Shopping is not generally high on the list for most safari travellers, but there are some locations in Africa where the range of stores selling recognisable brand procucts is quite impressive, there are places where unique African items can be purchased and, of course, there are many locations where practical purchasing like foods and medicines can be bought ...
Price and barter
The more informal the retail space, the more likely you are to need your bartering skills. However barter in sub-Saharan Africa tends to be much less extreme than further north. Where a Moroccan carpet trader may start at ten to twenty times the price, a Tanzanian vendor will rarely start at more than double or triple.
As a relatively wealthy traveller you can expect to pay over the odds for most things. We generally try to pay as little as possible where we feel we are being hustled, but relax when negotiating direct with individuals and craftspeople.
Souvenirs and curios
African arts and crafts are available almost everywhere, from large stores in international airports, city emporiums, to town markets, lodge gift-shops and improvised village and road-side stalls. We have even encountered nomadic tribes-people who have unravelled their blankets to create an impromptu 'shop'.
Generally the larger the facility, the more likely the products are to be inauthentic. For example, lots of the wooden animals being sold in Africa these days are actually made in China.
Our advice is to generally steer towards the smallest possible outlet, where you are actually placing your money in the hand of the person who crafted the piece you are purchasing. That way the whole experience seems to have more depth and value.
In most parts of Africa you will find lower quality art being sold alongside curios, but there are places where much more unique and higher quality pieces can be found. If you look hard enough you can find artist's workshops in most towns. For really high class paintings and sculptures, then there are some superb galleries in the Cape Town and the Winelands. Note that the best of these are often situated at high class wineries and restaurants rather than on the high streets.
If you are unfortunate enough to lose your luggage and need to purchase a whole new wardrobe, then you need to get into a major city, where you should find a range of stores sufficiently stocked with international brands.
For leisure shopping of clothes and other associated items, you are likely to encounter a limited range of branded products in the various camps that you visit, whilst major cities like Nairobi, Johannesburg and Cape Town all have malls similar to those you might find at home.
If you are planning to self-drive in South Africa or Namibia, there are international style stores which are stocked with reasonably conventional produce in most significant towns.
The issue of pharmacies and drug stores for emergency medical supplies is covered in our section on medical facilities
Food and drink
In most cases we would encourage you to use local stores to purchase simple daily supplies such as drinks and snacks, although you should always check the integrity and hygiene of anything you consume.