Master The Art Of Haggling

If you are anything like me then you probably find haggling awkward. In my day-to-day life when I see a price, I pay it. That’s just how it is. I will confess I honestly like the rigidity and structure of fixed prices when it comes to shopping. It’s less stressful. I don’t have to worry about offending the shopkeeper with my own inflated ideas of the item’s worth and I don’t have to fret over whether I got the best price. I buy something and then move on with my life, anxiety free.

When I was first confronted with haggling, I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Having foolishly picked something up on a Turkish market stall, I was suddenly engaged in financial warfare over an item I wasn’t really sure I wanted in the first place. Feeling completely out of my depth, I remember putting the item down hastily and scurrying away, ignoring the shouts of the vendors behind me.

Haggling with the locals in Vietnam

As I began to travel more, it became apparent that I couldn’t avoid bartering forever; at least not if I wanted my money to last! Against my better judgement and practically catapulting myself of my comfort zone, I decided to make a conscious effort to conquer my fear of haggling.

If you too feel your stomach drop when it comes to negation time, don’t worry! If I can master this awkward cultural exchange then anyone can. Here are my suggestions for overcoming your nerves and snagging a bargain.

• Don’t shop with a tour group

If a tour guide takes you to a market it’s probably not just so you can have a look around. Many guides strike agreements with local businessmen and even earn commission on sales from those they bring to the markets. Expect to pay an inflated price if you shop with a tour group.

• Fake it till you make it

Confidence is probably the most important part of haggling. Remember that vendor’s do this job everyday and they can spot an easy target a mile off. The more confident you pretend to be, the more empowered you begin to feel.

• Get them to offer a price

This is very important when haggling, so much so that most vendors will try to avoid it. Whoever names a price first is automatically at a disadvantage. Bear in mind that they know what the item is really worth, whereas you probably don’t.

• Arm yourself with a few phrases in the native language

This is a great weapon to have in your armoury. By mastering a few phrases such as, ‘how much is it?’ or ‘too expensive’, you show the seller two things. The first is that you know a bit about the area which means they are less likely to fob you off with an unrealistic price and secondly, that you have made an effort to integrate. This shows a respect for the culture which will likely be appreciated and returned. Read more about being a conscientious traveller by brushing up on the travel commandments.

• Start at around half the given price

This is subject to vary in different countries so it is always best to do your research before you travel. I generally think 30-50 percent of the original offer is a good place to start. Don’t offer so low that you insult the vendor but still leave yourself some room for negotiation.

• Buy in bulk

Smiling Chinese market seller after a fun haggling exchange.

If you’re finding it difficult to get the seller to budge on the price, another tactic is to offer more money in exchange for two different items. Buying bulk always results in a better deal.

• Keep it light-hearted

It is easy to become frustrated with the whole haggling process and everyone in it. Remember that the vendors have a job to do and it is in the interests of both parties to reach an agreeable outcome. Even if you don’t quite get the result you want, if the seller remembers you as a friendly visitor with a good sense of humour, they may offer you a good deal if you return.

• Don’t show your hand

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Practice your poker face and never reveal how much you want an item. If you look too keen, you won’t get the best deal. Also, never let the seller get a glimpse of how much cash you have on you. I made that mistake in Vietnam which resulted in all previous dealings being abandoned and the saleswoman exclaiming ‘you can give me fifty, I saw you have in your purse!’

• Exercise your right to walk away

If you are haggling at your hardest and still not making much headway you can just walk away. Just because you started negotiations you are not bound to finish them. Walking away can also be a good tactic to use in the haggling process. I have had people chase me down the street before to accept my last offer rather than lose the custom. Use this tactic with caution as you could unintentionally terminate negotiations if the seller allows you to leave.

Tim with a rather persistent saleswoman in Vietnam. Haggling with her was tough- she drives a hard bargain!

• If they come down to your price, stick to it

If you have been bargaining for a while and the vendor agrees to your original price, it is only fair that you stick to it and pay up. Not to do so is considered disrespectful and a waste of the seller’s time when they could’ve been making a sale elsewhere.

• End amicably

Whilst you undoubtedly want to get a good deal, it is important to remember that this is how the seller makes a living and it is important to ensure they make a profit on what they are selling. Both parties should end discussions feeling happy with the transaction.


What are your top tips when it comes to bargaining?

Master the art of haggling

Love it? Pin it! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Master The Art Of Haggling”

  1. Thanks for these tips. It always feels awkward to me, but these will surely help. I know in many countries it is just part of the shopping process and expected. Thanks for offering a suggested starting point of 30-50%. I never know where to start.

    • Glad you found these tips helpful Gary 🙂 I also felt super awkward when I first attempted to haggle but it does get easier, I promise!

  2. This is so funny. I was just in Mexico and a friend of mine who lives there told me to offer 50% off the asking price. I thought are you sure? Well, I guess she figured I needed help and went in with me. I saw her negotiate the price first hand. I walk out with a dress at a 35% discount and wondering if I could ever do something like that. lol. It was pretty stressful. But I will have another shot at it next week in Peru. Wish me luck!! And thank you for confirming the 50% starting offer, I was a little concerned it was a rude stating place.


Leave a comment