One of my favorite parts of traveling is the shopping and getting a good bargain! For each trip in the world, I try to make a visit to one of the local markets where the merchants are selling trinkets, arts and crafts, clothing, and fun souvenirs characteristic of the country.
Based on my experience traveling to these many places, I have learned a thing or two about how to bargain in the marketplace. Below are a few tips on how I have managed to negotiate a fair price.
Market place at Aquas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu Peru
Most times, merchants are pricing in a tourist premium and will be expecting a bit of back and forth haggling for the items they are selling.
Try to get a good deal for yourself and support the local community in the process!
I am always on the lookout for a magnet and a carved wood box from each country I visit.
This magnet board featuring a magnet from each place I have visited is the background of this website,
Some carved wood boxes from the the Dilli Haat market place in Delhi, India:
How to Bargain
Here are a few tips on how I bargain in the marketplace for a great souvenir or two for me or for a nice gift for someone back home.
- Be bold and firm, but nice. Smile
- Act with confidence at all times
- Be in control – remember you have the money, and they want the sale.
- Look them in the eye when you bargain. Nicely ask “Could you do…?” or “How about…?”
- Be respectful
- Be fair to them
- Know how much local currency you have in your wallet so you can follow through with your bargain
- It is best to have smaller bills ready because breaking larger bills could be difficult for the merchant, and it shows you have lots of money to spend in the first place thus reducing your perceived bargaining power
- Cash is easier to use when you bargain
- Credit cards are harder to use in your favor because of the fees charged to the storeowner and the lack of liquid cash at their fingertips
- Try to do the currency conversion math in your head wherever possible
- If you have a hard time doing the math, use a conversion app on your phone, but do it discretely to the side so the storeowner does not see you. You want to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about so they do not take advantage of you.
Perform a Reconnaissance Mission:
- Find a trinket you like. Try not to buy the first one you see. Be patient.
- Think of the maximum price you would pay for the item in your home currency
- For example: “I would never pay more than $10 USD for this trinket”
- Have an rough “rule of thumb” currency conversion ready in your head
- For example: 1 Jordanian Dinar “JD” is about $1.50 USD or $1 USD is about 0.75 JD
- Survey the shops for this trinket sold elsewhere. Do not negotiate yet.
- Start asking for the price of this trinket at each place so you can get an idea of the going rate. Try to sense if this price is the tourist price or the local price.
Develop a Price Strategy:
- Set your pricing parameters.
- Figure out how much the trinket is being sold in your home currency
- Now figure out your first offer price and your maximum price in your home currency
- Convert these pricing parameters to the local currency
- Try not to pay your maximum price.
- Never, ever exceed your maximum price
Start Your Bargaining:
- Pick a place and ask “How much?” Let them give you the first price. Do not make the first offer. Most often they will be layering on a price premium
- If their first price is too high for you, make a counter offer using your first offer price. Start really low. This offer should be about 1/4th to 1/3rd of what they are offering and below your maximum price you have decided you will pay
- They will say no and give you a second offer, perhaps one that is slightly lower from their initial price
- Move your price up a little too. Go back and forth a bit with prices
- Sometimes saying “No” while shaking your head and firmly repeating your current offer a second time helps your case
Find an Angle:
- Try to find something wrong with the item such as a chip, a stain, a pull, or a discoloration to help you get a discount.
- Sometimes buying other items in the store can help you get a bargain on a total purchase price.
- Ask for them to throw in a small gift with your purchase.
- Be prepared to walk away. Put down the item, say thank you, and move on. Most times, they will call you back to the store.
- If you come back, emphasize your most recently offered price. Show you are true to your word. Do not now suggest a lower price after you already raised your offer price.
Reach an Agreement:
- Decide once and for all what is your final offer price. Say “This is my final offer.”
- Sometimes showing them the cash you will use to buy the item helps sway them to say yes to your final offer price
- Agree, say “OK”, nod your head, and smile.
- Try to give them exact change if you have it.
- Say thank you in their local language and smile. Be gracious
Here is a market on the equator in Equador:
This lovely woman is selling her artwork at the Dilli Haat market place in Delhi, India:
Carved artwork for sale at Chichen Itza in Yucatan Provence, Mexico:
Share a comment! Let us know how you bargain in the marketplace. What did you buy? Where are some places you can recommend?
Until next time Adventurers