Oaxaca offers an incredible variety of shopping experiences. The premium shops are located north of the zocalo, while to the south of the zocalo are less expensive markets and lower-end shops. The highest quality shops can be found on Valdivieso which turns into Alcala, and the parallel street next to it, 5 de Mayo. These stores sell exquisite jewelry, beautiful wooden carvings, hand blown glass, rugs, paintings, ceramics, and other crafts. Some of the more interesting jewelry that I have seen on my travels are the intricate gold and silver replica Mixtec masks sold in some of these jewelry stores. These are sold as earrings, in necklaces, or as broaches. I was told that they do sell similar items in Mexico City and in Taxco; the honesty of the vendors was impressive – they admitted they thought their prices were slightly higher than from stores in those other locations.
The shops south of the zocalo sell everything from rugs, mescal, (hard liquor), tequila, pots, fruits and vegetables, chocolate and other crafts. The fancy shops north of the zocalo are located on streets blocked from vehicular traffic and are refreshingly, are only open to pedestrians. However, the cross streets are still open to automobiles so use extreme caution when crossing the streets.
One should be aware of the intricacies of stop lights in this part of Mexico and perhaps elsewhere in the country. My tour guide said that the red signal light is only a suggestion to stop; one never knows what oncoming drivers will do. He also said that pedestrians do not have the right away in Oaxaca. When a green light is about to change, it will blink several times, then turn to orange, and then turn to red.
Be sure to always attempt to bargain no matter what store you are in. I was initially very intimidated practice my bargaining skills in the fancy shops – but later on, several locals said I would be foolish to purchase anything from these shops without bargaining. Advice quickly taken to heart. I did eventually bargain in one of these stores and was quite successful in lowering the price in my relentless pursuit of getting a good deal.
Stores all selling the same type of items will be grouped together. For example all the stores that sell mescal will be located on a single block. Most of the more luxurious shops will mail purchases to your home. However, this is no guarantee that they will not be broken in transport and depending on the size and weight, shipping can be a very expensive option.
La Casa de Artesianias or House of the Artesans is worth paying a visit to. This very unique shop is run by the government and sells a variety of intriguing Oaxacan artwork and crafts. The store houses 6 or 7 different rooms, each displaying a different type of art.