How to haggle and save money when travelling

Pretty much any country you go to will have a built up touristy area with shops and stalls with generally tacky, but in some parts, high quality arts and souvenirs.

This doesn't mean you have to pay over the odds, especially if you're travelling on a budget!

This post isn't about one particular place, I've used these techniques in all of the places I've been, and the same techniques work in England at market stalls too (the English are the easiest to do a deal with because they're not used to people haggling).

Step one. Know where to go.

The best way to know about good places to go is to get friendly with a local person, who knows the place. They'll tell you things like “don't go there, it's sketchy”, “don't go there, it's a rip off” or “that place is good”.

Obviously, you're going to take their advice and go to the last one.

Step two. Don't show too much interest.

Once you've found the “good place to go”, it's time to do your shopping.

Go with the mindset of “just looking” and say this to the (usually very forward) shopkeeper. Beware, once you lock your eyes on an item, the bargaining process begins.

They will promise “I have a good deal for you”.

It generally never is.

If you do find an item you want, just pick it up and look at it. 9/10 times the shopkeeper will tell you a price or start the bargaining process. Have a good think about what it’s worth (Could I buy the same thing in a shop back home for cheaper/the same price?) and get to work on your negotiating.

Step Three

I could break step down into little mini-steps, but it all happens so fast, and is more an if-when game than a linear progression of decisions. So for step three, I’ll write it out as an example.

If you see a nice wooden mask, local to the area, pick it up and look at it.
The shopkeeper will say something along the lines of “you like? I do you good deal.”

Straight away, ask for a better deal than all of the other tourists.

They will do some sort of smile and nod. Then say, in this example “100”.

If that's the case, you only want to pay 35 max.

Laugh at them, and say “the guy down the road is selling these for 40! I may as well go back to him and pay 40”

They will try and parry your effort to bluff them off, stick to it! That way, they know you’re serious.

Ok, Mr this one I give to you for 40”

“I’m not sure. I think the guy-down-the-road's was nicer. I don’t want to pay the same amount for one that’s not as nice. Can you do me a better price as this isn’t as nice as his?”

They may stick their feet in the ground. They may say no. They may say 40 final offer.

In this case, put your hand out as you’re about to shake and say “okay, 35 deal?”

9/10 times they’ll take it, or if they can be bothered messing about with change, they may say 37.5.

Whatever, you’ve got a good deal and haggled all the way down from 100 to 37.5. Well done!

Step 4/Option: if the seller isn't going down to a fair price - WALK AWAY. The thought of no money at all can outweigh the missed opportunity of over charging, and they may go for your original offer so that you stay in the vicinity and they can still sell you something.

Happy shopping!

If you try this, tweet me @mjtucker and let me know how you got on!

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