Everyone loves a bargain, especially when it comes to travel; whether it’s a last minute steal of a flight, a $1 bed in a hostel or even the cheapest deal on travel insurance – and once you’re on the road bartering becomes a greta way to save yourself some dollar.
But everyone does not love to barter.
Unfortunately for many travellers, bartering is the only way you will get a juicy deal: no barter, no bargain, it’s that simple. It is common practice to haggle in countries such as China, Turkey and Egypt but there are certain ways to get what you want.
So here are a few tips, step by step, on how to get a deal and barter with confidence.
Know the area you will be shopping in and what is generally expected of shoppers, i.e. is haggling the norm? If you know the currency exchange and local customs then bartering will be that much easier. On this vein, it might be wise to learn to count in the local language; this will win you respect and therefore a better deal. In fact, any words of the native language will be appreciated and you will share common speaking ground.
Also bartering doesn’t just start with the first place you find something that you want. Make sure to look around and see if other stalls have the same or better item for a cheaper starting price to then haggle down further. You can try this before you even leave by visiting local markets or with your holiday planning. Have a go at shopping around on holiday deals and trying to get more included in your package, there’s no harm in asking!
Try to have a general knowledge of the items value before you begin to barter; this can be discovered through guide books, other travellers or watching who buys what and how much for. If the initial offer by the vendor is far to high, then laugh or show utter surprise. This demonstrates that you know the real price of the item (even if you don’t). Similarly you can state a price that is far lower than what you expect to pay. Don’t go overboard though or the vendor may think you are a clueless clown.
Set your limit
What is it worth to you? What would you pay for this? These are the most important questions to ask yourself before you begin. Without a limit you will either lose sight of the prize and haggling will turn into a competitive sport or you will pay way too much for something you weren’t convinced on from the start.
Blasé is the way
If you seem excited or desperate for an item the vendor will use this to their advantage; they will know that they can charge that bit more. So don’t rant about how much your daughter would love that necklace, instead take on an air of nonchalance. You also need to project this with the way you dress, if you roll up draped in gold the price will soar. The trick is to blend, not to stand out; this will allow you to lower the price smoothly.
Carefully examine the item you wish to purchase as market goods are often bumped around and damage may occur. If you spot any scratches, dents or marks this will give you leverage and you can get the price even lower from here.
The rules? There are none!
Many guides stipulate that you should offer a fixed percentage of the shopkeeper’s first price. This does not work, there are no rules because shopkeepers are actually aware of this and price their goods accordingly.
Hold your own
Be strong and assertive and focus on your price. You don’t have to be obnoxious, just stick with your principles!
Remain calm and collected
Haggling can often become intense and quite ruthless, whatever happens don’t let your emotions dictate your behavior. Don’t be angry, rude or aggressive; vendors are business men are just trying to get the best price, as they have families that rely on them. Haggling is not about winning; it is about coming to an agreement that is fair for each party.
Walk on By
Walking away can be a crafty ploy to snatch your deal. If they want to sell they will make you a better offer as you begin to wander away. However this is a risky maneuver as the shopkeeper may not care when you leave and you may lose the item completely.
Follow your gut: if you feel like you’re getting a raw deal, you probably are so just leave.
Take it with a pinch of salt
Don’t be too serious. It isn’t a fight to the death and you should know when to acquiesce and accept an offer. Remember the pennies you argue over are meaningless to Westerners but far more valuable to the locals.
Don’t accept help
Do not let unknown locals help you bargain or search for something you need. You will end up paying for it, one way or another.
At the end of the day bartering can be both a fun way to spend the day or over a prolonged period of time part of daily life as a backpacker. Once you get in the swing of it you’ll have some epic banter with locals around the world and pick up some awesome bargains along the way! …ENJOY!