Plenty of travelers prefer to just pay the listed price of the item and be done with it, but bargaining a price down is expected in many cultures—especially at flea markets and bazaars, where vendors often inflate prices and expect potential buyers to argue them down.
There’s no better way to awaken your inner haggler than to seek inspiration from someone who not only bargains well but loves to do it. Master haggler Tim Chan, Public Relations Manager at G Adventures, has traveled and shopped around the world. For Chan, haggling isn’t only about getting the best deal. It’s also an opportunity to have a cultural interaction with locals while directly supporting the local economy. Here are his top five tips for turning every shopping negotiation into a worthwhile cultural experience at a great price.
1. Know Your Price
Chan's Advice: "Know how much you’re willing to spend before you engage in a conversation. And between all the back and forth, remember that the difference in price probably translates to a few cents if not dollars."
The Lowdown: By preparing to haggle with a precise value in mind, you'll be in a better position to stand your ground. If you know what you want to buy ahead of time, do your research, comparison shop, and talk to locals. Prices are generally inflated for tourists, so if you know how much a local would pay, you'll have an unexpected advantage. And remember, haggling is not about getting the best price but about getting a fair one.
Related Link: Travel Editors Share the Favorite Thing They Bought on Vacation
2. Be Respectful
Chan's Advice: "While haggling is customary in many countries, keep in mind that for many locals, selling handicrafts and souvenirs is how they earn a living. Getting a fair price is important but you should also be respectful."
The Lowdown: Remember, the person you're haggling with is not your enemy. You should always try to get a fair price, but never forget the person you're haggling with is just doing his or her job. Haggling is a great opportunity to interact and engage with the local community and is a cultural experience in itself.
You Might Also Like: Moral Dilemmas: Should You Do These Things While Traveling?
3. Keep Your Calculator Ready
Chan's Advice: "Depending on where you’re traveling, the language barrier can be a challenge. Although it does force you to be creative and often engage in a game of charades! Having a calculator on-hand can be quite useful."
The Lowdown: These days, anyone with a smartphone has a calculator in their pocket, and it's worth using, both to check conversion rates and to type out a number to show to a vendor if you don't speak the local language. It's also handy to have a currency converting app like XE Currency App, which can calculate every currency in the world even if your phone is offline.
4. Never Go Back on the Price
Chan's Advice: "Never go back on the price you offer and only negotiate if you’re serious about the purchase."
The Lowdown: When it comes to negotiation, both the seller and the buyer should honor the unspoken rules of haggling. If the number you've chosen is a fair price, then stick to it or run the risk of offending the seller and losing his or her respect. The exception to the rule here is if you're bargaining for an item you simply can't walk away from, you may have to be more flexible in your negotiations.
Related Link: 9 Surprising Travel Scams You Need to Know About
5. Know When to Walk Away
Chan's Advice: "Simply say 'no thank you,' ideally in the local language, and walk away."
The Lowdown: If the vendor is stubborn on the price or overly pushy, it's time to take your business elsewhere. Often, vendors will try to sell you more than you came there for, and if you don't know when to walk away, you risk paying an inflated price and leaving with far more than you ever intended to buy.
Besides, you never know when your show of apathy will get you a better deal. Nothing softens a tough negotiator like watching a customer walk out the door.
More from Oyster.com:
- Local Goods You Have to Buy in These 8 Countries
- 8 Surefire Ways to Ruin Your All-Inclusive Vacation
- 5 Unexpected Foodie Destinations Right Now
More from SmarterTravel:
- Top Tips for Bargaining at Europe's Markets
- 10 Places You Never Thought You Could Afford
- Made in Japan: Crazy Souvenirs from Tokyo
Read the original story: A Traveler's Guide to Haggling by Jamie Ditaranto, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.