Shopping for Souvenirs in Europe

By wasatch | Apr 29, 2020
Europe

We started traveling in Europe in 1972 and how we do our souvenir shopping has changed greatly since then. There was a time, 1955 to sometime in the 1990s, when buying just about anything in Europe was exotic and a bargain compared to prices in the USA. Not so much today since most of the EU is now about as wealthy as the USA and there is now an EU 25% VAT. For example, in 2019, I bought an item in high end department store in France for $120, including the VAT (there is no additional sales tax). In the USA, the same item cost $120-130 + sales tax. Globalization is another adverse effect on souvenir shopping because its now difficult to find things in the EU that can't also be bought in the USA.

In today's world, here are the things we would suggest considering if you want souvenirs oaf your trip to the EU:

  • Scotch Whiskey.
  • Dark beer
  • Some liquors, such as Austrian Apricot liquor and schlivovitz, which I might have spelled right. Fine French wines have a global market, and cost about as much in France as in the USA.
  • French garden seeds for green beans and salad lettuce, far superior eating than what you can get in the USA.
  • Bavarian Sweet Mustard. An absolute must if you find yourself in Bavaria.
  • Mustard in a tube
  • Assorted mustard flavors
  • Street Art. Lots of artists hawking art works on the streets. Our collection cost $15-200 per item.
  • Crafts: craft fairs, Christmas Markets, Easter Markets.
  • Wrist watches: high end like Rolex are globalized, so forget them. In the $20-100 price range, prices are probably comparable to USA watches, but EU styles are different and generally more classy.
  • French artisanal soaps
  • Some herbs and spices in some stores, especially saffron.
  • Cook books. Goggle or other web sites will translate the words for you.
  • J. Henkles stores. There is a clearance section in the back with sometimes incredible mark downs. We got a $165 ***** knife for $35.

Medical drugs

In the United States, the average retail price of a three month supply of Xarelto 20 mg was around $1,600. In Italy, I paid $333. In the USA, it requires a prescription. In Italy, its OTC. I went into a pharmacy in Florence to check on Xarelto. When I ordered a year's worth, they told me it would take until 2:00pm the next day to get Xarelto. I told them we were leaving for Venice at 9:00 am the next morning. He said, 'no problem. What is your hotel in Vienna?' I told him. He played with the computer and said, "the closest pharmacy to that is hotel is [name and address]. Your Xarelto will be there at 2:00pm tomorrow, and so it was.

With Medicare Part D, 100gr Diclofenac is $87-150 with a prescription. In Germany, less that $10 OTC. Double strength $19 OTC (not sold in the USA).

A Loden coat or jacket is one of the best and most unique things to buy in the EU. I found a Loden overcoat from an online US source for $650. It looks just like the one I bought in Germany for $306.

Geiger is a somewhat well known Austrian maker of loden jackets for women. My wife got one in Austria for $65. A few weeks later, back home in the USA, we saw its twin in a store window for $380. Geiger is a higher end Austrian fashion house. I got a similarly styled no-name loden jacket for $35.

My first full length loden coat is a trench coat style custom made coat. I went into a tailor shop in Vienna, got measured, and picked up the coat 3 days later, a perfect fit-- $514 (in today's money).

So what is a loden coat? Loden is a type of wool. The classic recipe goes like this. Make a bolt of standard wool clothe. Boil it. Put it out in the sun to dry. It will shrink 50-65%. That's the point. When it shrinks, it tightens up the cloth, making the spaces between threads too small for water drops (rain) to get through. It is water proof wool with out any need for chemical water proofing coating. Think of it as natural Gor-tex because, being wool it is a breathable fabric-- all the comforts of wool and it never gets wet in rain. Unlike Gor-tex, loden does not make crinkling sounds when you move.

Maybe You Should Not Buy This

EU clothes are cut differently than in the USA. They often feel like something is wrong when you wear them. Triple this for wearing EU shoes.

Leather goods. Many EU countries make excellent leather goods, but tourist areas, even in relatively obscure place like Cochem, are flooded with cheaply made over priced junk. In the USA, "genuine leather" means it is either full or split leather-- its all leather all the way through. In several European counties we have run into this: Genuine Leather refers to a paper thin piece of leather glued onto a card broad interior. It lasts about as long as it took me to write this sentence.

Where Not to Shop

  • Most airport duty free stores
  • Gift shops at museums etc
  • Souvenir stands

Where to Shop

You get more for your money in some countries than in others, so it pays, if you are visiting several countries, to do your shopping where you get the best deal relative to how local prices translate into dollars. One way to figure this out is to compare the PPP-GDP to per capita GDP. For Hungary in 2018, it was $33,000 vs $16,000. That means I bought a $50 wrist watch for $24, and it was not on sale. The price of everything in Hungary was half off, compared to what it would cost in the USA because of the "strong dollar".

You can also use the Big Mac Index to figure out where you get the best buys for a limited number of countries. Any country with a Big Mac Index less that 100 is a bargain. The Big Max Index is easier to use, but covers only a few countries (and the price of a Big Mac in Norway? $16).

  • Italy for best medical drugs
  • Prague and Venice for artistic glass
  • Russian for Amber
  • Prague for Garnet

The Duty Free shop at the pier in Malaga, Spain. Bell's Scotch, one liter $10. In Barcelona, $18 at airport duty free, $17 in town. $32 in USA. Johnnie Walker Rd Label, about $2 more per liter in the EU.

The Abby at Melk  (1,000 ft long facade)

The Abby at Melk (1,000 ft long facade)

Where to Shop for Loden

Hands down, the best prices (see Geiger above) we found were at the discount shops on the town square in Lofer, Austria, but its been more than 10 years since we have been there (how much loden do you need?), so I don't know if they are still operating given the way businesses are destroyed in Trump World. Otherwise, there are full price specially shops across southern Germany and all of Austria selling loden..

Lodon Coat

Lodon Coat

Street Art  Russia

Street Art Russia

Street art Prague    pen

Street art Prague pen

street art-- Prague

street art-- Prague

Souvenirs Shopping

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Written by wasatch

There is 1 comment
Shaban

Shaban
Apr 30, 2020 at 14:27

I will give this a try once the virus blows over!


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