10 Top Tips: Haggle like a pro and grab yourself a bargain

Love it or hate it, haggling is part of the travelling experience. 

We are sometimes afraid or timid of standing our ground and fight for a bargain. With a few simple techniques you will be haggling with the best of them and grabbing yourself the triumph of a great purchase.

Haggling takes time to master and needs some simple techniques to ensure you get the bargain you want. We are generally in a hurry in the UK, so paying the asking price without question is quick and easy, and requires very little interaction with the shop assistant.

Firstly, it's important to accept that haggling is part of life and culture in many countries. In some of the destinations we travel to, like MoroccoTanzania and India it will be essential to haggle for a bargain in order to bring home those 'must have' travel gifts for loved ones.

There are a few easy steps to take when haggling to ensure that even the most timid of traveller will triumph in getting a bargain. And, importantly, the vendor also makes a profit, creating a win-win situation. 

TIP #1 - Get prepared

Learn some local words and phrases:

  • How much is this? 
  • Please and Thank You
  • That is expensive 
  • Simple numbers 1, 2, 3 for buying multiples of an item

Knowing some simple words will open the door to a friendly conversation with the vendor and you will not come over as a rude traveller. Just shouting loudly and waving your hands does not make you look good or make you a good haggler! 

TIP #2 - Do your research

Have a good look around at the other shops and stalls and see if the item is available anywhere else. This means you can happily walk away from that 'must have' item knowing you can get it elsewhere. If you able to find out how much it is selling for in other shops, this will help your negotiations too.

TIP #3 - Be cool

The 3 rules to haggling are:

  1. Be cool 
  2. Remember it might not go to plan 
  3. If rule 2 happens, refer to rule 1

Haggling is a fun and educational interaction with local people. Do not look too interested in the item. The vendor will pick up on this body language and may use it tho their advantage. Often when buying more expensive items the vendor may offer a drink and a seat. Take them up on the offer. You're still not obliged to buy from them. 

Also, there is no need to be argressive or lose your cool. If you are not happy with the way the haggling is going, walk away. 

TIP #4 - Wait for the vendor to offer the first price

Aways wait until the vendor offers the first price. If you've acted cool and not too eager for the item, you would hope their first price would be something reasonable.  Do not jump in and accept the offer or even begin the haggling process. Be cool and contemplate the offer for a bit and then show them your best 'meh' face, shrug the shoulders and give that look of 'you and I both know that's too expensive'. 

Now the game has begun!

TIP #5 - Be honest with yourself

The item you are buying is only worth what you are prepared to pay for it. If it is a 'one off' item that you absolutely love then you may be happy to pay a little more. Conversely, the vendor will also know that they have a 'one off' item and may charge more. Know in your mind what you are willing to pay for the item. Ask yourself 'would I be happy to pay the asking price for this item?' or 'Would I be annoyed that I was ripped off for this item?'.

TIP #6 - Start the bidding

Once you have in your mind what you are willing to pay and the vendor has set their asking price, you can now begin the haggle. A good starting point is a midway price. i.e. if the vendor offers £20 you start the haggle at £10 and you'd expect to settle on approx. £15. However, you may well get a better price if you are willing to buy multiple items.

TIP #7 - Be careful with your money

Under no circumstances get your money out until you are ready to buy. If the vendor sees how much money you have they may well bump the price up! When it is time to buy, I always go to the corner of the stall or somewhere private to take my money out. Getting a wedge of cash out is a beacon and can make you a target for fraud and theft!

Always carry small notes too. Often the vendor will say they do not have change if you offer them a large note. 

Another technique is to carry in your hand the amount you are willing to spend on an item. You can then say to the vendor that 'this is all I have', they are then more likely to take the sale. This works especially well on cheap, small items.

TIP #8 - Be prepared to walk away

So you have been in the shop for 5 minutes negotiating and neither party is willing to budge on the price. It's time to think about walking away.

Remember, you have already done your homework so you know you can get the item elsewhere. Take the opportunity to tell the vendor you have seen the item in one of their competitor's shops and start walking. Either they will chase after you and offer you their final cheapest price, or they will let you walk. If they let you walk you know you were bidding too low and this will be great information for when you start the process of again in the next shop.

TIP #9 - Be fair, respectful and friendly

The vendor is trying to make a living. Quite often their daily income is tiny, so to have a sale from a tourist at a slightly inflated rate will make their day. If you enter into negotiations knowing, and being happy, that you will not be paying the same price as a local would, you can relax and enjoy getting what will still be a bargain to you. This purchase is a tiny part of your travelling experience afterall.

Be light hearted and enjoy the process. There is no doubt that haggling at the end of the day when you are hot, tired and just want to sit down is not a great experience and can be frustrating. But that's not the vendor's fault. Play the game with them, chat and enjoy the banter and you will have an enriching cultural experience.

TIP #10 - Enjoy!!!

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