Haircuts Around World. Twenty dollars! Actually, twenty-four dollars with the tip. That is the price for my haircut at the barbershop near my apartment in Chicago. There is no heavy lifting involved; 20 or 25 minutes and I am out the door. I am a bit of a value shopper, maybe even a bit cheap. In fact, I often time my haircuts while I am traveling overseas to save a couple of dollars.
As I travel around the world, it is always interesting to note the commonalities and difference in culture, for big things, and others barely noticeable. So, at the end of the day, no matter what country you are in, everyone needs haircuts. And getting a haircut overseas allows you to have a small glimpse into the window of local life.
I recall my first international haircut was in Hong Kong after graduating university. The barber aggressively buzzed the back of my head to my delayed protests. There was a language barrier and the barber did not understand my request to cut my hair and not to buzz it. This was to be the first of many small hiccups while getting haircuts around the world. All you can do is smile and wait for the hair to grow back.
I hadn’t had a haircut in about 4 weeks, my last one was in Pakistan, so it made sense to start looking for a barber. I was in Bamyan, a mountain town, about a three hour drive from the capital, Kabul. After finishing a local lunch, I strolled a minute or two to the nearby barber. After my barber finished praying, I was directed to sit down. He was a bit gruff or even unfriendly, but he went through his paces. The other person, an Afghan from Kabul, getting a haircut spoke English. So I was able to learn a bit about his life, and he shared with me he studied engineering in Russia, and was now doing road construction in Bamyan. The haircut set me back 50 Afghani, less than a dollar.
I make an annual visit to Armenia, and I have had many haircuts here. I stopped by this place, which is below the apartment I rented. My new buddy, Arsen, did a great job on a Saturday morning. This set me back 3000 Dram, about $6, plus a 1000 Dram tip. Until next time Armenia!!
Republic of Artsakh
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you get a haircut in a country that no one recognizes, does it count? I think it does. Artsakh is a de facto country that is not recognized by any UN countries. It is to the east of Armenia.
But you can get a fantastic haircut here. It will set you back 1000 Armenian Drams, which is about $2. I tipped my barber another 1000 Dram. His name is Aznavour, and was named after Charles Aznavour, the famous French-Armenian singer.
I thought this was a random place to get a trim. I typically get my haircuts every 4 weeks, but I lopped off a week to get a cut in Paro, the one town with an international airport in all of Bhutan. Less than 40,000 make their home here. I strolled through town with my guide who brought me to his barber. After a brief wait, I plopped down onto the chair in the Spartan shop. My barber spoke good English as he was an economics student waiting to take an exam next year. The haircut set me back 80 Bhutanese Ngultrum which translate to $1.23. This is quite expensive compared to the capital, Thimpu, where it is only 60 Ngultrum. I was informed that there is more competition in Thimpu, hence the lower price.
In Guwahati, north-east India, getting a quick trim. I exited my hotel and started walking down the street working up a lather in the humid afternoon. Apparently, the entire street was filled with auto-repair shops, but after 20 minutes, a small barbershop with two chairs beckoned. I popped my head in and gesticulated a pair of scissors with my index and middle finger. He guided me to the chair and worked his craft. The haircut set me back 50 Rupees (about 67 cents). I tipped him an extra 50 Rupees. This is not my first hirsute pursuit in India. For the very few, you might have seen me getting a shave at the end of the film, Hit The Road: India.
This was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I was in Tehran a giant, sprawling metropolis of 15 million people. After an hour on foot, I still could not find a barbershop. Finally, I was in some random semi-industrial area, and I spied a barbershop. I poked my head in and noted the empty barber chair. I smiled, and the barber returned with his own grin. I slid into the chair. It had been over a month since my last cut as I had made my way recently through Armenia, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
The barber was a bit surprised to see a foreigner in his chair. And after some charades, he realized I was from the US. His eyebrows scrunched up in surprise and then a smile broke out.
I was due for a trim and happened to be in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. It is the second largest city in the country and it dates back over 3,000 years. I exited out of my hotel, the Shanghai City Hotel, and started exploring the dusty streets looking for a hairdresser or barbershop. After ten minutes, I found what appeared to be a hairdresser based upon the beauty photos on the exterior of the building.
I popped into the entrance and gesticulated with my hands the shape of some of scissors to two seated women on a couch. They smiled and yelled for Ayzhamal. A sleight figure in a black dress appeared from a backroom with a wide smile. “Skol'ko?” I asked in Russian. She responded in English 150 Som (a little over $2).
I plopped down in an uncomfortable chair, actually an office chair. Ayzhamal spread out her tools of the trade in front of me. She began buzzing the sides of her hair as she practiced her English. She shared with me her dream of traveling to America and asked me about my country. I learned she was only 16 and was working part-time to earn money. She had only been cutting hair for two months. I wished her good luck and slid 400 Som into her hand.
Walking outside of Historic Center of Mexico City, I ended up in a bustling local neighborhood. After a brief ten minutes I spied a barbershop. For 80 Pesos ($4.20) and a 40 Peso tip, I left the barbershop with my new haircut.
I spent two weeks traipsing around Morocco (just scratching the surface) and one of my stops was the photogenic Chefchaouen, known as the blue city, since as you might guess, all the buildings are painted blue. I was backing back to my hotel from the medina, and passed a barbershop and popped my head in. It was a spacious shop with three chairs, but was empty besides the barber. I spoke to Muhammed and informed him I needed a shave. I placed myself in the chair and he expertly splattered the warm shaving cream over my face. He then put the straight razor to my beard, three times. A great shave for 10 Dirhams, about $1, with another 10 Dirhams for the tip.
One of my favorite countries, and now finally a haircut there as well. I was in the town of Mindat in Chin State set in the mountains. One main road carved the town in half, sitting on top of the mountain. I had rented a motorbike and buzzed down the street looking for a barbershop. The first place I spied was closed, the second refused to cut my hair since there were no men allowed. And then I found the Beauty Salon.
I entered the salon, and I greeted the staff and a couple of customers with a giant “narayno!”, greetings in Chin State. I was met with some stares and some awkward laughs. I gesticulated with my fingers forming a pair of scissors, and was led to my seat.
The haircut came to an end … and it set me back 1000 Kyat (around .64 cents). I offered another 1000 Kyat tip but was refused. On my third attempt, she smiled and accepted.
I arrived on a Sunday and headed to the center of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. This city of 300,000 is quite sleepy and there was not a lot of activity with most stores being closed. I snapped a couple of photos and lazily strolled the town. Serendipitously, one place that was open was King and Queen’s Beauty Salon. A man lounging outside of the entrance, beckoned me in. This was perfect, since getting a haircut was on my to-do list.
I plopped down on a chair, and Peter started preparing his tools of his trade. This is a simple task, buzz the sides and the back with the #2 clipper and a quick snip on top and the front. Everything started off ok, as Peter buzzed my sides. Then I noticed a creeping motion. The clippers moved further and further up my head. I explained to Peter again that he needs to cut my hair on top of my head with scissors. He disappeared and grabbed some scissors. He awkwardly maneuvered the scissors around my head. I interrupted him again. He clearly was much more comfortable with the clippers than the scissors. We opted to return to the clippers using the #6 attachment.
The cut set me back 100 Namibian dollars, almost $8.
I was in the historic, colonial town of Granada in Nicaragua. And around the corner from my hotel was a barbershop. For under $3, my hair was short and neat, ready for the hot Nicaraguan sun.
I rolled into Peshawar, a city that dates back 2500 years in Pakistan. It is less than a 90 minute drive to the Afghan border. I was in need of a cut and found this barber in the old city. 300 rupees ($2) later with a brief head massage and I was the proud owner of a new haircut. My barber, Wassim, was back in Pakistan after cutting hair in the UAE.
Visiting Cusco, the former home of the Inca Empire, I was in dire need of a haircut. After visiting the local market and having lunch, I walked past a barbershop. Thirty minutes and $4 later, my haircut was finished.
It was my last day in Lisbon, Portugal and I had a free day before my evening my flight. It was a sunny day, and I strolled out of my hotel and just started walking. After about 15 minute, I discovered this small barbershop and popped my head in and sat down. I watched the barber finish up with his customer, and I then took over his seat. In a mix of English and Spanish, we negotiated the future style of my hair. He started his job and I noted the music playing in the background. A steady stream of country music. I asked the barber if he loved the music, and he rattled off his favorite C&W singers. He also shared with me that he wasn’t Portuguese but from Brazil. It was a good cut for 12 Euro and a 3 Euro tip.
I have gotten dozens and dozens of haircuts here. In the lobby of my apartment building are several barbershops. My haircut costs me 200 Baht ($6) and a 50 Baht tip. I live in a neighborhood with a lot of farangs (foreigners) so the prices are inflated. Some of my local friends will pay less than 50 Bhat for the haircut.
I went back to get my haircut (two photos above) and they raised the price … 200 Baht to 300 Baht! A 33% increase! I promptly departed and started strolling down the neighboring sois (side street). I popped my head into a couple of shops and asked how much. My second shop offered a haircut for 200 Baht. I sat down and got a great haircut.
After 3 weeks of exploring Africa, it was time for a haircut and more importantly a shave. I hadn’t shaved in several weeks, and my three day shadow was now a beard. I was in Tunis, the capital, of Tunisia in the Medina. The Medina is the old part of the city, dating back to the 7th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And as luck would have it, the one-man barbershop was adjacent to my hostel. I was embarrassed how cheap the full shave and haircut was, only $4 for both. I gave him another $4 in a tip.
And a look at some other haircuts, where I was snapping a picture or two.
This was too easy, literally across from my hotel was this barbershop. I rolled in when they opened around 9 am. The barber was setting up and I was the only customer. I asked him how much, and he responded. I thought he said 14 Turkish Lira, an affordable price, like $3. In fact, I stated “one-four”. He agreed.
We finished up the cut, and I magnanimously handed him a 20 Lira bill. He began to protest, and I stood firm. No, don’t worry, keep the tip, I smiled. He began to protest more, and whipped out his phone, and typed in 40. A tad awkward, I pulled out another 20 and thanked him to eat some morning Baklava and tea.
A challenge in Africa is finding a barber that is familiar with cutting straight hair. The Acacia Mall, a modern mall, in the capital of Kampala was near my hotel. I headed over there primarily because there was a great Lebanese restaurant nearby, but then headed into the mall to see if I could get my haircut. Meandering around the mall … I found this barbershop on the second floor. I noticed a handful of expats roming around and determined they were used to cutting different types of hair.
My barber made quick work on my hair. The haircut cost 30,000 Uganda Schillings, around $8.
Other Haircuts Around The World …
This cute kid had to be held down the whole time by his mother and brother. He really didn’t want to get a haircut.
This barber shop was set up in the bottom of a stairwell in an apartment in Havana.
Walking down the first street from my hotel located on the outskirts of the capital, Asmara, I happened upon this shop and took a couple of snaps.
For those who have been to India, you know it is one of the best places to take photos in the world. So much of life takes place in the streets.
I did a day trek outside of Luang Prabang and came across this small village. It makes you think what is really necessary when you go to get a haircut.
I have been to Myanmar three times, and another of my favorite countries. Friendly, photogenic people.
In Kathmandu, a quick shave before work.
I never, ever get tired of witnessing a good old-fashioned street ear cleaning when traveling.
Not a haircut, but ear cleaning. I still find this to be a bit odd, but there is a robust ear cleaning industry in some countries.
I found these guys literally under an underpass. I love the guy’s headlamp.
Lahore, an old city, in Pakistan near the Indian border still has a active street doctor culture … bone setters, dentists, etc., who all have active businesses literally on the street. And I was excited to witness a couple of ear cleanings as well.
Haircuts Around World