Travel Tips woman shopping

Published on November 12th, 2013 | by Arienne Parzei

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How to Haggle (and Not Suck at it)

In many countries around the world, haggling is part of the culture. Prices aren’t marked with signs or sales tags but instead negotiated between two parties. For travellers from Western Countries where prices are clearly labeled, bargaining can feel like an awkward, “I can’t believe I wore my hair like that in high school” kind of moment. It’s understandable. We’re simply not accustomed to this kind of practice. But with a little experience and putting to use some of the tips below, you’ll become a haggling pro in no time:

 

Know the Currency and Exchange Rate Beforehand

money

This may seem straight forward, but you’d be surprised how many times people get tripped up trying to negotiate in another currency. Before starting the process, make sure you know what currency you’re dealing with and the exchange rate from your home currency. Use apps for your mobile phone such as xe.com, for current market exchange rates, and/or bring a calculator to do the math on the spot. The latter device is especially helpful to communicate if there is a language barrier.

 

Start at a Third of the Asking Price

Alright, ready to go? Great! The first move in the haggling chess game is to open the floor and ask how much something is. The seller will come back with a price that is likely higher than they normally sell it for. Keeping this in mind, your counter offer should be about a third of the price. Now there’s no hardened rule that it should always be a third, sometimes a quarter or half the asking price is a better place to start. It really all depends on where you are and what you’re bargaining over.  But I’ve found a third of the price is a happy medium. The main goal is to start lower than you expect to pay so that as you negotiate back and forth, you’re closer to the price you want to pay.

 

The Walkaway

Laos Night Market

So you’re going back and forth, trying to get the seller down to the price you want to pay but they just won’t budge. Trying the ‘ol “walkaway” might just help you seal the deal. Act very nonchalant, shrug your shoulders, politely acknowledge defeat and say “thank-you”. If the person really wants to make that sale you probably won’t take more than 5 steps before you hear, “ok, ok, deal!”

 

The Good-Cop / Bad-Cop Routine

Yes, the classic good-cop/bad-cop routine can actually work quite well. If you’re traveling with someone, give this technique a try. It works well if the bad-cop stands off a bit but is still within earshot. They should look uninterested or even slightly annoyed that you’re shopping “yet again” (this seems to work well when I’m traveling with my boyfriend). At the same time, the good-cop eagerly checks out the goods and starts the bargaining process. Periodically, call out to the bad-cop saying “what do you think? It’s [insert price]”. The bad-cop, being uninterested in it as they are, replies with something like “nah, I don’t think so, don’t you already have something like that? No that’s too much”. Continue with this exchange a couple more times with the good-cop playing the sad card because the bad-cop says no. Combined with ‘the walkaway’, these two tactics will more likely than not get you your offering price.

 

Buy Multiples

bartering and shopping

If there’s something you’ve got your eye on, chances are someone back home would like it too. Buying multiples is an excellent way to get a cheaper price than if you were to haggle for a single item alone. Sellers want to move their inventory quicker and they’ll be guaranteed more money in this one transaction as opposed to waiting and negotiating all day to sell the same thing four times. I’m a huge fan of this practice as I get to shop not only for my friends and family back home but also for myself at a lower overall cost.

 

Make a Game Out of It

The best tip I can give you about haggling is to approach it like it’s a game, the game of haggling chess, as I like to call it. It takes the pressure off the situation and makes it more fun. If I think of haggling like a game, my experience around the act of bargaining instantly becomes positive. I usually find more often than not, I get a great price and everyone involved has had a good experience.

 

Keep Things in Perspective and Haggle With Integrity

And finally, understand who you’re haggling with and keep things in perspective. It’s easy to get carried away, determined to knock those last 50 cents off the price. But while that 50 cents you’re so hell-bent on saving may be peanuts to you, it could mean a meal or more for the person you’re dealing with. In addition, once someone has agreed to the price you’ve offered, stick to it. Don’t start trying to negotiate even further just because you got the price you wanted. Haggle with integrity and fulfill on your offer.

 

Do you have any tips you like to use when haggling?  Share them in the comments below!

 

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About the Author

is a travel writer, videographer, and photographer from Toronto, Canada. She produces a travel blog called seeyousoon.ca with a niche in adventure activities, cultural experiences, and budget travel. Her insatiable curiosity for learning about different cultures first hand has led her to some amazing destinations and experiences, including living in South Korea for two years and backpacking for eight months through China, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. She shares her travel experiences from around the globe and hopes to inspire you in the process.



2 Responses to How to Haggle (and Not Suck at it)

  1. Man says:

    I have a trick which is always working. for example if the seller asking for 60 $ and you want to buy it for 30 $ you can pay him 30 $ but tell him this is 20 $ and I will not pay anymore for that. Usually the seller at the same time starting to reject your offer as well as looking at and counting the money. and he or she will accept it. it works like magic, believe me..

  2. SJ Smith says:

    I think you have covered it all in your excellent article however I would add one thing – don’t get your money out before you have settled on a price , even if you are counting your money. If you are perceived to be rolling in it then you might not get as good a price as a cash strapped backpacker.

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