The Art of Haggling

Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)

In most countries, outside North America, the art of haggling is seen as an integral part of most commercial transactions, especially when it comes to tourist shops, hotels or excursions. It is not unusual for tourists to be charged at least double or even triple the ‘local’ price. Ideally the negotiation should be a social exchange where both parties walk away happy, rather than a collision of self-worth.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

So how do you know when you are being taken for a ride and need to strike back with some serious haggling skills? Generally speaking, in most government run shops, department stores and where prices are displayed – prices are fixed. But if you are perusing tourist shops be prepared to bring out your bargaining card. The types of establishments that fall into this category are handicrafts, artwork, clothing and souvenir shops. So what can you do to ensure you get the best deal possible?

Jogjakarta, Indonesia

The Art of Haggling:

Art of Haggling Tip 1 - Act Disinterested

No matter how much you could envision that colourful painting on your wall, pretend that you don’t want to buy it. Make sure you price your item in numerous shops before you commit to buying it. While the painting may seem like a one of a kind in North America, in India, for instance, every second shop may be selling that exact product. Ask the vendors what their cheapest price is and if you still want it, return to the shop that gave you the best price. Kuala Lumpur market, Malaysia

Art of Haggling Tip 2 - Act the Part

Leave your diamonds and flashy sunglasses at home so you aren’t oozing of money as you walk into a store. Not only will the vendor be less likely to negotiate with you but also they may even hike up their ‘foreign’ price.

Art of Haggling Tip 3 - Know your Price

Before you even begin the bargaining process, make up a price in your head that you would be prepared to pay, and then express a casual interest in buying the object. As a rule of thumb it’s best to ask the seller their price and then make an initial offer. Your counter offer should be anywhere from 50-80% of the asking price. While they may feign shock, this is all part of the cultural exchange and serves as a great starting off point for haggling for a happy middle ground. Seoul, Korea fish market

Art of Haggling Tip 4 - Be Prepared to Walk Away

Many shopkeepers will lower their “final price” once you proceed to walk out of their store and say “I’ll think about it”.

Keep in the mind that while negotiating is a way of life, you may be arguing over the difference of 20 cents and while it is practically worthless in your home currency it could mean a great deal to the seller. Also keep in mind that you don’t want to walk away from something that you really want merely because the seller won’t come down in price.

Just remember, haggling is all a game and the best players are those who stay focused and have fun.

Jogjakarta, Borobudur, Indonesia

Thanks to the folks at CheapoAir, as this article was was published on their guest blog site.

The Art of haggling is a complicated exchange but you can master it with a bit of practice – good luck and happy bargaining.

Backpacking Bex