Santa Marta is a place for informal, old-style shopping. Here, you'll find plenty of small outlets where you can browse around looking for handicrafts, leather products, jewellery and souvenirs. Expect to be stopped often by street vendors and beach salesmen, who can be quite persistent. However, if there's nothing you enjoy like a tough session of bargaining, then you'll find yourself at home.
Street sellers in Santa Marta commonly hawk T-shirts, shorts, dark glasses, bracelets, wristwatches, novelty photographs and of course, souvenirs.
There is some great shopping to be had in Santa Marta, and our Santa Marta Shopping Guide below tells you where to find the best bargains and what to shop for. For more general information about shopping in Colombia see our Colombia Shopping Guide. While shopping, relax and revive your energy at one of the many Santa Marta restaurants and snack stands available around the shopping districts.
Shopping in Santa Marta
A thumb rule for bargaining is to beat down the price by at least 2,000 to 3,000 pesos. For instance, if you're quoted a price of P$ 10,000 for a T-shirt you fancy, make an offer for P$ 8,000 and take it from there. However, if you don't wish to buy anything, a polite "gracias" (thank you) and wave of the hand will usually suffice to discourage eager vendors.
For changing money, head to the Edificio de Bancos, between Calles 14 and 15, Carreras 2A and 3, where there are several banks (tellers are on the second floor). You can also go to Calle 15 on the Parque Bolivar.
Colombia has a well developed textile industry that has earned a name for itself in South America and Europe. Both garments and lingerie are considered to be of high quality, besides being value for money. Overseas visitors will also like to look at leather garments, footwear and accessories. The ideal place to shop for these products is Medellin, which is considered to be Colombia's fashion capital. Here, you can pick up reliable, well made stuff that's also relatively inexpensive.
In many local markets and street corners, you'll be happily surprised to find intricately designed jewellery.
Gold jewellery (18K) and emeralds are another attraction for visitors. Copies of pre-Colombian jewellery made with gold, silver and semi-precious stones are renowned for their beautiful, distinctive designs.
A product that combines both charm and utility is the Spanish "mochila" or backpack. The indigenous, hand-woven bags, typically slung over the shoulder are sold widely in shopping malls, particularly in the Santa Marta and El Rodadero areas. Mochilas are sold in three sizes. A large mochila can be used to transport bigger items while the medium-sized ones are ideal for stashing personal belongings. Local residents use the small mochilas to carry around a supply of coca leaves, which they chew as a snack-on-the-go. The leaves are said to impart a quick spurt of energy and help ward off altitude sickness.