This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The $5 Shopping Challenge in Xela

Some Guatemalan quetzals
The $5 Shopping Challenge
One of the best things about traveling and living in other countries has got to be the never-ending game of price comparison with where we are from and what we know. Whether it's oohing over the twenty-five dollar watermelons in Japan or aahing over the obscene amount of bananas one can get for $1 in Ecuador, I think everyone likes to play.

So with that in mind, what I have done for this blog post is to go out to a typical market on a typical shopping trip in my current hometown of Quetzaltenago (better known as Xela) and record what I can get for around five US dollars which equals about 39 Guatemalan quetzals. Admittedly, I am not the best bargainer, but most of the ladies here are honest enough, and they almost all offer the same prices anyway. Usually my shopping conversations go something  like this:

Me: "How much for a pound of tomatoes?"
Seller: "3.50, but for you 3."
Me: "2.50?"
Seller: "No."
Me: "Okay, give me a pound. How much for a cucumber?"
Seller: "2.50, but for you 2."
etc, etc

But before we get to the results of my shopping challenge let's look at some background info...

Welcome to the Market
There are four markets that I know of in Xela. One is small, easily managable, indoors, and near the Parque Central, another small one is Mercado Las Flores (Flowers Market) near the large municipal cemetery which could be how it got its name, the third is Minerva Market near the bus terminal which is huge, normally chaotic, and has a large section dedicated to secondhand clothing. The final market, La Democracia, sits right in the center of town and competes with Minerva for title of 'Xela's largest'. The indoor market part of La Demo encompasses an entire city block with everything sold here from pigs feet to push brooms and from pastries to hand-woven tapestries. The market than spills out onto the surrounding streets in every direction with specific blocks dedicated to clothes, food, and pirated CD/DVDs. La Demo also happens to be only four blocks from our house so the market of choice for our fruits and vegetables shopping.
A street outside La Demo market. Normally there is traffic access, but for the holiday season the street has been completely covered in temporary stalls selling even more stuff

Use the Sales Force
In most all Guatemalan markets there are three types of fruit and vegetable sellers (98.8% female):

The fixed stall sellers who use tables or stalls and carry either the widest selection of items or a mountain of one particular item.

The on-the-ground sellers who sit on tiny stools or the ground with their goods in baskets or on a blanket. They'll have anywhere from one item-one bucket to getting very ambitious with a lot on offer

The ambulatory sellers are the rarest type, who walk around selling just one item. This could be a good chance to see a guy selling something.
A very ambitious on-the-ground seller

The Results Are In
My shopping formula:
Quantity of Item = price in Guatemalan quetzals = price in US dollars

1lb of Tomatoes = Q3    =  $0.38
1lb of Onions     = Q3    =  $0.38
Half dz. Carrots = Q2.5 =  $0.32
3 Avocados       = Q7.5 =  $0.96
2 Cucumbers     = Q4    =  $0.51
bunch Spinach   = Q4    =  $0.51
bunch Radishes  = Q3    =  $0.38
Pineapple           = Q7   =  $0.90
3 head Garlic     = Q3    = $0.38
Today's Total     = Q37  = $4.72

The results coming in at $0.28 under $5

So how'd I do? Not bad, right. So now it's your turn to take the $5 challenge and let us know in the comments below what five bucks gets you at your favorite local (super)market.