Shopping Whilst On a Cruise

Posted September 16th, 2016

Whether you’re on the hunt for souvenirs, looking for bargains or just waiting for something to catch your eye, shopping can be a very pleasant way to spend your time in port. Not only will you return with some new prized possessions, but you’ll get to interact with locals, see traditional wares and perhaps even practice the native language! To help you get the most of your shopping experience, we’ve put together a quick FAQ guide.  

Can I use Australian currency?

While some vendors in certain South Pacific and Asian countries will accept Aussie dollars, especially when cruise ships are in town, you’re better off using local currency. This will ensure you’ll always be able to make purchases and you’ll likely get more value for your money, as the exchange rate will be more favourable and consistent. 

Where can I get local currency?

The most convenient place to get local currency is at an ATM, which are usually found near the port. Before you leave your ship, ask staff to pinpoint the ATM location so you can make the most of your limited time. If you do plan on obtaining currency at local ports, contact your bank and let them know you’ll be travelling; otherwise, they could flag transactions as being suspicious and freeze your account.

While currency exchange services may be offered on board your cruise ship or at the port, you’ll probably be required to pay a service fee as part of the conversion.  

Will credit and debit cards be accepted?

You’ll need to use your judgement here, as the answer will depend on where you are shopping. If you’re heading to a more rural area, where pop-up market stalls abound, then you’ll need to carry some cash with you. If you’re planning to browse high-end boutiques and shopping centres, you’ll be able to get away with card only. Your best bet? Carry a mixture of cash and cards!

What can I not bring back into Australia?

Australia has very strict customs and quarantine laws, so before you make a purchase, think about whether it will be allowed in the country and whether you’ll need to declare it. Items that could be considered a weapon, that are soiled and contaminated, or that could contain pests will not likely be allowed in. These include fruits, vegetables, meat products, steroids, fireworks, fake designer goods and pirated DVDs. Meanwhile, animal fur and bones and wooden items will need to be declared. For more information, check out the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website.

  Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, tourists visiting by boat, located in Bangkok, Thailand.

Can I take alcohol on my ship?

Most cruise lines do not permit you to take alcohol on board. Any duty-free alcohol purchased while in port will likely be held for safe-keeping and returned to you at the end of the cruise. Check with your cruise ship staff on their policy.

Can I haggle?

Customary in some countries and offensive in others, haggling involves negotiating the price of a good or service. In North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK and much of Europe, haggling is frowned upon. However, in Asia, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and South America, this practice is much more common. Again, you’ll need to use your judgement – if you see shopkeepers haggling with others, chances are you’ll be fine to do so too.

What are duty-free goods?

In short, duty-free items are those that are exempt from local tax. Usually this tax is included in the price tag. Duty-free goods often include more expensive items such as perfumes, watches, alcohol and jewellery. If you’re keen to get a bargain, make a list of the costs of items at home and compare them at a duty-free shop whilst on your travels.

Will I have time to shop whilst in port?

Many ports have shops conveniently situated nearby, so you should at least have time to browse a few stores before heading back on the ship. If you’re really keen, why not book a shopping shore excursion?  

Where are the best places to go shopping for souvenirs?

This depends on your idea of what makes a good souvenir! If you’re happy to collect traditional souvenirs such as t-shirts, magnets, pens, plush toys and mugs, you’ll likely find them at the shops nearest to the port or even in the terminal.

For more culturally authentic items, you’ll need to head off the beaten track (this is where a shore excursion can come in handy) to local boutiques and markets. Do some research before you depart on your cruise and mark places of interest on a map.

Want practical and tasty souvenirs? Visit a supermarket and stock up on local chocolates, biscuits, lollies and more. Ensure these items are boxed and packaged neatly.


Shopping is one of life’s many pleasures! If you would like more information on what to expect on your cruise or where to find the best bargains, give us a call on 1300 954 661 and one of our expert cruise consultants would be happy to answer your questions. 

Set sail on a dream holiday with Cruiseabout

Cruise Specialist

  Absolutely nobody in Australia knows more about cruising than Cruiseabout. With close to 30,000 nights on ships all across the globe, our consultants’ extensive experience and passion for cruising is unequaled. We're here to share the joys of cruising holidays with more Australians and invite them into our world - because we love cruising!

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