When visiting a new country, one of the most exciting daily experiences is going to the local market. And every country has its own market “culture” that makes the experience unique and memorable. When I arrive in a new place, one of the first things I do is find the local market and buy a piece of fruit that I have never had before. It’s a fun way to welcome yourself to a new place and a great conversation starter with the stall owners – They usually love to introduce travelers to their local delicacies!
Peruvian markets do not fail in this regard and you should make a visit to a market a priority during your travels. By the way: You’ll find more great tips about how to meet locals and where to try authentic Peruvian food in our travel guide ALL ACROSS PERU.
Below are our Top 5 tips for Peruvian markets to make the experience even better.
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5 tips for Peruvian Markets to get the best delicacies and meet the locals
1. Markets are generally open 7 days a week
In some countries, there are “market days” and this is the day to head to market – While the market may be open everyday, there isn’t near the selection as the official market day. In the major cities in Peru, we’ve found that the markets are open 7 days a week, but usually close early on Sundays. That being said, there are specialty markets that pop-up – There are organic markets in various parts of Lima, usually just one day a week. And in the San Blas market in Cusco, the Quechua women would bring fresh flowers on Tuesdays. Other women brought beautiful romaine lettuce on Wednesdays (just make sure to wash it well with clean water!).
2. Window shop first
When shopping at traditional grocery stores, it’s common to think of the whole process a race – not dissimilar to the old TV show Supermarket Sweep: Run into the store with your list in hand, grab items quickly off the shelf and use one of the many self-checkout stations to avoid any human interaction. However, when market shopping, you would be wise to leave this shopping technique for the TV shows. When you first arrive at the market, take a few minutes to walk up and down the aisles perusing the various stalls to see where the freshest fruit and veggies are. And, don’t feel pressure to buy everything at one stall! It takes a little more time, but you’ll end up with better products, and more friends, if you shop at multiple stalls. We also highly recommend grabbing a fresh juice (usually only s/2) to start your market trip off right!
3. Ask the shopkeepers
The real beauty of the market is that you are able to rely on the wisdom of people who have been doing this for years. Don’t know whether that mango is ripe? Just ask the shopkeepers! With avocados (called palta in Peru) in particular, they will ask you when you want to eat it (para hoy o mañana? For today or tomorrow?) and then they’ll pick the right one. Sometimes, they’ll give me one that I’m sure is already rotten, only to open it up and have it be perfect. So, trust your shopkeepers (but feel free to exchange for a different one if it really doesn’t look good!). Also, don’t be surprised if the shopkeepers call you „Mamita“ or „Papi“ even if you’re clearly not toting around a toddler – They are considered respectful terms at the market.
4. No need to haggle
One of the beautiful things about Peruvian markets is that the “tourist price” doesn’t seem to differ greatly from the local one. This may be related to the Quechua value of honesty – It is said that when the Spaniards came and asked where the gold was, the Quechua locals just told them – they had no reason to lie and their culture highly values honesty (and harshly punished liars). Whatever the case, even when you do try to haggle, it usually only results in a very small reduction, so hardly worth the time. *Note: This is not true at the artisan markets such as that found in Pisac – These are designed for tourists and prices reflect that – But you can find a good deal if you haggle a bit!
5. Try the papas (potatoes)!
This is definitely a Peru specific tip, but with over 3500 varieties of potatoes, you definitely need to try multiple kinds! The San Pedro market in Cusco has a whole aisle devoted to these starchy goddesses, and if you tell the shopkeeper what you’re planning to cook, they’ll help you find the right one!
Do you have any tips for shopping at Peruvian markets? We’d love to hear them – Please share in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Who is writing?
Hola! I’m Abigail, team member of ALL ACROSS PERU and lover of all things Peruvian! I live in Lima and you’ll often find me eating lomo saltado and sharing pisco sours with my patas (friends).