Negotiating is a skill that comes natural to some people while others are hesitant about it.
But, when you go traveling, there is a very big chance that you will be caught up in a situation wherein you want to buy something yet you don’t think that the first quoted price suits your budget.
The good news is that in most countries across the globe, almost everything is flexible. If you ever find yourself in these places, the general rule of thumb is to know how to bargain.
Once you master the art of bargaining, you will soon find yourself having an easy time buying the things you need and want with no need to break your travel budget.
Below are the 25 best ways to bargain when traveling:
- 1. Study and Observe the Market
- 2. Do Your Research
- 3. Have a Local Friend by Your Side to Help with Language Barriers and Bargaining
- 4. Always Have Local Currency with You
- 5. Learn Some Catchphrases in the Local Language
- 6. Be Friendly
- 7. Keep Your Cash Out of Sight
- 8. Avoid Rushing Things
- 9. Engage in Small Talk Before Bargaining If Possible
- 10. Keep an Indecisive Look Even if You Already Know What You Want
- 11. Pay Attention to Body Language
- 12. Decide on the Amount You are Willing and Ready to Spend
- 13. Never Ask for the Price Immediately
- 14. Pass Up in Making the First Offer
- 15. Start with a Low First Offer
- 17. Don’t Make Offers You Won’t Honor
- 18. Refrain from Buying Right on the First Time
- 19. Practice a Bit on Cheap Items
- 20. Score Discounts on Bulk Purchases
- 21. Never Try to Outsmart the Vendor
- 22. Never Overpay as a Charitable Act
- 23. Watch How Other People Bargain
- 24. Think of Bargaining as a Cultural Experience Instead of Just Mere Shopping
- 25. Don’t Be Scared to Walk Away
- Bonus tip! Keep Calm and Continue Bargaining
- The Bottom Line
1. Study and Observe the Market
Before you go shopping, start first by walking around. Get a feel of the market and inquire about the prices before you try to make your first bargain.
It doesn’t matter if you are on the street market, a souvenir market, an antique souk, or even a floating market.
The main point here is for you to have a good understanding of how the whole market works, what kind of bargaining happens, and what doesn’t.
Always take your time and observe the way merchants interact with your fellow shoppers for you to get an idea of how they are playing the bargaining game.
2. Do Your Research
If you already decided on what you will buy, it makes perfect sense to ask around to see how much other travelers spent for the same items.
Grab this chance to ask your fellow travelers for stall recommendations and even their personal tips on how to bargain in the area.
Determine how much you are willing to pay and aim for a price that is 10% to 20% lower than this when you bargain.
Always begin below the final price that you prefer when bargaining.
3. Have a Local Friend by Your Side to Help with Language Barriers and Bargaining
Locals are the best persons who can show you around their favorite stores and the perfect spots to get some quality souvenirs.
If you are lucky, your local friends may even have some connections with several store owners.
After you established a good connection, it is more likely that you will get a discount while helping out a friend at the same time.
Once you formed a relationship with a specific business, it will be easier for you to keep coming back to purchase other stuff even if you will only be staying in the place for a very short period of time.
4. Always Have Local Currency with You
See to it that you have the right currency with you before you start bargaining.
Don’t expect locals to give you a good exchange rate since this is the easiest way for them to earn extra cash through you.
Most of the time, it will be worth it to have some dollars and some local money, too. Every now and then, you could snag a better rate for dollars compared to the local currency.
It is also important that you understand the true worth of the local currency.
5. Learn Some Catchphrases in the Local Language
When you are in a foreign country, you don’t really need to be a master of their local language.
All you need to know is a few words and you will surely bring a smile to the vendor’s face and get things flowing.
Never, ever get angry but make sure you still remain assertive. Even if you feel like the vendor is messing with you, it isn’t wise to lose your cool.
It can be very helpful to learn some numbers and phrases in the local language as this will help you close a better deal.
6. Be Friendly
As stated in the tip above, always be polite and keep your cool. Make sure you also show respect to the merchants at all times.
Try to casually mention that you would be happy to refer some friends if they agree to lower the price for you.
7. Keep Your Cash Out of Sight
It is never a good idea to show off your wallet filled with cash.
Instead, you might want to have a pocket that can carry your smaller bills so that you can easily access your money for small purchases.
If you ever need to take more cash out of your wallet, it would be best to turn your back to the merchant and face a wall if possible.
Don’t worry as they won’t think of it as being rude on your part.
8. Avoid Rushing Things
Most of the time, it would be better if you bargain for the same item with two or three merchants.
This lets you find the absolute lowest price you could get out of all the three so you can choose the cheapest and try knocking off another 10%.
Upon entering a market or store, take a good look around because more often than not, there are plenty of similar products being offered and the priciest stalls often get the best spots.
Try to venture deeper and further into the market for better deals and fewer customers.
Make sure to take extra care in inspecting the product you choose. Point out flaws if you find any as this could help lower the cost further.
Remember that the ancient art of bargaining takes practice, patience, and time.
9. Engage in Small Talk Before Bargaining If Possible
Spend several minutes talking to the merchant before you try bargaining. Small talks are great ways for you to connect with them better.
It will be more likely for them to make a deal if they already spent time in you.
10. Keep an Indecisive Look Even if You Already Know What You Want
Look around, play it cool, and admire their products.
If there is something that you like specific, never let them know that you have already fallen in love with the item because you will end up losing your bargaining power if you do.
11. Pay Attention to Body Language
One technique you can try is to nod and stick out your hand for a handshake that signals the end of the deal once you suggest the final price so you can encourage the merchant to agree with you.
However, beware because vendors may also try this very technique on you.
Just like with other forms of negotiation, the secret is to project an assertive body language and learn how to read the other person.
12. Decide on the Amount You are Willing and Ready to Spend
Before you start with your bargaining, determine the maximum price that you are willing and ready to pay for that specific product.
It will help you focus better on bargaining. Walk away once the price goes beyond what you are willing to pay.
13. Never Ask for the Price Immediately
Don’t ask for the prices right away and pretend that you are still browsing instead.
After a while, the merchant will tell you that they offer a very good price.
That is when you can ask for the price without looking too interested.
14. Pass Up in Making the First Offer
Inquire first about the best price that the vendor offers on the product you are interested in.
Raising this straightforward and simple question will encourage the vendor to make the first offer.
If the starting price comes from you first, you will jeopardize your bargaining power since the price will only increase from there.
When the seller refuses to answer, begin at a really low price or less than half the indicated price.
15. Start with a Low First Offer
This one is a really obvious tip for bargaining but most vendors know the universal fact that the one who states the first offer will be at a disadvantage.
It can be annoying to ask about the price of an item only for the vendor to ask you how much you will give him for it. You also need to keep in mind the rule about not making offers you cannot honor.
It means that the right strategy for such cases is to offer a comically low price.
If you think that you can get the product for a price of $20, you can offer them $5 or lower, assuming that you will be willing to buy the item at this price.
There is a big possibility that they will pretend to be insulted for a couple of seconds only to tell you their own starting price that is a bit higher.
Don’t worry if you forced them to pretend to be insulted. It is all part of this elaborate game and a strategy that is perfectly acceptable.
17. Don’t Make Offers You Won’t Honor
This one is not really a tip on how to bargain but more of an ethics rule for the game.
Once you start negotiating with a merchant wherein you go back and forth with prices, it would be very bad for you to make them accept your stated price only to walk away without making a purchase.
Most strategies are acceptable in this process since both parties have the chance to say no.
However, the moment the vendor agrees to your offer, you will now be committed at this point.
The main lesson here is to avoid negotiating for a product that you are not yet ready to purchase.
You can inquire about the price but avoid making counteroffers unless you are willing to pay for that price right then.
18. Refrain from Buying Right on the First Time
It might be a bit difficult to resist since the first time you lay your eyes on a souvenir item, you will always find it special.
However, once you have been scouring the place several times, you will discover the same item usually made by the same people at almost all the other stores in the area.
For you to get the best price on any product, try to know the usual selling price before proceeding to the real hardcore bargaining phase.
19. Practice a Bit on Cheap Items
Before being tempted to go for the pricier stuff, you can try to practice bargaining on the small things that you don’t feel too attached with so it will be easier for you to walk away if the need arises.
20. Score Discounts on Bulk Purchases
In case you are planning to buy the same stuff in bulk, you can try to bargain one down for as low as you can first and try to snag a discount for purchasing several items.
21. Never Try to Outsmart the Vendor
Even those who are already experts in the bargaining game would only be kidding themselves if they think that they can outsmart the vendor.
It is a must that you remain respectful of your component because that person might be doing it for more than 60 hours per week unlike you that may only be doing it several times annually at the most.
There is a high chance that the seller will congratulate you for your bargaining skills that drove down the price below the actual cost.
However, it is only his way of humoring you and amusing his nearby friends.
That item you bought that he claims to cost him $10 might only cost you $5 at the most, whatever he says.
22. Never Overpay as a Charitable Act
It is your business if you are fine with giving your money away but there is a chance that there are some people in the area who will need t more than that crafty souvenir vendor.
Overpaying for souvenir items is possibly among the least efficient means of helping the local residents.
Thus, if you ever feel tempted to do a charitable act, make sure you do it only for good reasons.
Meanwhile, your generosity may benefit a vendor on foot.
It might be a bit difficult but avoid falling for sob stories from people who tell you about it when you are in the middle of a price negotiation.
23. Watch How Other People Bargain
The bargaining game is being played one way in some countries and cities while others might have different rules for the game.
Some countries might find hard bargaining as something more socially acceptable than in others.
In case you really want to buy something, it would be great if you have a good idea of the price swings.
24. Think of Bargaining as a Cultural Experience Instead of Just Mere Shopping
It doesn’t matter how much you will pay in the end or how much you bargain.
Make sure that you always approach the bargaining process as a good way of experiencing the true character of the street markets, bazaars, and souks in different parts of the world.
Think of this as a lively activity that will give you a first-hand experience and taste of their way of life and culture.
25. Don’t Be Scared to Walk Away
Give your final offer once the price gets too high. If this fails to work, remain friendly and thank the seller for their time.
Walk away little by little while still perusing the other items.
Most of the time, you might be called back with your final offer.
There are also times when you won’t yet you can continue hopping around the other shops and stalls or you can just give up and pay the lowest offered price.
Bonus tip! Keep Calm and Continue Bargaining
Be honest, act nonchalant, and don’t get too excited. Did you really fall in love with that colorful scarf?
Maybe you don’t need one just yet but as long as the price is acceptable, you might consider starting the bargaining game.
The easiest and simplest way for you to snag a good price is for you to pretend that you are not interested in the scarf.
It can work wonders if you walk away after you enter the negotiation or if you have your friend with you who looks reluctant.
These will make the price plummet quickly.
The Bottom Line
Bargaining, or also known as haggling, is considered as a way of life in most cultures.
This is regarded as normal and is a usually expected aspect of all forms of shopping experiences. For most people, this process tends to be a bit uncomfortable. How low can be considered as too low?
Will the vendor feel insulted if you try to bargain?
On the other hand, bargaining can be done in a successful and gracious manner if you think of it as something more of a social event that can give you the best possible prices for the stuff that you want.
Take note of the ways above and use them to hone your bargaining skills so you can put them to good use the next time you go traveling.