You’ve landed in a foreign land, stepped off the plane and are immediately bombarded with sounds, sights, and smells that are exotic, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming. Armed with your trusty guide book in hand, you walk the gauntlet of cabbies vying for your attention and shouting prices at you – welcome to your first haggling experience. For many travellers, haggling or bartering can be an intimidating and often frustrating experience as most of us are from countries where the sticker price is the actual price without question. In many parts of the world, virtually all prices can be negotiated – trinkets, taxis, clothing, excursions, and even accommodation can all be bartered over. Haggling is culturally ingrained in many societies and is expected by foreigners and locals alike. A fine balance of finesse, patience and humour are essential to master the art of haggling.
Here are some tips to help you fine-tune your haggling skills.
- First thing is first, you need to set a benchmark price for whatever it is that you are bartering for. Whether it is a taxi from the airport or a wooden trinket at the market, make sure you ask at least 3 vendors their price so that you have an idea. Of course make sure you know the exchange rate before you start any bartering so that you aren’t offending or overpaying (www.xe.com).
- Brush up on you local language skills. If you speak the local language (at least the basics), you are going to get a better deal, hands down. If you are linguistically challenged, a calculator is a valuable tool, or anything that the price can be etched on.
- Make sure that you always have small bills and don’t look too ‘blingy’. The fact that you are in a country other than your own means that you have money so if you are looking for a deal, don’t flaunt.
- When initially browsing, don’t come across as too interested. Walk slowly, ask the price very nonchalantly, and keep your poker face in the beginning. If a vendor senses your desperation, the price is unlikely to budge from the initial asking price. Don’t start the haggling process with a vendor if you have absolutely no intention of purchasing an item.
- Always keep in mind whatever it is you are about to barter for is only worth what you are willing to pay for it. If you absolutely have to have those alpaca knit socks for $3, pay $3, and don’t nickel ‘n dime a vendor that may only make $3 a day.
- Once you’ve decided that you would like to purchase the item, the real fun begins! Lower the initial asking price by 25- 75% (this will vary greatly between countries) and smile. The vendor will likely laugh and offer a slightly discounted price. Smile and barter back with a price slightly higher than what you initially offered. This can go back and forth several times but at some point you need to decide how badly you want it? It’s your call – take it or leave it but once your ‘final’ offer is accepted, it is expected that you buy the item. At this point I usually implement the ‘walk away’ technique if my offer hadn’t been accepted; this involves a thank you and a slow stroll away (sometimes spiced up with jazz hands and a bit of a skip). Listen as you will likely receive one more offer after you’ve walked away – score!
- Above all, whenever you are bartering, maintain your sense of humour. Kill ’em with kindness and you are bound to get a better deal besides making it much more enjoyable for all involved. Laugh, smile, joke with the locals and your travel experience will be greatly enhanced.
Now that you are armed with the skills, why not join us on an adventure where you can put those skills to use? Click HERE for a bit of travel inspiration.
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