Souvenirs are a must if you are going to Peru. Well, usually they are a must if you go anywhere. They are a great way to remember your trip and are just nice keepsakes to have in your house. Photos also work well …
The Pisaq Market is famous throughout the Sacred Valley. Tourists come from all over to buy the goods here. You can always buy knickknacks everyday, but the largest markets are every Tuesday, Thursday, and especially Sunday. I swear you hear more French and English than Spanish or Quechua on those days. This is partially as a result of the vendors. Skilled in the art of the sale and masters at haggling, they are versed in conversational English and other foreign languages to get as many Nuevo Soles as possible. Of course, Spanish is appreciated (same with some Quechua), but you will have a lingua franca available if necessary.
Additionally, you should be warned that things can get expensive here. As a result of the tourists as mentioned in a previous post, prices can be high since we will buy anything. There are markets in Qosqo where prices are a little cheaper (there are some there that are more expensive of course as well), but just experiencing the setting of Pisaq may be worth spending a few extra Soles to visit and shop. The hilltop ruins are simply fantastic too.
While shopping in Pisaq, pretend it’s a mission. There are hundreds of vendors selling thousands of products; Have an idea of what you are going to buy. Do not be blindsided by the fancy embroidered shoes if all you want is a pillow case.
Pictures cost money. Little girls holding baby goats and llamas will come by you, and they will ask if you want a picture. Immediately afterwards, they will demand some compensation. This is normal, and you must pay them. The same goes for the Quechua women with babies. Take a picture, give one or two Soles. My housemate was followed home after taking a glorious, heavily favorites Instagram photo by a woman since she didn’t know the custom. I had to later inform her that she would have to pay the small Peruvian lady. Don’t make this goof.
Careful with buying food. On Sundays, the first fifth of the market is just food vendors. Fish, fruit, and herbs are sold. Know what you are buying, ask if it is fresh, and then prepare it properly. No one wants food poisoning.
The shops and stalls on the outer ends of the markets are cheaper than the ones in the center. Now, I am not sure this trend is 100% correct, but it is something the volunteers and I noticed while shopping. A bracelet in the center may cost 5 Soles, while one on the fringes may just cost 2 or 3 Soles. This is a minimal price difference.
However, if you are like me and want to get a beaded, ceremonial puffy hat (The name in Spanish escapes me right now), the price difference can be 30 to 50 Soles. I have found some for comparable quality starting at 70 Soles, which is compared to 120 Soles from the center square. The same goes with ponchos and other large items.
Our theory is that the venders here know that people get distracted by the center stalls, so they have to make the prices cheaper in order to draw in customers. Simple supply and demand, yes?
Bargain! It is simple. In Spanish, “to bargain” is regatear. Es una costumbre regetear en estos mercados. (It is a custom to bargain in these markets). The venders will offer a price, and you will offer another one. Often if you merely say it is too expensive, they will lower it automatically. It is totally understandable if you don’t want to lower a price that already is only 7$ US. However, if you do choose to haggle, it will not be considered rude.
Here is some vocabulary and phrases in Spanish and Quechua (if you feel daring) to use while shopping:
English – Spanish – Quechua Phrases
How much is it? – ¿Cuánto cuesta? – Hak’a?
Can I see this/that? – ¿Puedo ver esto/eso? – Qoway kayta/chayta? (Literally – Give me this/that)
Yes/No/Thank You – Sí/No/Gracias – Arí/Manam/Solpaykuy
What do you sell? – ¿Cuáles cosas vende? – Imataq vendeshianki? *There is no traditional word for shopping in Quechua
Can I have a bag please? – ¿Puedo tener una bolsa por favor? – Bolsata munani
Can I take your picture? – ¿Puedo tomar la foto de ti? – Hurkoykimanchu phututa?
Madam – Señora – Mamacha Sir – Señor – Taytacha
Hat (Cap) – la Gorra – Sumriru
Shoes – los Zapatos – Sapatukuna
Belt – el Cinturón – Chumpi
Mask – la Máscara – Uyatikuna
Poncho – el Poncho – Punchu
One – Two – Three / Uno – Dos – Tres / Huq – Iskay – Kinsa
You are at a market place in Peru, in a beautiful landscape, and you have the ability to buy things! Even if it is a little overwhelming and you have to pay a little extra for a photo or belt, the experience is part of the price. Plus, if you really want a free adventure, the ruins behind the market are free if you go early (Think about 6 AM).
Hopefully, this helps you if you are coming to Pisaq or anywhere else in the Sacred Valley. Though it is possible to converse in English, I implore you to try Spanish and maybe even Quechua.
That little smile that creeps when you pronounce something correctly brightens some venders’ days; It may also lower the initial price of your purchase.
Much more to come! The Festival of the Virgin Carmen is coming up, more Quechua classes are happening, and I have yet to try cuy (Guinea Pig). Stay tuned!