I am not a fan of bargaining at all and I probably have the worst poker face in the world. So, for me, haggling on holidays is nothing but stressful. However, I also don’t want to get ripped off when buying goods at a local market or negotiating prices for taxis or Tuk Tuks. In addition, paying much more than you technically should may lead to a culture of overcharging and inflation, which can throw a developing country’s economy out of balance. Nevertheless, even the poorest traveller is a rich person in the Third World and ruthless haggling is one of the greatest sins of irresponsible travellers.
Therefore, the art of conscientious bargaining on holidays is to be generous to the needy but to haggle hard when someone tries to rip you off.
Our tips for fair and respectful haggling:
Go for a fair deal (not the lowest possible price)
A fair deal implies a fair price, but what is a fair price? So, the frist step to responsible haggling is to have an appropriate price in your mind. Therefore, it helps to compare a few basic prices to develop a feeling for local price levels. It is also useful to find out about income levels to get a better understanding of how much locals can actually afford to pay for a certain item or service (but keep in mind that it’s ok for Westerners to pay a little extra than locals would have to).
Then it gets easier to set in your head how much you are willing to pay for a good or service before you start to bargain.
Be polite and keep it fun
Keeping it fun is hard for someone who just doesn’t get the joy of bargaining. However, being polite is an easy one for all of us. So, just open the conversation with a friendly greeting in the local language (which demonstrates that you’ve made an effort). Take your time and always smile to keep the whole conversation light and fun. Also bear in mind that if you don’t haggle the seller thinks there’s something wrong, so bargaining is definitively the right thing to do.
Don’t suggest the first price
This is super important and a very helpful rule: The first one who says a price, loses. So, let the seller set the price first. Then it’s best to wait until he drops it a few times before you suggest an amount. This tactic helps to avoid opening too high (the vendor will accept with a gleeful smile), or too low (the seller may not even enter into any discussion).
Buy more to get a better deal
The more items you buy, the better deal you will get. So, make sure to look around and pick out a few items and then ask the vendor for the best deal.
If you and the seller cannot agree on a price, it’s time to tell the seller your final offer. Then walk away slowly to gives the seller time to change his mind and call you back.
Don’t keep bargaining once the deal is agreed upon
As soon as you agreed on a deal the haggling game is done. To re-start bargaining all over again is rude and disrespectful.
Sometimes you just won’t agree on a price. Keep cool, shake the trader’s hand and walk away with a friendly face.