sarajevo

In Venice, carnival masks are very popular. If you want to buy one, ask if they are handmade with papier mache. In the souvenir kiosks, they usually don’t have good quality (that’s if you get papier-mache at all). There are specialized mask stores that have options for all budgets. You have to seek and ask
If you want to know more about Venice check my post Is Venice dirty? + What to do 3 days in Venice
papier mache masks are popular souvenirs from venice
papier mache mask from Venice
I also like to buy handmade soaps and toiletries. They usually come in very nice boxes or wrappers ideal for a gift (or to keep for yourself). Look for those that are made with natural ingredients. In Bosnia and Croatia, you can find some aromatic lavender sachets.

Useful and practical items.

I don’t like to buy those ornaments that will later end up in a box because I don’t know where to set them. Yes, some are pretty but most of them just keep dust and take up space. It is better to buy something practical that every time you use it, it reminds you of your trip.

I almost always buy one or two cups of coffee for me or for gifts. They might not be the most original gift, but they are beautiful and at least you can use them. Other things you can buy in the souvenir shops (without resorting to the worn-out key chains) are pens, lighters, and mirrors. They are more useful and practical (although they are not cheap and not of very good quality).

coffee mugs are practical travel souvenirs or gifts
Coffee mugs

I know I said that I don’t like ornaments, but a good option to buy as gifts are the magnets for the refrigerator. If you seek well, there are some really nice. In Prague, for example, I found some very pretty made of wood, it was difficult to decide which one to buy. I like an ethnic or vintage style. They will not take much space in your house and they will remind you of your trip when you go for a snack to your fridge.

If you haven’t read my post about Prague, you can read it here: A magical city, what to do in Prague in 4 days

fridge magnets are a cheap and light option to bring home as travel souvenirs
the few fridge magnets that I kept for myself

Other items that I usually buy for myself, but which can also be good options to give away are scarves and pins. The scarves are practical and you can always find one with the print of the city. The pins are cheap, wearable and don’t take up any space. Recently I decided to start a collection although I have still very little.

pins are a practical, cheap travel souvenirs, besides they take almost no space in your luggage
My small collection of pins

Local groceries

Of course, make sure that they are not prohibited to enter your country and that they’ll not get damaged either. What you can usually enter without problems are chocolates, wine, honey, coffee, and tea. If you are in Italy you could bring a mature cheese, handmade pasta, olive oil and sauces in a jar. If you check the local markets and supermarkets you will find something interesting at a good price

handmade pasta and other edible stuff make great travel souvenirs
handmade pasta


My guilty pleasure: the stationery. And I’m lucky that I’ve found many beautiful things. The number one in this category is postcards. I love collecting postcards, especially with vintage images. Although some people may think they are insignificant and useless, I believe they are a timeless classic, what do you think?

´postcards are a timeless option to buy as travel souvenirs
Some of my favorite postcards

I must also admit that I am addicted to notebooks. They are practical and beautiful, and you can use them as journals in future trips. In Florence, Italy, they make marbling paper, which they use to make notebooks and other articles. You can also buy paper sheets, ideal for wrapping gifts or making crafts. I do scrapbooking and that’s why I always buy them. In Florence, I also bought a nice pen and ink for calligraphy.

More tips for shopping in Florence in this post: Advice about what to do in Florence: art and shopping

notebooks and stationary make good gifts and travel souvenirs
My Quill and notebooks

Another option to buy as a gift are books, such as travel guides. Or Some of native authors, for example, Franz Kafka from Prague or Federico García Lorca from Granada. Bookmarkers are a good option for someone who likes to read, and super light to bring in your luggage.

If you enjoy reading or have friends who do, take them books or bookmark as gifts and travel souvenirs
Book and bookmarks

What not to buy?

Plastic ornaments. I have mentioned it before, particularly I don’t like the figures that you put on shelves. They are usually very commercial, made of plastic and not very pretty. If you want ornaments as travel souvenirs look for something original like Murano glass in Venice, or something handmade. Although of course if you find one that you like, go ahead

Keychains. They are zero original and not very good quality, buy them if you find some that you really like. I gave my mother one with 7 keys for luck and she still keeps it. There are many other more beautiful and interesting options as I mentioned.

T-shirts. I mean those with messages or prints. Like the key rings, they are not original at all, and perhaps they are not the style of the person to whom you give them. In Florence, there were even shorts or t-shirts with a certain part of Miguel Angel’s David. In Austria, there is one with the no kangaroos in Austria print (seriously?). Maybe they are funny, but would anyone really wear them? Ok, don’t answer me.

t.shirts are an easy but boring travel souvenirs option, avoid it if possible
T-shirts as souvenirs

Where to buy?

Souvenir Shops

Obviously! It’s not my intention to demonize the souvenir shops. They are the first option to look for your travel souvenirs, but not the only one. Keep in mind that you will find the same in almost all stores of this type. Besides, the prices are quite high for the quality they offer. Look for souvenir shops far from downtown and the most popular attractions. Compare prices before buying, in some countries it is even possible to bargain.

Local markets and street markets

Oh! These are my favorite places to go in search of souvenirs. Especially when they are seasonal markets such as Easter or Christmas. You find such cute things! And the best part is that they are mostly all local stuff. You can also buy edible products made with traditional techniques and ingredients.

local groceries and food in jars are great travel souvenirs and gifts for your friends
Souvenirs in a jar

In the so-called flea markets, if you seek well, you may find some treasures. Something original and unique that you can take as a souvenir, or if it is not so original, at least cheap. An example of these markets is the famous Rastro in Madrid, usually packed with buyers and tourists. In most European countries, they set up weekend markets where you can find travel souvenirs or gifts too.

local markets and season markes are great places to find original and inexpensive travel souvenirs
local markets


In Supermarkets, you can buy packaged food like jams, coffee, and chocolates. They do good travel souvenirs, and as supermarkets target local consumers, prices are lower

explore supermarkets to find cheap options to buy as travel souvenirs

Local shops.

Far from the tourist areas, you can enter to browse the local shops, and you may find surprises. In Italy, I went to a little store of kitchen gadgets and utensils. I came out with a couple of beautiful Moka pots made in Italy and at a very good price, I kept one and the other one I gave it to my sister.

walk and explore the local and small shops to find great options to buy as travel souvenirs
small shop in italy

Gift shops in museums

It’s true that gift shops in museums tend to be more expensive. But it’s not always like that. In Vienna, in the Schönbrunn Palace’s gift shop I found some chocolates for 2 euros less than in the souvenir shops in the center. Also, in these stores, you can find some interesting items that you cannot find in other stores. You can usually enter the gift shop, without having to buy a ticket to visit the museum. Ask, but most of the times are like that.

General Advice

Well, I already gave you some options. But the most important advice is that you look around and walk to find things that make you happy. If you have time compare prices. Get away from tourist areas that are full of tourist traps. Ask about the markets that are not always popular with tourists.

Visit the local stores. Investigate on the internet. Ask your host or local people. Enter the department stores, the little shops, the bookstores. In some places, you can haggle, ask if they can give you a better price.

I hope these tips will help you to buy original and cheap travel souvenirs. If you have more tips that can help other travelers, share them in the comments section. Also tell me, what are your favorite souvenirs? Where do you like to buy them?

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tips for buying travel souvenirs on the cheap

Tags : booksbudgetcheapflea marketslocal marketsmarketsmuseumpostcardsshoppingshopssouvenir shopsouvenirsstationarytipstravel souvenirs

The author LaCarteVintage


  1. I live to buy little nicknacks when visiting new places! You have provided really good options here. Like your collection of fridge magnets! ?

  2. I don’t like knick knacks, so I look for something that will work as a Christmas ornament. My favorite find was wood baubles tied together with string, made from local types of trees on the south coast of Australia.

  3. I love the idea of supporting local artisans . I am with you with the stationery I would go nuts . I also like the mugs as well. Your collection of magnets is to die for . Your tips are very helpful for any traveler who wants to find quality souvenirs .

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