When you picture a backpacker in your head, do you think of someone dressed top to toe in tailor-made threads, or somebody in hippie pants, flip-flops, and a vest that has stains for days?
Probably the latter, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When you travel to parts of the world like Southeast Asia and Central America, it’s a great feeling to know that your dollar will buy you so many more tasty meals and hostel beds than it ever would at home. But that’s not the only thing it can buy.
There are places all over the world that are hubs for cheap, high quality tailoring.
Whether you want to invest in a sharp suit for when you return home after a gap year, a dress that you can picture in your head but can’t find on the rack, or simply some hippie pants that fit better, try out these destinations for size.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is truly the mecca of cheap tailoring, and backpackers spend extended amounts of time there just to ensure they can make the most of the tailors that line every street in this quaint coastal town in Vietnam.
Ask your hostel owners to recommend specific tailors as quality can vary across the town. I opted for a place called Lana, and I was not disappointed. I chose to have a grey hound’s tooth suit with pink silk lining, and it cost me around $150.
I am really particular about the way clothes fit and went back seven times for re-fittings. The staff didn’t roll their eyes or demand more money, and I got exactly the suit I wanted.
They even took care of shipping it back to London for me so I didn’t have to navigate the local postal system.
Suits are just the beginning in Hoi An. You can have tailor-made dresses, winter coats, shoes, jumpsuits, shirts, and virtually any other item of clothing you can think of.
Jaipur is a city in Rajasthan that is on a well trodden backpacker path. While you are in the region taking camel safaris and visiting ancient forts, why not invest a little cash in having some clothing tailor-made?
This is exactly what I expect to do when I am in Japiur this December as I’ve been reliably informed by many Indians that this is the place to grab a well-made bargain.
Indian clothes can be beautifully intricate, and it’s well worth opting for something traditional, which you can always have tailored slightly so that it’s more wearable for you.
For guys, a Sherwani, which is a long jacket with an upturned collar, is a statement choice, while women might want to opt for a Sari or Salwar Kameez.
Panama City, Panama
If you’ve ever read the book or seen the movie, “The Tailor of Panama,” you might have an inkling that this underrated travel destination in Central America is a great spot for picking up some new clothes.
And if you want to visit the *real* tailor of Panama who fitted Pierce Brosnan for a custom suit while filming the movie, head to La Fortuna on Via Espana.
You’ll be taken into a back room where you can spend some time browsing hundreds of fabrics, and then get something made exactly to your measurements.
Something extra great about this place is that they don’t charge anything extra for larger sizes.
Shanghai is a great city for shopping in general, but there is one place in the city where you should be headed if you want to invest in some high-end threads: the South Bund Fabric Market.
With masses of textiles, shouting clothes makers, and hordes of tourists, visiting this market isn’t exactly a relaxing experience – but it’s authentic to Shanghai, and if you commit to the craziness of it all, you’ll end up with a garment that you absolutely love.
This is one spot where the sellers will definitely try to take some extra dollars from you, so know your price and stick to it if you want to grab a bargain.
As well as being able to find cotton materials for shirts, dresses, and suits, you’ll also be able to find some beautiful wool blends and cashmere for something that’s really luxurious.
Another part of the world that budget travelers should consider visiting is Eastern Europe.
Its affordable prices will make your money go further than in expensive Western Europe, and not just when it comes to eating out and accommodation, but for tailor-made clothing too.
Nyugati Square is where many tailors and shoemakers are situated, so it is easy to walk around the neighborhood and compare fabrics and prices across different stores. Believe it or not, in this area you can find suits from as little as $80.
Good luck on your mission to find cheap, tailored clothing!
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