How to haggle during your travels?

How to haggle during your travels?

“I feel the adrenaline running through my body. Tension rises. “I have to be strong now and not falter…” I say to myself. “Do not falter…” A tall guy stands before me with his head down. You can tell he is thinking. After a while he slowly looks up to me: “7 USD, my final offer.”

One of the things that will help you to save money during your travels is haggling or bargaining. But how to haggle? What is the secret to haggling success? We will give you 10 practical tips to improve your haggling skills!

As you guys may know I mostly traveled in Asia: the best spot to test your haggling skills. However, haggling is almost everywhere possible. You can bargain for your tours, souvenirs and even for accommodation! Here are some basic tips and tricks on ‘How to haggle’!

Don’t be shy, give it a try

Haggling may feel a bit uncomfortable at the beginning. How do I haggle? Where do I haggle? Should I haggle? But don’t worry. In many countries it is common practice and sometimes part of the culture. Haggling is something that you will have to do more often to get a hang of it. Practice is the key. So don’t be shy, give it try!

Do research

Find out what your item approximately costs by asking around at a few shops. And if the item is something you can also buy at a local supermarket, don’t forget to check there. In China they sold mini Chinese calligraphy sets at many of the souvenir stands. However, when I went to the writing department of a large Chinese supermarket I found the exact same calligraphy sets for about 10% of the tourist asking price. You can also ask a local (e.g. a someone from your hostel) for a rough estimate.

Vendors Vietnam
Vendors in Vietnam. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers.

The nonchalance act

Show your interest for more items in the shop, and try not to put too much attention to your ‘selected item’. Put on your best poker face. If you bargain for accommodation, don’t be too enthusiast about the room, just stay neutral (or maybe even point out the flaws).

The ‘This is all I have trick’

Don’t show off with big fat banknotes. Sometimes, it is useful to get out your wallet though (at the end of the bargaining) to show you’re really interested and eager to close the deal. You can also show some small bills and say: ‘This is all I have…’.

The walk-away move

Who doesn’t know the walk-away trick? Act uninterested and slowly walk-away. When the shop-owner calls you back you know there is a good chance you can close the deal. If not, you may have aimed too high.

Bangle shop India. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers.
Bangle shop India. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers.

Respect your ‘haggling competitor’ 

Remember that the person you’re haggling with has a boss or maybe a family and the matching responsibilities. Don’t push it too far and try to create a win-win situation.

Learn the language

It’s very useful to learn some basic sentences and counting in the local language. By (partly) haggling in the local language you will look more informed and furthermore, the shop-owner often will appreciate your effort.

Be happy once you closed a deal

It’s temping to think: Ow, maybe I could have gone lower. Don’t do this! Once you’ve closed a deal be happy with it! Maybe you’ve paid a bit too much (or more than the local price), but it doesn’t matter. You have your item and the vendor has some profit.

Souvenir stall Peru.
Souvenirs Peru. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers.

A deal is a deal

It is not courteous to back off a deal after you have agreed on a price (of course there are exceptions). A deal is a deal. Both the vendor and the seller should stick to it.

Smile. Smile. And smile

Most important tip: Haggling should be fun (for both parties). A smile is therefore highly important! Remain courteous at all times. It’s very important that your ‘haggling opponent’ (the vendor for example) likes you and is willing to help you out. This also goes up the other way round of course! So, don’t take it too seriously :)!

Haggling tips, bargaining tips
How to haggle and bargain. ©Bunch of backpackers

What is your haggling tip? 

Meet 'travel mastermind' Manouk: a 29-year-old sassy girl from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. With BoB she inspires you to explore the world, meet the unexpected and follow your dreams. Happy travels!

15 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Manouk,
    Wat een leuke post! Weglopen is ook een goeie, hihi dan doen ze ‘t vaak alsnog en vragen ze je alsjeblieft terug inderdaad… ook wel eens meegemaakt.
    Ik ga lekker verder neuzen op je site. Lieve Blog groetjes van Mijntje. ^_~

  2. Awesome tips! I am one of those people who aren’t comfortable haggling. I’ve probably been ripped off quite a few times because of that :( might have to pluck up some courage and just go for it next time!

    • Hi Bryna! Just go for it. Be strong ;)! It may also help to bring a more experienced haggler with you. Do it together and you may feel more comfortable!

  3. the only time I think ive tried haggling is when im at garage sales if something seems to much I will ask if they will go for a lower price sometimes it works and sometimes no, if something is too high priced I don’t buy it.

  4. I am hopeless at this after numerous trips to Asia I haven’t improved at all, luckily I have a husband who is excellent at it. Thanks for the tips will see how I go next time :-)

  5. I don’t have any tips for haggling although these were useful (I am useless at it!) however I learnt how to avoid being haggled at by vendors in Burma. Everywhere we went in Bagan they were trying to sell us sand paintings that were all “handmade” and made from sand. We were told they were factory manufactured somewhere and everyone brought them to sell to tourists. Not only were they not hand made they were acrylic. We were hassled the entire time. In the beginning we just said no thank you but we learnt that by saying we had one already they left you alone almost immediately!

  6. Wij, mijn vriend en ik, willen er nog wel eens een heel toneelstuk van maken. Ik wil iets heel graag hebben, hij vind het veel te duur, doet boos, loopt weg.. Ik loop er quasi wanhopig achteraan. Kom weer terug, verontschuldig me enzovoort… Werkt eigenlijk altijd maar dit doen we alleen als we iets heel graag willen hoor… Voor de rest meestal de wegloop truc inderdaad!

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