The biggest market in the Solomon Islands is Honiara Central Market. Out of interest, I read the reviews on Trip Advisor and they are scathing: “do not expect too much”, “dirty underfoot”,“not for the fainthearted”, “filthy third world eyesore with absolute rubbish and dangerous people”… Personally, I love going to the market. I go there at least twice a week and have escaped every time quite unharmed. Yes, the market is dirty but so is everywhere else in Honiara. Its saving grace is that it’s one of the few places where betel nut is banned. So if you’re going to get your jandals dirty at the market, very little of that dirt will be from betel nut spit. Hurrah.
Central market is located conveniently in Honiara town about 50m from the docks, which means you have a very good chance of getting your fish fresh (as long as you know what to look for). The market is open for business from Monday to Saturday, and its official opening hours are 6am to 5pm.
Most of the market is dedicated to the selling of produce and fish but there are other things available: shellfish and crabs (when available), food snacks, handicrafts, clothing, flowers, firewood, and housing materials. Saturday is the busiest day and the day one is more likely to find the things that weren’t available during the weekdays like herbs and mushrooms. Saturday is also the day when the flower section of the market is open; for 10 SBD you can get amazing bouquets that would otherwise go for 50 NZD back home.
Nid and I do most of our fruit and vege shopping at Honiara Central Market. Produce is sold by the piece, in piles, or wrapped in leaves. Year round there is plenty of cassava, kumara, pumpkin, panna, Chinese eggplants, limes, cherry tomatoes, chilies, bananas, coconuts, slippery cabbages, bok choy, tak choy, cucumber, and fish. The availability of fruit is subject to the seasons such as pineapples, watermelons, mangoes, mandarins, passion fruit, and avocados.
Below are a few tips that may hopefully give you a better experience than Trip Advisor’s 3.2 rating. Won’t do anything about the dirt though.
How to go lo Honiara Market
- Take small change
Vendors often don’t have enough small change to break bigger bills. Even trying to pay 20 SBD for 5 SBD worth of limes can sometimes cause vexation for your vendor.
- Don’t look like a target
If you’re a woman, keep things conservative on top and bottom. Shorts, skirts, or dresses should come down to the knees – Solomon Islanders get a bit funny seeing mid-thigh. Leave the sparkly jewelry at home, make sure your wallet is somewhere secure, and don’t wave money bills around like maracas. Lastly, smile and be nice. Attitude is everything.
- Don’t buy too much
Organic produce and the heat means our groceries go off a lot quicker than you would expect, especially greens.
- Haggle handicrafts, not produce
Handicrafts are ok to haggle over, produce on the other hand is not so ok to haggle over.
- Parking is available
There is limited parking behind the market for 7 SBD. If it is really congested it might take longer to get in and out of the parking lot than it takes to go shopping. If in doubt, park on the opposite side of the road next to the underpass.