In some countries bartering is part of the culture and many locals enjoy haggling with tourists. Bartering, or haggling, is a way of obtaining an item for less than it is offered. The seller starts with a high price and you start with a low one and you both end up with a price in between.
If you’ve never tried it before, you may not think that you’re a natural but don’t let that stop you trying. Before you try, check that you can barter in the country first. Even if it’s a country where you are expected to barter only do so on market stalls or souks for items such as souvenirs or clothes. If it has a price tag then generally it’s a fixed price.
Bartering is meant to be fun but only start bartering if you really want to buy something. It is bad manners to decide that you then don’t want it after you’ve agreed a price. There may be a local’s price and a tourist price so be prepared to pay more than a local. Don’t feel obliged to buy something if you really don’t want it. It may be “free” to look but don’t let them make you feel guilty for not wanting to buy. Here's our guide on how to haggle.
Tips before you haggle
- Know the exchange rate for the currency so you don’t get confused.
- Make sure you know the amount of what you want to buy beforehand. Check other stalls and get a rough price.
- Set the maximum price that you want to pay for the item and try not to go over it.
- Keep only what you want to pay in your purse. Hide the rest of your money somewhere else.
- Go lower than you want to pay then work up to your chosen amount.
- Start with at least a third of the original price. You could even go as low as a quarter.
- Only look at things that you’re interested in buying.
- Don’t act desperate as they will think that you really want the item and know that you're prepared to pay more.
- You can try for a bigger discount if you want more than one item.
- Don’t forget that $2 may be a lot to them and worth nothing to you. This is still their livelihood. Don’t get annoyed with the seller. It is all in good humour.
- Smile when you’re doing it.
How to Haggle
Make sure the seller is up for bartering. If they say it is a certain price (fixed price) and are not prepared to haggle then don’t push it. You can tell by their expression if they are serious or not.
Say you’ve decided to not pay more than $5. Here’s how you haggle for that price:
- Go to the stall, look at what you’re interested in then either pick it up or point at it and ask how much it is. They will soon come over to you if they are not already there trying to sell it to you.
- If they offer $10, go in at $3. Don’t worry about quoting a really low offer. They are not going to sell you anything unless they will make at least some profit on it, and they will let you know if the offer is too low.
- They may smile and go in at $8.
- Gradually raise your price. Say $4 then wait for their answer.
- If they don’t agree go in at $5.
- If they shrug or say “too low,” then put it down and shrug back. Say “Too expensive” and open your purse to show that you only have $5 on you.
- If they say they cannot do it for that price say “thank you” and walk away slowly. Even when you walk away the seller will think you’re still interested unless you’ve offered them a really low price.
- They will probably come after you and agree to the sale.
- Once you’ve accepted the offer, shake on it. Don’t try and negotiate any more. If you feel bad for not paying enough, you can always give them a tip.
- Say “thank you” then walk away when they give you your bargain!
This is just a guide to haggling and other situations may be different. If it costs slightly more than what you anticipated don’t worry as the money is benefiting the local person. Expect that sometimes you may pay more than it is worth but when you convert it back to your currency, it’s probably pennies or cents. It’s all part of the experience and helps give back to the local people.