You'd better buy whatever practical items you need in Lhasa if you plan to travel to remote areas of Tibet. There are many department stores in Lhasa, mostly on Yuthok Lu that supply everyday needs. For example, Lhasa Department Store, located on the west end of Yuthok Lu, is the largest and best known department store in Lhasa and sells practical items such as cotton clothing, mugs, canned food, towels, and toothpaste, as well as local handicrafts. There are also some supermarkets in Lhasa, such as Hongyan Supermarket Chains mainly distributed in Lhasa downtown.
Tibet is full of scenic and historical wonder. Even you have explored all the wonders, your trip could not be completed without an fantastic shopping experience at Barkhor Square. So it is wise to give yourself at least half a day to explore the Barkhor Street or the other place of the city freely after you finish your sightseeing plan.
Barkhor Street is a traditional Tibetan shopping center, where shopkeepers with small shops and stalls on the street supply more traditional and fascinating Tibetan artifacts and handicrafts. These items include prayer flags, Buddha figures, conch-shell trumpets, rosaries, amulets, fur hats, horse bells, bridles, copper teapots, wooden bowls, inlaid knives, and jewelry inlaid with turquoise and other gems. It is a little stupid to pay too much on a single item. Do not believe the tour guide if he takes you to some expensive shop. But still, you can fully trust that all the handicrafts are unique designed and cheap and they are great souvenirs anyway that you can take back home. Among them Tibetan knife is a special item that is not allowed on airplane, but you can certainly mail it to your home by post office.
Do not forget to carefully examine jewelry for quality. Though lots of jewelry of excellent quality is available, some is coarse and poor in quality. It is very easy to find appealing items that are uniquely Tibetan. Exotic Tibetan opera masks and costumes are really attractive. Brightly colored, beautifully homespun Tibetan rugs and khaddar are also popular souvenirs. Tibetan carpet can be bought at the Tash Delek Tibetan Rug Factory.
As in other traditional markets throughout the world, you should try to bargain with the shopkeepers so as to buy nice things at lower prices. Cutting half of their asking prices is usually proper. Except shoppers, you may be accompanied by hundreds of prostrating pilgrims. It is a thrilling experience that will certainly remind you that you are in Lhasa.
If you need maps, Xinhua bookstores are good choice. There are three Xinhua bookstores in Lhasa respectively located on Yuthok Lu, east Barkhor and Beijing Zhong Lu.
In conclusion, Tibet is full of shopping treasures that are absolutely worth you waste your money. Do not go back home with an empty bag.