Here’s your GUIDE to find UNIQUE souvenirs around the world

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unique souvenir all over the world

Photos help keep good memories but let’s just admit it… we always find something to take home at the end of our trips. Aside from chocolates, keychains, fridge magnets, and coasters are the most popular souvenirs to bring home to our friends and family that most of us now have a mountain of piled keychains or a wall of fridge magnets at home. So to give you an idea for your next travel goal, I compiled unique souvenirs that you can find when traveling around the world.

Palm origami crown

Contributed by: Nuraini of Teja on The Horizon

Carey Island, Malaysia

How much?

N/A; This souvenir is not conventionally offered for sale. It is given to guests of Mah Meri festivals (visits can be booked through the Mah Meri Cultural Village, priced at ~$20).

What makes it unique?

The crown is hand woven in the ‘origami’ palm folding craft common among Southeast Asia’s native people but elevated to an art form in the Mah Meri. The palm frond used is from the nipa, common to the marshlands of Malaysia.

The Mah Meri are a tribe of Malaysian aborigines, comprising only 4,000 people in the Carey Island area. This crown is a souvenir given to guests, for example during of one of their only two festivals: the Puja Pantai (sea spirit summoning) celebrated 5 days after Chinese New Year, and the Hari Moyang (ancestor spirits’ day) celebrated 1 month after Chinese New Year.

Conical Hats

Contributed by: Laura of The Travelling Stomach

Vietnam

How much?

Around £4 or $5.70

What makes it unique?

When exploring Vietnam you will undoubtedly spot locals out in the rice fields donning these iconic conical hats made from palm leaves. Legend has it that a woman who lived up in the sky wore a hat shaped like this when she protected the world from a deluge of rain, however, local people now tend to use these hats as protection from the sun, not rain!

As one of the most beautiful and well-known symbols of Vietnam, they make a great souvenir, and also a very useful one as you can also use the hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Decorative conical hats can be bought with images of Vietnam sewn onto the bamboo – they look absolutely stunning hung on a wall at home.

Conical hats can be bought from many places in Vietnam; you will see cheap, simple hats being sold at local markets, and the more embellished hats being sold in souvenir shops. Prices vary due to the quality of the hat and any additional decoration that has been added to the hat however they are all relatively cheap for how pretty they are, I have to admit I bought several!

war-propaganda-poster from vietnam

Vietnam War Propaganda Posters

Contributed by: Josh & Sarah of Veggie Vagabonds

Vietnam

How much?
The poster we bought cost around $2 but could be bought in different places for a bit more or less.
What makes it unique?

Although souvenirs remind us of incredible times traveling, this souvenir reminds us of a darker patch in history. No trip to Hanoi would be complete with seeing the war propaganda posters displayed around the city. These simple, originally hand-painted, posters were used to strengthen the country and increase patriotism during the war. Our particular poster shows a ‘long-haired warrior’ and represents how vital women were in maintaining the strength of the country.

Although not a cheerful subject, after spending a year in Vietnam you’re constantly reminded of the war. Elderly residents still wear a military uniform with pride and you can see the propaganda photos displayed all over as a reminder of what the country overcame. This poster in our room is a reminder of our incredible experience in Vietnam.

tais-cloth from timor leste

Tais cloth

Contributed by: Halef of The Round The World Guys

Timor Leste

How much?

The price ranges slightly based on size and the materials used. A typical cloth cost around $30 – East Timor uses US Dollars as its main currency.

What makes it unique?

Tais cloth is a traditional weaved material handcrafted by the women of Timor Leste. It’s an important part of East Timor’s cultural heritage.

While its main purpose is for ceremonial wear, nowadays it is an important part of East Timor tourism, too. Many of these colorful clothes are highly sought after by visitors as a souvenir of their visit to the country.

In the capital city Dili, you can visit the famous Tais Market to see a selection of Tais cloth. You can also visit and purchase some of these handmade craft products from an organization called the Alola Foundation workshop. There you can meet some of these women who make this and learn about the Alola Foundation’s mission to empower women and to tackle poverty. It is a good introduction to the typical life and culture of Timor Leste.

If you plan to visit East Timor, check out our Highlights of Dili here: https://www.thertwguys.com/things-to-do-in-dili/

japanese-wind-chimes from Japan

Japanese Wind Chimes

Contributed by: Kiyoko of Footsteps of a Dreamer

Japan

How much?

How expensive is it depends on how fancy the furin is, but small ones can be found at convenience stores for ¥100 yen ($0.95 USD or €0.77 EUR).

What makes it unique?

When I was still in the United States, some of my Japanese friends introduced me to “furin”, which are Japanese wind chimes. As with most wind chimes, they are typically hung in the front of the house during the summer. However, furin wasn’t like any wind chimes I had ever seen before. They have an oval shape ball at the top which is often decorated with fish, flowers, and other summer images. The bottom of the oval is open, and a small strip of paper called “tanzaku” hangs down. Around the string that holds the tanzaku is usually a plastic covering or clapper called “zetsu”. When the wind blows the tanzaku, the clapper strikes the side of the oval, making a beautiful chiming sound. It was a sound that I absolutely fell in love with, so when I finally made it to Japan, I bought not one, but three of them!

Thankfully, furin can be found all over and Japan. If you plan on bringing a furin home from Japan, make sure you pack it well! The oval part of the furin is made of glass, and it will break! Believe me, I’m talking from experience.

wedding-ducks from south korea

Wedding Ducks

Contributed by: Callan of Singapore n Beyond

South Korea

How much?

$30 and above

What makes it unique?

Walking along Insadong street in Jongno, Seoul, South Korea is a real treat. It’s a historic and cultural center near famous landmarks like Gyeongbukgong Palace, Gwanghwamun Gate and the statue of King Sejong the Great. The road has an old-timey, nostalgic feel where Starbucks signs are written in Hangeul (Korean alphabet) and tourists are dressed in traditional garb called hanbok.

You can find any traditional gift or souvenir that you can dream of at Insadong, from t-shirts to fridge magnets to replicas of ancient art. Yet when I married my wife, who is from Seoul, there was one gift that we needed from Insadong for our wedding. This was the spiritually significant “Wedding Ducks” that are handed to the parents during the ceremony. The Mandarin ducks are known to have only one partner for life and mourn each other when they pass away. So it is greatly symbolic of marriage. The two ducks, along with the cloth can cost anything from $30 up depending on the size, wood used and craftsmanship. We now give it as a gift to our Western friends when they get married as it is not a run-of-the-mill present and can be displayed proudly in the household.

rogan-art-handbag from india

Handbag with Rogan art

Contributed by: Tania of Azure Sky Follows

Nirona, India

How much?

INR 500 ($7.6) and above

What makes it unique?

A few kilometers away from the Great Rann of Kutch, a huge salt flat in India, lie a humble village named Nirona in the state of Gujarat. From Nirona, I got for my mother a handbag with Rogan art for INR 500.

Rogan art is practiced by only one family in the whole world. This family is based in Nirona and they shot to fame when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted a Rogan art piece to the-then US president Barrack Obama. Crafts are generally very expensive as it involves meticulous labor by the artists, however, handbags with minimal art can be bought for as less as INR 500.

clay-statues from burundi

Clay Statues

Contributed by: Mike of 197 Travel Stamps

Burundi

How much?

N/A but voluntarily paid $5.

What makes it unique?

Last year, we traveled to Burundi, a country in East Africa for a couple of days. The country has had political issues since 2015 and with the increasing insecurity and unsafety in the country, tourism has stopped completely. During our time in Burundi, there was in tourism infrastructure at all but we managed to contact a Dutch guy who had been living there for several years. He kept us informed about the safety situation and organized a tour to a remote village of a local minority for us. As we reached the town, everybody was expecting us with traditional singing and dances. It was just incredible.

At the end, they offered us some self-made clay statues as a souvenir. We decided to buy some of the statues instead just offering money for the dance show. We ended up giving them around $5 each – the amount the Dutch guy said was appropriate. I’ve been to many places in Africa and have visited several cultural shows. While I found most of them really impressive, it always had a certain routine character for the performers. As soon as one tourist group leaves, the next one comes. But not in Burundi. It was really clear that the village hadn’t seen any foreigners for several years and that is what made this experience so incredible. That is also the reason why the small clay statue of a turtle that I brought from that trip is the most unique souvenir I’ve ever brought.

colorful-baskets from senegal

Colorful baskets

Contributed by: Clemens of Travellers Archive

Senegal

How much?

from  €2 to  €15, depending on the size

What makes it unique?

My favorite souvenirs of all times are the colorful baskets from Senegal. The country is located in West Africa and a true heaven for anyone who is looking for handmade and traditional souvenirs. The baskets are mostly made in the area which is a little North of the capital Dakar. Here, you’ll find different villages that have been making baskets for generations. However, in most tourist regions and in Dakar, you’ll find markets and stalls where locals sell the baskets. As you find them in different colors, sizes, and shapes, it’s hard to put down a specific price. However, they are not expensive at all. What makes them special? Well, they are not only handmade but also are a great way of upcycling as their colorful straps come from recycled prayer mats that are made of plastic.

 

Boomerangs-and-Didgeridoos from Australia

Boomerangs and Didgeridoos

Contributed by: Bryony of Coasting Australia

Australia

How much?

$25-$40 for a boomerang – $100-$2000 for a didgeridoo

What makes it unique?

Australia’s aboriginal people are the world’s oldest known living culture. Throughout history they have crafted and used boomerangs to hunt, and they have become an iconic symbol of Australia. A didgeridoo is a wind instrument crafted out of a hollow tree, decorated with traditional indigenous art and played in celebrations and ceremonies. Both items are widely available but sadly in the last few years many fake items have begun to flood the markets – so make sure you are buying authentic. Click here for more information on how to avoid fake aboriginal art.

Portuguese-folk-art-souvenirs from portugal

Portuguese folk art souvenirs

Contributed by: David of Delve into Europe

Portugal

How much?

Price ranges from €5 to  €30.

What makes it unique?

We came across these gorgeous painted children’s chairs outside a gift shop in the beautiful Portuguese village of Monsaraz, close to the Spanish border. Intrigued, we looked inside and ended up buying one of the most popular souvenirs of Portugal, a ceramic rooster called the Galo de Barcelos, a traditional good luck charm. The chairs are painted in a similar way to the galo de Barcelos and many other folk art items with a pattern – in this case, floral – on a plain painted background. We loved the chairs, but didn’t buy them as we didn’t have children and didn’t foresee any use for them.

We also liked many other Portuguese souvenirs, including the intricate patterned ceramic
bowls and plates, and lots of ceramics following traditional blue and white azulejo (tile)
patterns and motifs. We spent a week traveling around the Alentejo region of south-east
Portugal, and came across many products made out of cork, which is grown widely in the
area, including handbags and man bags. We bought a small pouch in the shape of a mouse which we use to hold our camera cards!

But it’s the chairs which we loved the most, and it turned out we did have a use for them
after all. About six months after we took the galo de Barcelos home we found that we were
going to have a baby, who is now three years old. I wonder if that rooster helped in any
way…..

tinned-tuna from portugal

Tinned/ Canned Fish

Contributed by: James of World Wide Shopping Guide and Josie of Where Jo Goes

Portugal

How much?

From around €1

What makes it unique?

Tinned food such as tuna is not something that’s usually seen as a high-quality food item, and definitely not something that you would give to someone as a gift. Unless you’re visiting Portugal, that is.

Tinned food is taken seriously in Portugal. Your experience of tinned fish might be limited to tuna in brine, but in Portugal, you’ll find a whole host of other flavors on offer including Piri-Piri, preserved lemons, peppercorns, and anchovies. And it’s not just tuna that you’ll find in the tinned fish section either; you’ll also find octopus, cod, squid, and mussels – pretty much anything that comes from the sea.

But the reason to gift tinned food isn’t just the taste, but the wonderfully colorful tins that they come in. Tinned fish comes in all kinds of different designs that make them perfect for a souvenir or gift.

canned-tuna from portugal

For an inexpensive yet attractive and definitely useful souvenir, Portuguese canned fish takes up little room in your suitcase and means you take home a delicious taste of Portugal as a reminder of your travels.

Portugal is famed for its seafood from the salt cod, balcalhau to the fish stew caldeirada -fish and shellfish combined with potatoes, tomatoes and onions. It may be a challenge to haul home salted cot and pots of casserole but canned Portuguese fish makes a unique souvenir. The Atlantic Ocean is Portugal’s larder and the country has been trading in fish for hundreds of years. In the fishing villages along the coast, everyone has a grill outside their front door to cook sardines for lunch. Originally fish such as sardines would be steeped in brine to avoid spoiling and this developed into the sardine canning industry so successful today. Canned tuna is also produced in Portugal but Sardines are more prevalent. A tin of sardines or tuna with some bread and salad makes a tasty and quick Portuguese lunch whether in Portugal or back home.

The brightly colored tins of Portuguese fish are an attractive display in any store. The canneries have their own distinctive colors and packaging and there are hundreds to choose from. A can of sardines will cost 2-3 euros, perhaps a little more for premium brands so it makes a very inexpensive souvenir.

For the ideal post-holiday meal, wash down your sardine supper with a glass of port – cheers!

Balsamic-vinegar from italy

Balsamic vinegar

Contributed by: Amber of With Husband in Tow

Italy

How much?

€50 – €80

What makes it unique?

When traveling in Modena, in Emilia Romagna, Italy, there’s only one luxury food souvenir to purchase – traditional balsamic vinegar. Most people don’t know how much actually goes into the process of making the real stuff – the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP, or traditional balsamic. The tradition and history, the process, the aging, the certification, and the tasting. The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is aged at least 12 years, or 25 years, in a series of wooden barrels. And, there is an Italian consortium that certifies the vinegar is of great quality.

It’s easy to find balsamic vinegar in tourist shops around town. But, if you want the real stuff, look for Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena Extra Vecchio DOP, for extra old. It will be in a small 100-milliliter bottle, that is bulbous on the bottom. It will be marked as certified by the consortium.

The registered and regulated Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP, the good stuff, generally sells for €50 for vinegar aged at least 12 years, or around €80 Euros for vinegar aged at least 25 years. Not an investment easily made, but definitely worth the money if you really, really want to treat yourself to a little piece of culinary luxury to bring home. Anything cheaper than these prices, or sold in a bottle that is not labeled by the consortium, is not the real deal. To be 100% sure, the consortium that regulates the balsamic operates a little shop on Piazza Mazzini Giuseppe in Modena.

 

Bodhran-Drum from ireland

Bodhrán Drum

Contributed by: Erin of Down Bubble

Ireland

How much?

€17 for a small drum

What makes it unique?

We just had to get a Bodhrán Drum during our time in Ireland, because although not terribly historic (they date roughly back to the 18th century), they still feature in live Irish music today. Additionally, this was our musical souvenir of choice as it’s reasonably easy to play for the musically uninitiated, certainly easier than the Uilleann pipes or even the simple tin whistle (Irish Flute). It also makes an attractive souvenir choice due its being light, yet durable ours survived happily in checked baggage. They’re also inexpensive, we paid just €17 for a small one of about 25cm diameter. There were larger ones available to buy and of course, the price increased with size. We picked ours up in a small town during our 5 days driving Ireland, in the local music store, in the tiny (yet incredibly picturesque) “one street town” of Doolin. There are music stores in most Irish small towns we noticed though, and Bodhrán Drums available in some souvenir stores also. We preferred to purchase ours at a music store to better ensure quality and to put money back into the hands of small business.

Which souvenir is your favorite?

So there you have it, fam! Be sure to check out these unique souvenirs when you visit these places. Liked what you read? Why don’t you let your friends know by sharing this post? A little repin will also be appreciated!

unique souvenirs around the world

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for including my contribution. I really enjoyed reading this round up of beautiful and unusual souvenirs from round the world. I love the vibrant coloured cloths. This has made me think more carefully about the souvenirs I buy – some lovely ideas here.

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