There are a ton of craftsmen in Bamako, and they make some really neat things to sell. Spend some time looking around the Artisan, or even any other local market you come across, and you'll find plenty of these items.
Hand-made items for sale can range from large furniture to small decorative souvenirs. The quality is really good too - I bought a chair and, 5 years later, it's still holding up great.
All prices are negotiable, haggle with the seller to get a price that you feel is fair.
What to buy: Whatever you want and/or need! Tables, chairs, small items for your mantle... they make it all!
What to pay: All prices are negotiable. Prices may vary from seller to seller for similar items as well.
Markets are everywhere
Bamako has tons of markets scattered throughout the city. At these markets you can literally find and buy whatever you need/want. Clothes, food, electronics, shoes, jewelry... you name it, someone is selling it.
There are no fixed prices either. Everything is negotiable. Keep in mind that if you are easily recognizable as a foreigner, the price that they initially give you will be way higher than they would give to a local. Regardless, it's up to you to get a price that you feel is fair. If they won't come down to a price you are comfortable with, do not be afraid to walk away - you will almost certainly be able to find the item somewhere else, with someone else who may be willing to go lower. Walking away can be a great way to get a vendor to drop his price below where he is willing to budge during negotiations too, if he is desperate to make a sale he may make one final offer to prevent you from leaving empty handed (for him, getting less is better than getting nothing) - although this will not always happen, some will just let you go.
This is West Africa after all, so a lot of the items will be cheaper than you would find at home, even after the "markup". For example, I bought many soccer jerseys here. I generally paid around 4000 CFA (about $8) for them. The vendors thought this was great, because they usually only get about 1500 CFA from other locals, but where I'm from, the same jersey would have been $20 or $30 (40000-60000 CFA), maybe even more. So it was win-win for everyone. In this particular example, they usually asked for around 10000 CFA, I would offer 1000 (or even 500) and we would meet somewhere between 3000-5000...
If you are unsure of the nearest market, just asked someone for the "marché" and they will point you in the right direction. I mostly shopped in Badalabougou, because that was the closest to where I was staying, but the Artisan (on the other side of town) was much bigger. There were also several smaller markets I saw at various other locations in the city. All of them had a similar selection of goods.
What to buy: Anything you want!
What to pay: Everything is negotiable. Ask "how much?" ("Combien?") - they will give you a price higher than they expect to get. You counter with a much lower price and then try to meet in the middle.
Be aware that it could take a decent amount of time to reach an agreement if you really want to get the best possible deal.
Also keep in mind that prices vary at every vendor. If one guy won't come down on his price enough, someone else who is selling the same thing will.
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Malian clothing: Batik
Malians wear traditional clothes that look between the coloured African dressing and the Arabic one.
Batik is a Malian fabric you can find at different prices in the boutiques of Bamako. Curiously, the best qualities are imported from Europe, but you can find local "imitations" at very good prices.
What to buy: Buy the fabric in a shop and ask a taylor to make a dress or a clothe for you. Prices are below 5000 CFA for a low quality but can go up to 70000 CFA or more for the top quality.
You have several general stores in Bamako where you can find European food. However, the price is incredibly high. I use to buy a maximum of my food and beverage in the small streets around the market.
Goods are not nicely displayed but you can save up to 80%
What to buy: Juices, tin food, dry food, drugstore itmes, etc.
What to pay: Negotiate good rebates for large quantities
Artisan centre / Centro artesanal
You will be able to buy lots of present and African “souvenirs” in this centre
Podras comprar todo tipo de regales y “souvenirs” africanos en este centro
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