One of the best parts of travelling abroad is coming face-to-face with new cultures, experiencing new traditions and embracing new worldviews. Few things can top the rush of travelling to a new city and getting to spend time learning their ways of life and how you can adapt or change or become more open-minded as a result. However, there are some parts of every culture that are a bit more unsavory than others—one of these is aggressive and pushy street vendors. They are usually stationed in street markets or in bazaars, and this unwelcome attention and overwhelming sales tactics can be hard to avoid or stop.

female street vendor

How to deal with pushy street vendors?

Here are a few tips to help you deal with street vendors that invade your personal space or make you uncomfortable.

  1. Wear sunglasses and a hat
  2. Walk with a purpose
  3. Don't take anything
  4. Don't engage
  5. Reward vendors who respect your wishes

#1. Wear Sunglasses and a Hat

Eye contact is a primary way for vendors to sense a potential sale and to focus on a specific person to pursue in the hopes of one. Therefore, if you can avoid eye contact, perhaps by wearing sunglasses, you should. These dark glasses are great for letting you subtly check out the goods from the corner of your eye without catching the attention of the shop’s vendor. Additionally, if you stand out in the country –blond hair in the Middle East or red hair in Asia—try donning a cap to deflect the comments on your appearance. It should make for a far more comfortable shopping experience as a whole.

#2. Walk with a Purpose

In many countries and cities where street markets are widespread and pushy street vendors are just as popular, there will be constant calls and even sometimes physical pushing to “encourage” tourists into shops. To avoid this, do not dawdle at the exit of any store or in the middle of a street market or bazaar. Walk with a purpose, and stick to the middle of the road to avoid aggressive and overwhelming vendors attempting to pull you into their stores.

male street vendor on motorbike

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#3. Don’t Take Anything

A typical way street vendors ensnare tourists is by putting something in their hands. Sometimes it’s a small scarab (popular in Egypt), or even a hat, necklace, or pair of sunglasses. No matter what they hand you, do not take it. There are many street vendors who will use the fact that you are holding the item to then try and force you to pay for it while refusing to take it back. To avoid an awkward situation, keep your hands in your pockets or clasped together so no one can take the liberty of filling them for you.

#4. Don’t Engage

Whatever you do, and whatever they do, do not engage with pushy vendors. Even if you are trying to be polite by saying no thank you, in English or their native language, more times than not it just serves as an aggravator to them. In turn, this encourages them to continue the harassment. It is better to say nothing at all than to try and to be polite. In this case, feeling rude is preferable to someone constantly nagging you and following you around. By remaining unengaged, they’re more likely to move on to the next tourist, leaving you be.

#5. Reward Vendors Who Respect Your Wishes

Not every vendor will be rude and forward. There are many places where vendors are quieter and more willing to let you browse and explore their goods without forcing a hard sell or pushing you towards a purchase. In most cases, having the personal space to move around and breathe easy will improve your shopping experience and you may find you’re more willing to buy from these sorts of vendors—don’t hesitate if you do. Salespeople who respect your wishes deserve your business if you’re interested in what they’re selling.

Personal safety is of paramount importance when you are travelling abroad. While you can equip yourself and stay aware during your travels, it’s impossible to be prepared for everything. To avoid being caught unawares and without a backup plan, consider travel insurance as an affordable and reliable option. That way, with these tips and a travel insurance policy from Cover-More, you can enjoy your holiday without the harassments of pushy street vendors and feel protected against the unexpected.