Perhaps one of the most nerve wracking parts of travelling abroad is attempting to navigate the concept of bartering with stallholders. Deciding on a first offer is the worst; estimate too high and you’ll walk away feeling ripped off, too low, and you risk causing offence. From experience in the markets of Bali and Morocco, I’ve learned to initially offer between 30-50% of the asking price. If you’re planning a trip to any country with a culture of bartering, remember to be polite, respectful, and follow some ground rules.
1. Decide what you want to pay, and stick with it.
Before approaching a stallholder, you should be aware of the common price for what you want to buy. Instead of rushing into a purchase, try to become familiar with the types of goods on offer, the price they usually sell for, and how low a trader is willing to decrease their price. Eavesdrop on other people if you have to.
2. Find your comfort zone.
Figure out what works for you, and stick with it. For example, I found throughout my experiences in Bali and Morocco that bartering with female stall owners is often complicated by language barriers. If you can start a friendly conversation with the stall owner first, it makes the whole experience far less nerve wracking.
3. Don’t be too interested.
Although it goes without saying, as soon as you show keen interest in anything, you lose your bartering power. In Morocco, I wanted to buy a small hand drum to bring home as a gift. I have never had to work so hard to appear largely disinterested, but just interested enough to catch the stall holder’s eye.
4. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
If the stall owner is refusing to lower their price any further, don’t be afraid to politely decline their final offer and walk away. Worst case scenario, you don’t get that bracelet you had your eye on. Best case, the stall owner is willing run after you to make one final reduction of their asking price.
5. There is no ‘right’ price.
As long as you feel comfortable in what you ended up paying, you succeeded.
Featured Image: Shanda Kopp