4 Bargaining Tricks for the Fearless Traveler

Updated on September 25, 2018
AHG maghribia profile image

Bargaining overseas is something I have been doing for 11 years. Through experience, my ability to haggle has grown and strengthened.

After traveling to 30 countries and living in a fair few of them, I have picked up several tricks for haggling like a pro. Whether I am buying a carpet in the Rabat medina or purchasing a sari in Jaipur, India, I use tactics guaranteed to get me the best deal on quality products. Here are my top four tips for bargaining.

1. Give the Right First Impression

First impressions are important. They give the store owner a sense of how confident you will be when getting down to brass tacks.

Here are a few ways to give off the right attitude when haggling:

  • When you enter the store, don't give the cold shoulder. Even if you don't know the language, offer a smile or nod. Nonverbal communication can be just as important as verbal communication.
  • Don't show too much excitement for the product you have your eye on.
  • Use a strong voice when you ask about the price.
  • Stand up straight and make eye contact.

Remember, there is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. Most human beings don't respond well to aggression, and things can get messy if you come out of the gate too strong. That is the last thing you want when trying to establish a healthy rapport between you and the shopkeeper.

Moroccan mul hanuts (store owners) are a huge part of any community.  They are always helpful and try to help with anything you may need. This mul hanut keeps watch over his shop in Ifrane.
Moroccan mul hanuts (store owners) are a huge part of any community. They are always helpful and try to help with anything you may need. This mul hanut keeps watch over his shop in Ifrane.
Sardine sandwiches are popular in Morocco.  They can be bought for 2 Durhams (21 cents) at a local shop. Tomato sauce, olives and harissa (a spicy condiment with red pepper flakes) usually accompany the fish.
Sardine sandwiches are popular in Morocco. They can be bought for 2 Durhams (21 cents) at a local shop. Tomato sauce, olives and harissa (a spicy condiment with red pepper flakes) usually accompany the fish.

2. Do Your Research Beforehand

Before you walk into any bargaining standoff, make sure you are prepared. Doing your research ahead of time can save you a pretty penny when it comes to the main event. Here are a few things you can do to make sure the odds are in your favor.

Get the local perspective.

Talk to locals and see how much they paid for the product you are looking for. If you know that a local has paid a fraction of the price you've been quoted, you can challenge the shopkeeper on it.

Learn a bit of the local language.

Challenge your brain and try to learn some basic phrases and numbers in the local language. On top of coming across as more knowledgeable, you may receive better treatment from the shopkeeper, as most people generally appreciate attempts to learn their language (even if you only master a few words).

Bring small bills with you.

This strategy works twofold. Firstly, getting change can be a hassle for the shopkeeper. Secondly, you can use small change for the "I only have this much" tactic.

For example, let us say I want to buy a leather jacket. I go to the souq (market) and see one I like. I only want to spend 450 Durhams maximum on the jacket, so I count out exact change and stick the rest in a zipper pocket away from prying eyes. The shopkeeper says it costs 600 Durhams (about 60 USD). This price is a bit high, so I make sure the store owner sees I only have 450 Durhams on me. This tactic is a bit deceptive, but it has a high success rate.

Morocco knows its textiles.  Ifrane, Azrou and Chefchouan have wowed the world with their creations.  Larger cities like Rabat and Fez also have stunning carpets and rugs in the medinas.
Morocco knows its textiles. Ifrane, Azrou and Chefchouan have wowed the world with their creations. Larger cities like Rabat and Fez also have stunning carpets and rugs in the medinas.
More treasures to bargain for.
More treasures to bargain for.

3. Employ Smart Bargaining Tactics

Haggling can feel daunting in the heat of the moment, but these strategies will give you a serious edge and help you get the best bargain.

Cut the price in half.

As a general rule, cut the original price in half and see if it's a go. If that doesn't work, propose a slightly higher price. It's always better to start low and increase as you go.

Mention price quotes from other shops.

This is a devious one, but it tends to work. Mention that another shop quoted a lower price for the same product. You can also say your _____ (insert nationality here according to where you are traveling) friend bought the same product for less.

Be honest about the products.

Point out any flaws in the merchandise. Doing this (kindly) might lead to a discounted price.

If you have the language skills, wait to speak.

See if any locals come into the shop looking for the same thing. Once you know how much a local would pay, you can make sure you are paying the same.

Don't let yourself get rushed.

When some store owners see their customer wavering, they try to speed up the sale by stating a price and pulling out the wrapping paper. Don't let the tissue paper and ribbon distract you from the goal. Stay focused and stick to your price.

Buy in bulk if you can.

You are more likely to get a good deal if you purchase more than one product from the same place.

Know when to walk away.

If all else fails, walk away. There is a 50/50 chance of success with this tactic. Some shopkeepers will run after you, others won't.

4. Be Confident and Courteous

Many people make their living from tourist sales, and for lots of them, this is their sole income. Yes, the price is usually inflated for tourists and you should haggle it down, but don't be unreasonable. Give the shopkeepers the respect and courtesy they deserve.

Sidenote on Moroccan Markets

If you are walking through the market, you may see a wooden or metal bar across the entrance to some shops. This usually means the shopkeeper is at mosque and won't be back for some time.

Produce has never been fresher or more organic.  Markets offer a fantastic array of cheap vegetables and fruits.
Produce has never been fresher or more organic. Markets offer a fantastic array of cheap vegetables and fruits.
A van delivering supplies to a local shop.
A van delivering supplies to a local shop.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Adelia Maghribia

    Comments

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      • AHG maghribia profile imageAUTHOR

        Adelia Maghribia 

        20 months ago from Morocco

        Thnxs! I always ask around before buying.

      • nilzamarie profile image

        Nilza Marie Santana-Castillo 

        20 months ago from California

        Great tip suggesting to talk to locals and inquire what they pay for the price. Better chance of determining the most reasonable asking price.

      • AHG maghribia profile imageAUTHOR

        Adelia Maghribia 

        21 months ago from Morocco

        A great suggestion!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        21 months ago from UK

        Having visited the medinas of Sousse and Tunis, I can see that you give useful tips. I wondered at first from your title if you were going to also give tips on how to get great travel deals. Maybe that's a subject for another hub.

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