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Travel tips: How to bargain & haggle in markets around the world

by Gizelle Lau
July 16, 2009

Bargain and Haggle for everything


Bargaining and haggling is a lost art and can be a totally culturally awkward experience for North Americans.  Just take a big gulp, get over anything you've ever learnt about price tags and your aversion to rejection or getting what you want - and you'll discover that it's a great way to meet locals and a fun part of travelling.

So, TripAtlas.com is bringing you travel tips on how to bargain and haggle around the world so that you can score a great deal on a rug or souvenirs to bring home.  Get other great tips from us: Tips on How to Avoid Food Poisoning when Travelling or 5 Tips on How to Pee All Over the World.

 

Tips on how to bargain and haggle around the world

From the markets of Djemaa El-Fna in Marrakech to the Straw Market in Nassau, Stanley Market in Hong Kong, Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok or even New York City's Canal Street - here's what you need to know to survive.

 

Bargain and Haggle for everythingRule #1 of bargaining is to always be ready to walk away - which also means that you shouldn't get too attached to that beautifully patterned sari. I've failed on this account twice! Even if you love the dress, don't let it show on your face. Once you start to walk away, vendors realize they may lose you and will give you a better offer.

 

Shoes, hotel or hostel rooms, carpets, spices, taxi rides, souvenirs, crafts, antiques, handmade items, skewered meat or bunches of bananas - bargain for anything and everything you can

 

Always take your time to shop around and not to rush. Shopkeepers can smell desperation and casual spenders miles away.

 

Most items are sold at more than one stall or shop. Inquire and bargain at a few to find out the average price of your item. Ask hotel staff and other locals how much an item would cost, just be careful they're not getting you to buy from their cousin instead.

 

Bargain and Haggle for everythingFigure how much you'd be willing to pay for the item - no matter how much you pay, you'll likely get a great deal since things in foreign markets are usually dirt cheap.

 

Always let the shopkeeper give the first price. 500 baht for the dress, he says. Figure out what you're willing or happy to pay, probably around 250 baht. Counteroffer with 200 baht and you'll likely meet somewhere in the middle.

 

Language isn't usually a problem. Some shopkeepers use calculators to show their price, giving it to you to show them yours. Others use bills to show how much they're looking for.

 

Bargain hard and confidently! Market stall owners are seasoned professionals and it's hard to shock them or weasel them out of making a profit. Don't take their expressions for face value - they make look suddenly annoyed or impatient - but this is usually part of their act. Just stick to your price and if all else fails, walk away!

 

Bargain and Haggle for everythingBe quick on your feet, know how to convert quickly into your own currency as price comparison.

 

Don't go too high or too low. If you go too low, the shopkeeper will know you don't know what regular pricing is like. Their pricing is usually 2-3 times higher for tourists than for locals. Locals would also never even consider taking the first price.

 

Sales pitch them - choose a few of the items you're interested in from their shop and give them a flat price for the package.

 

Try to bluff and tell the shopkeeper that another guy in the next aisle gave you a better deal - your price will automatically go down!

 

Never take your bills out of your pocket or wallet until you've settled. The exception to this rule is if you want to play the "I only have 20 baht" card and see if they'll take the bait.

 

Bargain and Haggle for everythingDon't feel obligated to buy; no matter how much time you've spent at the one shop trying to bargain. Only once you've set a price and both agreed, are you obligated to buy.

 

Be sure to know what you can - and cannot - take out of the country. In Greece, it's illegal to take any stone that comes from a historic site. In Turkey, it's illegal to bring back any antiquities (coins, jewellery, carpets) older than 1-2 centuries.

 

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Gizelle Lau icon

Gizelle Lau

Gizelle Lau is a freelance writer & photographer in Toronto, Canada with a passion for food and travel. 



Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: cities, culture, food/wine, paths-less-travelled, photography, wildlife
Website: http://www.gizellelau.com/blog.htm

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