One of my favorite places to visit no matter where I travel is the local market. The combination of both the energy and the excitement just do it for me. And Nairobi’s Masai Market is among the best of the best. If you visit Nairobi, you have to stop by here at least once. (I’m ordering you to do this!)
So, what exactly should you expect from your Masai Market experience?
- There is something here for everyone. These are open air markets where local artisans sell everything from colorful baskets, jewelry, curios, paintings, african fabrics, wood carvings and all sorts of other delightful items. You can plan on stocking up on souvenirs, gifts for friends and family back home and unique and one of a kind pieces that each have a story all their own. I am personally obsessed with all the hand woven baskets and funky jewelry.
- Prepare to have your personal space disregarded. I know that sounds scary, but it’s not that people are trying to be rude. They just really want your business. Don’t get too annoyed when they call out to you, shout at you, and sometimes even follow you around begging you to stop and take a look at the things they’re selling. Most of these folks are hard working individuals with families who rely on the business they do at the market every day to put food on the table. I have a lot of respect for them. At the same time, pickpockets have been known to hang out at markets like this. Not everyone is out to steal from you, so please don’t walk around skeptical of every person you met. A good idea to practice is to keep several smaller bills in your pocket and the rest of your money somewhere safe. That way, you aren’t flashing around all of your big bills for everyone to see. Keep your belongings close to you… but please don’t embarrass the rest of us by strapping your backpack across your chest. This just makes you more of a target and I’ll be real honest- you will look very stupid.
- Go expecting to bargain. And go knowing that people will most likely try to take advantage of the fact that you’re not from around these parts. If you have a friend who’s from Nairobi, it would be incredibly valuable to ask them to go along with you. They can help you know what a realistic price is for different items, and can also help translate for you. Not only does having a local help ensure you’ll get a better deal, it also just makes for a better experience all around!But, if you aren’t able to go with a Kenyan, a good rule of thumb that I’ve been told is to make an offer at a fourth of whatever price the vendor starts at. So if he tells you the large, hand carved wooden elephant is going for 2,000 KSH ($20), start at 500 KSH ($5). The vendor will probably look at you like you are crazy, but don’t break your poker face. Part of shopping here is playing the game, and even though it might feel out of your comfort zone this is expected by everyone. No, you don’t seriously plan to buy the elephant for 500 KSH! But this is your starting place. Your goal is to work your way up to a reasonable price. If things go well, you will eventually both meet each other somewhere in the middle. Try to carry small bills and change to help get a bargain.Before you try to strike a deal, walk through the market and make sure you’ve gotten a good idea of what’s there. There’s nothing worse than spending all of your money at the first place you stop and then feeling like you missed out.
I got tired of googling where the market moves throughout the week, so I made a printable which you are welcome to use yourself! Click HERE to download now!