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Shopping in San Andres - Shopping San Andres - Colombia

In a massive attempt at colombianization, the Colombian government declared San Andres Island a duty free zone, much like those foo-foo shops you see in airports, and anything you purchase there is not taxed. So, in addition to the azure sea and stretches of white sand beaches, the island is now a shopping destination as well.

Items that are usually heavily taxed, such as alcohol, perfume, cigarettes, chocolate and electronic items, are generally much cheaper than elsewhere. Consumer electronics are thin on the ground, although with some rooting around will uncover knock off mp3 players and digital cameras. Large screen televisions are available in abundance. It is worth noting that respectful bargaining is expected as very few of the items actually possess a price tag.

Colombians come to San Andrés to buy everything from kitchen appliances to bed linens. Don't be shocked to see people wandering in and out of these stores dressed in beachwear. You might suspect them of browsing just to get out of the heat for a short while! The real winners here are those who come shopping for American clothes, perfumes, sunglasses, watches and alcohol.

The commercial district of San Andres is difficult to miss: it’s right downtown in North End just a block from the beach. This pedestrianized area bursts with shops and boutiques stocking all of these products in deliciously air conditioned locales. Most shops are open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with a lunch break. A few notes about some of the items for sale:

Perfume: the perfumes for sale come in two categories: genuine and knock-off. The vendors are quite candid about what’s real and what’s imitation: ask around to make sure you’re getting the real deal (or the fake deal, if that’s what you’re looking for).

Alcohol: If you’re buying alcohol, be sure you know your home country’s rules about how much you can bring back with you. Salespeople in some of the better stores might be aware of these limitations. Also, be sure to check out some local Colombian hooch: they make fine rums and coffee liqueurs in Colombia. The better shops will package your purchase in easy-to-carry boxes if you buy more than one bottle.

Chocolate: If you buy chocolate, be sure you get it from one of the air-conditioned stores: otherwise, it may have melted more than a few times, which tends to drastically alter its texture and taste.

Other items: There are other things for sale: designer clothing, scuba and snorkeling gear, a wide variety of flip-flops and water shoes, luggage and more.

San Andres, Colombia

Shopping Types:
, Chocolate store, Sporting goods store, Overview

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
28 Jul 2011

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