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Haggling is not considered to be polite when dealing with Fijians, and the better stores now have fixed prices. Bargaining is still acceptable, however, when dealing with Indo-Fijian merchants in many small shops. They will start high, you will start low, and somewhere in between you will find a mutually agreeable price. I usually knock 40% off the asking price as an initial counteroffer and then suffer the merchants' indignant snickers, secure in the knowledge that they aren't about to kick me out of the store when the fun has just begun.

To avoid the hassles of bargaining, visit Jack's of Fiji (Fiji's largest merchant), Prouds, and Tappoo, all of which have branches on the Queen's Road in Nadi Town, at Port Denarau, and in Sigatoka, Suva, and the shopping arcades of the larger hotels. In Nadi Town, the upstairs rooms of Jack's of Fiji are filled with clothing and leather goods. Tappoo carries a broad range of merchandise, including electronics, cameras, and sporting goods. Prouds concentrates on perfumes, watches, and jewelry including Fiji's own J. Hunter black pearls.

In addition to being the shove-off point for cruises and transfers to the islands, Port Denarau is the shopping mecca on Denarau Island. This modern mall has a Jack's of Fiji branch, a surf shop, two banks and a FourEx currency exchange, a grocery and wine store, an ice-cream parlor, and several restaurants.

"Duty-Free" Shopping

Fiji has the most developed shopping industry in the South Pacific, as will be very obvious when you walk along the main thoroughfare in Nadi Town. The Fiji government charges an import tax on merchandise brought into the country; so, despite their claims to the contrary, the stores aren't "duty-free." I have found much better prices and selections on the Internet and at large-volume dealers such as Best Buy and Circuit City in the United States, so shop around at home first so that you can compare the prices in Fiji. Also the models offered in the duty-free shops here are seldom the latest editions.

You should have no problems buying watches, cameras, and electronic gear from large merchants such as Prouds and Tappoo, but get receipts that accurately describe your purchases from small stores. Make sure all guarantee and warranty cards are properly completed and stamped by the merchant. Examine all items before making payment. If you later find that the item is not what you expected, return to the shop immediately with the item and your receipt. As a general rule, purchases are not returnable and deposits are not refundable. Always pay for your duty-free purchases by credit card. That way, if something goes wrong after you're back home, you can solicit help from the financial institution that issued the card.

If you missed anything, you'll get one last chance at the huge shops in the departure lounge at Nadi Airport.

Handicrafts

Fijians produce a wide variety of handicrafts, such as carved tanoa (kava) bowls, war clubs, and cannibal forks; woven baskets and mats; pottery (which has seen a renaissance of late); and masi (tapa) cloth. Although generally not of the quality of those produced in Tonga, they are made in prolific quantities. Be careful when buying souvenirs and some woodcarvings, however, for many of today's items are machine-made, and many smaller items are imported from Asia. Only with masi can you be sure of getting a genuine Fijian handicraft.

The larger shops sell some very fine face masks and nguzunguzus (pronounced noo-zoo-noo-zoos), the inlaid canoe prows carved in the Solomon Islands, and some primitive art from Papua New Guinea. (Although you will see plenty hanging in the shops, the Fijians never carved masks in the old days.)

The largest and best-stocked shop on Queen's Road is Jack's of Fiji (tel. 670 0744). It has a wide selection of handicrafts, jewelry, T-shirts, clothing, and paintings by local artists. The prices are reasonable and the staff is helpful rather than pushy. The Chefs The Restaurant complex is on premises. Jack's of Fiji has other outlets including the shopping arcade of the Sheraton Fiji Resort (tel. 670 1777), at the Tokatoka Resort Hotel (tel. 672 0400), and in Sigatoka (tel. 650 0810).

Other places to look are Nadi Handicraft Center (tel. 670 2357) and Nad's Handicrafts (tel. 670 3588). Nadi Handicraft Center has an upstairs room carrying clothing, leather goods, jewelry, and black pearls. Nad's usually has a good selection of Fijian pottery. Nadi Handicraft Market (no phone) is a collection of stalls on the Queen's Road near the south end of Nadi Town. The best are operated by Fijian women who sell baskets and other goods woven of pandanus, a palm whose supple leaves are more durable than those of the coconut tree.

Tropical Clothing

You'll have innumerable choices of tropical clothing here, but for the most unusual items in the entire South Pacific, head out to Michoutouchkine Creations at the Sheraton Fiji (tel. 675 0518). This little shop carries the colorful creations of Nicolai Michoutouchkine and Aloi Pilioki, two noted Vanuatu artists whose unique squiggly swirls and swooshes distinguish each of their shirts, blouses, pant suits, and beach towels.

Beware of Men Wielding Swords -- Fijians are extremely friendly people, but beware of so-called sword sellers. These are Fijian men who carry bags under their arms and approach you on the street. "Where you from, 'Stralia? States?" will be their opening line, followed by, "What's your name?" If you respond, they will quickly inscribe your name on a sloppily carved wooden sword. They expect you to buy the sword, whether you want it or not. They are numerous in Nadi, and they may even come up to you in Suva, though government efforts to discourage the practice have been more successful there. The easiest way to avoid this scam is to not tell any stranger your name and walk away as soon as you see the bag.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.