HOW TO BARGAIN ON YOUR TRAVELS: 17 ESSENTIAL BARGAINING TIPS

“Just have a look!”
“Looking is free my friend! Come inside.”
“I have a good price for you my friend! Cheap cheap!”

And so it begins.

Bargaining. An unavoidable part of traveling.
If you’ve ever traveled beyond your home country, you know that almost everything is different when it comes to the way people spend money. Instead of simply paying for items, you have to negotiate a fair price for goods and services.

Price haggling is a necessary evil. It is part of the experience. Something you will come across if you travel to Africa, Asia, Latin or South America, and even Europe. Bargaining for the price is one of those things that you either love or absolutely hate.

Bargaining is like a discussion with a friend about deciding which pizza to order. Having a conversation about it, making a few compromises, and finding a solution that will be acceptable for you and your friend.

But how to bargain?
How low can my haggling offer be?

It may sound intimidating at first. But it is not as scary as you might think. The good news is that bargaining is a skill that everyone can master. And it comes in handy everywhere in the world. Heck, it comes in useful in day-to-day life too. The only thing you need is to practice a few strategies beforehand and follow some simple rules while shopping.

This is why this travel bargaining guide is for. To give you a list of essential bargaining tips every traveler needs to know. It will teach you how to bargain on your travels and haggle like a pro next time abroad. On my previous travels in Turkey, Morocco, Tanzania and Dubai, I learned that the key is to think about it as a game. Like a discussion with a friend about a good price. Where both of you are happy with the end result.

Below is a collection of the best ways to bargain when traveling, absorbed from previous travels, that can be applied anywhere in the World.

Want more Travel tips?
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How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

Know where to bargain

“You know you should bargain here, right?”
This was a response from a friendly guy I met on a beach in Jambiani, Zanzibar. I was asking for a tour price for sailing on a dhow boat. He told me the price and I just said ok.

Zanzibar is a place where you will get ripped off over anything and everything.
Like in many Middle Eastern countries. And if you don’t bargain, well, then you will pay a lot more than what you were supposed to. Bargaining for the prices and haggling is expected in many places around the world. It is an integrated part of their culture.

Haggling is appropriate when visiting souk in Morocco and Egypt or buying gold in a gold souk in Dubai. It is welcomed when shopping in bazaars in Istanbul or India, or when visiting souvenir stands in Spain, Greece, or Croatia. Negotiating for the prices is also expected when getting lost in the UNESCO World Heritage city Stone Town, getting a fair price for accommodation and tours in Thailand or the Philippines, or when purchasing a sombrero hat in Mexico. You can also bargain if you are shopping for the latest iPhone in Tenerife, buying a cute magnet in Jordan, or buying a portion of food at a food stand in Laos.

Bargaining for the prices is expected and accepted in many places around the world. It is an integrated part of their culture.

In other parts of the world, negotiating for a price is not something you should do. Like in Sweeden, Norway, Japan, or USA.

A quick search on Google (like “how to bargain in [destination]” or “should I bargain in [destination]”) will tell you if bargaining is part of everyday life in a place where you are going. You can also search for information on travel forums like TripAdvisor or Fodors. And even if you don’t do any research in advance, you will see if it is OK once at the destination. Just note, that even when bargaining is a norm, there are places where you don’t do it. Depending on where you are in the world, there are different things that are negotiable. In Peru, for example, you can bargain in markets but not for food. In Laos, you can bargain for food. You should not bargain where prices are clearly marked. Like supermarkets, restaurants, branded boutiques, shopping malls, or entry tickets.

Below you will find bargaining tips for the markets so you can master the art of haggling. 

These bargaining tips might come in handy later! Don’t you think?! So save them.

How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

1. Learn from locals

In countries where bargaining is a way of life tourists almost always pay more. Because tourists are linked to wealth and money. Instead of being another ‘gringo’ or ‘mzungu’ that will just get ripped off, do a little bit of research. If you have your eyes set on something you would really like to buy, ask locals for a price reference. You can learn from taxi drivers, tour guides, staff at the accommodation, bartenders …

Politely ask them;
• “How much would you pay for …”,
• “What is a local price for …”,
• “What is a fair price for …”.

You will get a price reference. In many cases, it will be extremely hard to get a local price, but it is a great starting point for negotiating.

2. Buy goods towards the end of your trip

Whatever you do, don’t get carried away with excitement and buy everything on the first or second day. Even seasoned travelers look lost when they arrive at a new destination. Use that time to observe, casually browse and learn from locals. Or ask other tourists for advice. That information will give you an advantage when bargaining later on.

In Zanzibar, for example, I really wanted to buy wooden figures of African animals. A collection of the great 5 and a couple of others; from lion, hippo, leopard, to giraffe, buffalo, tortoise … Before I visited markets in Stone Town, I was asking around about the prices. Price on souvenir stands was from $7-$10 per piece. Then I asked locals how much they would pay and they said $2. In a shop with a fixed price, one animal was $4 (problem was, that they didn’t have all of them). In the end, I bought them in three different shops. I ended up paying $3 or $4 dollars, per animal.

Pin those for a later read!

How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

3. Dress for success

One of the important bargaining tips for the markets is to dress accordingly. You are going to a market, not on a fashion show. Leave your best clothes and jewelry behind and dress according to cultural standards. If this means covering your knees and shoulders, do exactly that. Don’t come to the market dressed in shorts and a revealing tank top. Because as soon as you will ask for the price, it will be much higher than usual. Reasons, lack of cultural respect or simply looking to wealthy.

4. Use words in a local language

Another bargaining trick is to learn a few words in local language. Speaking local language will show that you care about the locals and local culture. And they will appreciate it. I can confirm this since I am always very impressed when a person knows a word or two in my mother tongue.

This doesn’t mean you have to be fluent. It means you know a few basic phrases in a language of a country you are visiting. Like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Or even ‘hi’ or “hello” when you enter a shop. When bargaining more useful phrases are ‘how much’, and ‘this is very expensive’. It will not harm to know words for the numbers. Beside those, I always learn how to say “you have a nice smile”. It is a great icebreaker and it might get you a better price.  

In Zanzibar for example, I was always asking for a ‘Rafiki price’ (Rafiki = friend in Swahili) or ‘ghali sana’ which means very expensive. In Arab speaking countries I used ‘Habibi’ (habibi = beloved in Arabic) a lot. Using local language shows that you care.

Which pin do you like more? Left or right? Ok, now pin that one.

How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill that anyone can master. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn and will benefit you when visiting souks in Middle East, bazaars in Turkey and markets in Dubai or Mexico. Learn the essential tips from Anja On Adventure every traveler should know when traveling abroad. | bargaining | haggling | Middle East | souk | bazaar | #Morocco #Dubai #Istanbul #bargainingguide #hagglightips

5. Always wear a smile (it looks good on you)

One of the best bargaining tips is actually the easiest one. Smile. It costs you nothing.

Having a smile on your face instantly makes you friendlier and more open. And we all know sweetness wins every time. You should wear it before, during and after bargaining. When approaching the vendor it helps to connect. During negotiations, it eases the pressure and establishes trust. And after it shows happiness with the agreed deal.

As mentioned in the beginning, bargaining is like having a conversation with a friend. Like deciding which pizza to order and finding a solution that will be beneficial for both parties. The goal is to help each other out by finding the best price you are willing to pay, and the offer a seller is willing to accept. So, when you come to the vendor, come with honey. Not with vinegar.

6. Compliment the seller and the shop

A really simple bargaining tip that many overlook. I mean, we all like to hear compliments. So, why not use it to your advantage. Remember, mentioned earlier, that I learn how to say ‘you have a nice smile’ in a local language? And that you should always wear a smile? See where I am going … A little bit of charm will get you a long way. Phrases like “you seem like a very lovely guy”, “no wonder your shop looks so great if YOU are taking care of it” … Plus, phrases how you can compliment their shop “I like how you have …”.

Pin those for a later read!

How to bargain on your travels is a skill that anyone can master. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn and will benefit you when visiting souks in Middle East, bazaars in Turkey and markets in Dubai or Mexico. Learn the essential tips from Anja On Adventure every traveler should know when traveling abroad. | bargaining | haggling | Middle East | souk | bazaar | #Morocco #Dubai #Istanbul #bargainingguide #hagglightips
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

7. Have a poker face

Having a poker face means you don’t show if you are interested in something. Don’t show that you really want to buy a certain thing. Point flaws, why you might not need it and point on other merchants. You don’t want to show enthusiasm, even if you REALLY want a certain item.

As soon as they notice you are searching for a specific item, the word will spread out. And once it is out, you won’t be able to negotiate or get a good price for it. Simply because the sellers know that you want it and will pay a lot for it. Simple as that. 

This happened to my aunt in China. She was looking for a necklace with a dragon pendant and asked a few shop owners if they have it. It didn’t take long for the whole market to know she really wants one. Soon, all the sellers in the building were searching for a dragon pendant. And they found it of course. And the price was over the roof and no ‘discounts’ available. She bought it anyway.

The second example happened to my cousin on her travels to Tenerife. They were just browsing for an Apple iPad and searching for a good deal. She wanted a white one. The seller at the beginning of the shopping street didn’t have one. But … the one at the end of it was already waiting for them with 2 white iPads. You get the picture.

Time is money when bargaining. More time you are willing to invest in the bargaining process, more respect you will earn and the lower your price can be.

8. Don’t say the price first

This might just be the most important bargaining tip there is. Don’t say the price first. Always wait for the seller to tell you how much something costs. Why? If you, as a buyer, tell your offer first, you lose. After that, you won’t be able to buy that product or service for a lower price. If the seller tells the offer first, you will not pay more than his initial offer. Which gives you a wide-open door for negotiating a deal.

Pin those for later!

How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill that anyone can master. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn and will benefit you when visiting souks in Middle East, bazaars in Turkey and markets in Dubai or Mexico. Learn the essential tips from Anja On Adventure every traveler should know when traveling abroad. | bargaining | haggling | Middle East | souk | bazaar | #Morocco #Dubai #Istanbul #bargainingguide #hagglightips

9. Take your time

Time is money or even better more time is less money. More time you are willing to invest in the bargaining process, more respect you will earn and the lower your price can be. Longer the process, the greater the discount. So patience is the key. Even if you are in a hurry and even if you want to get out of those shops, because you know, bargaining is just SO exhausting. Don’t show it! Trust me, shop vendors are pros and they can smell if someone is in a rush. They will just wait and put pressure on you and your money. Better for them. So, take your time and you will be rewarded. The longer you are willing to bargain, better price you get at the end. 

It is good to acknowledge that you will get better deals at closing time. Sellers will be happy to make another sale before they leave. This might also depend on how many other transactions there were made in a day.

Depending on the location, opening times are usually not the best times to get a “special price”. Many sellers might be superstitious, thinking the first sale brings good luck for the day.

10. Set your starting price low

When a seller presents an offer, start with a way lower price than the item is worth. Not with the amount you are willing to pay. Lower than that. This gives you a price buffer. A room for negotiation and climbing up to the price you actually want to pay. The idea is that you and a seller will meet somewhere in the middle of his and your offer.

If a seller says the item is worth $10 and you want to pay $5, start with $2. By increasing the price you are willing to pay, you will show that you are interested in buying and making a compromise with the seller.

Just in case, so you won’t forget! Pin those.

How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill that anyone can master. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn and will benefit you when visiting souks in Middle East, bazaars in Turkey and markets in Dubai or Mexico. Learn the essential tips from Anja On Adventure every traveler should know when traveling abroad. | bargaining | haggling | Middle East | souk | bazaar | #Morocco #Dubai #Istanbul #bargainingguide #hagglightips

11. Tell a story: a bit of drama and a lot of comedy

Bargaining is time-consuming. It is a marathon, not a sprint. So when negotiating for a fair price, be prepared for dramatic inserts. You might come across phrases “you don’t want to support local economy”, “my product are from a better material than the ones next door”, “my kids won’t have anything to eat”,  or something similar to that. They are trying to tell you their story, to play on your emotions. So you will make sorry for them.

And you want to do the same. You want to make them relate to you. To feel sorry for you. So you can use all sorts of phrases “my family will disown me if I spent $XXX dollars for a magnet”, “this is my last day, X amount is all I have left”, “I already bought an item like this in a place X for that much”, “I have been in [country] for so long, that I know this is not a fair price” … They are all tried and tested. Use them in appropriate situations and add a few of your own.

12. Add an extra item

It might not seem logical but buying more can get you an extra discount. During bargaining, you could also ask for an additional item. Like a bonus included in the price. The more you buy, better rate you can ask and negotiate an extra discount. You could ask something like “What if I buy three of them?” or “What if I buy this and this?”. It gives you more negotiating space. And if you are not satisfied with the offer you can still opt out for only one.

Pinning is winning and sharing is caring!

How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

13. Stay silent for while

Staying silent can be awkward. Especially in a situation like bargaining when both sides should actively participate. But, not saying a word and just ‘thinking’  and being hesitant can be an extremely powerful tool. If the silence is too long, you just have the need to fill the void. Don’t. It is the same as in the beginning of the negotiation. The person who speaks first loses. Be quiet, so the seller might say yes to your offer to break the silence.

14. Walk away and say you will look around

Bargaining will not always go as desired. In those cases it is nothing wrong to say “Thank you, I will look around” and walk away.  Even if you LOVE the item, be prepared to leave. In many instances, the seller will be willing to drop the price than let a potential customer go. However, even if the seller doesn’t lower the price and you actually walk out, walk away from it and start browsing in other shops. The vendor might come after you and accept your initial offer. When that happens, you succeeded! And the next appropriate thing is to buy the item.

When bargaining, wear a smile and a poker face.

15. Don’t show you money until you agree on a price

You are bargaining. You can’t be telling stuff like “I only have $5 dollars left” and then opening your wallet full of $10s. It will diminish all your bargaining hard work. If you look like you have a lot, the offer they will give you will be according to that. It really is common sense. Don’t you think?

The exception to this would be, to show your money when the amount of cash actually is all you have left. If you want to pay $10 for a bag, show an empty wallet with only $10 in it saying “this is all I have left”. 

Another essential bargaining tip is to only keep small bills in your wallet. Prepare them before visiting markets. IT will be easier to bargain, and you will have exact cash on you. Plus you won’t get tricked away when the seller might mention that they don’t have change so you would have to pay more.

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How to bargain on your travels is a skill that anyone can master. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn and will benefit you when visiting souks in Middle East, bazaars in Turkey and markets in Dubai or Mexico. Learn the essential tips from Anja On Adventure every traveler should know when traveling abroad. | bargaining | haggling | Middle East | souk | bazaar | #Morocco #Dubai #Istanbul #bargainingguide #hagglightips
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

16. It’s a game of chess but not a poker

When you and the seller agree on a price that is good for them and great for you, you should keep your word and buy an item. Not doing so will be a sign of huge disrespect to the seller. It is a game of moves and countermoves, but once it is done, you can not call it a bluff. Be respectful and keep your word. To avoid this the best thing to do is to bargain only for the items you really want to purchase.

17. At the end, you are friends again

Once the haggling is over, and you and the vendor agree on the outcome, you are friends again. It can end with agreeing on the price or not coming out to a deal. When the bargaining is over there are no hard feelings. You and the vendor are friends again.

All of the above in a nutshell

Bargaining for the prices and haggling is expected and accepted in many places in the world. It is a skill that can get you a good deal on something you want. Learning how to bargain is always nice, especially if it gives you the feeling that you are not getting ripped off.

While negotiating for a fair price might seem intimidating at first, it’s actually one of the easiest ways to get a good deal on something. You have to approach it like a game of chess with offers and counteroffers. To get the best deal follow the negotiating tips shared in the travel bargaining guide. Like wearing a smile and keeping your poker face on. Learning a few words in a local language is another bargaining tip that will help you get a fair price on goods. If you’re going away for a long time and not just a few days, it’s always great to do a bit of research. To not buy anything on the first day but learn and observe about the prices of the items you are interested in.

Using bargaining tricks will help you get a better price at souvenir stands at markets, rug shops, to negotiating lower prices on hotels and guided tours, or getting close to local rates on food stands and transportation.

Pinning is winning and sharing is caring!

How to bargain on your travels is a skill that anyone can master. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn and will benefit you when visiting souks in Middle East, bazaars in Turkey and markets in Dubai or Mexico. Learn the essential tips from Anja On Adventure every traveler should know when traveling abroad. | bargaining | haggling | Middle East | souk | bazaar | #Morocco #Dubai #Istanbul #bargainingguide #hagglightips
How to bargain on your travels is a skill. You have to follow travel bargaining guide with essential bargaining tips and get a fair price in markets & souks.

Want more Travel tips?
ALSO READ:
13 EASY WAYS TO MAKE YOU MORE SUSTAINABLE TRAVELER
GET OVER JET LAG WITH THESE 19 EASY-TO-FOLLOW TIPS

Interested in Destination content?
ALSO READ:

ZANZIBAR COST OF TRAVEL AND DETAILED BUDGET BREAKDOWN
31 BURJ KHALIFA FACTS: SURPRISING, INTERESTING, AND STUNNING

Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources;

FLIGHTS: I use Google Flights or Skyscanner to find the best flight deals. The destination everywhere feature is perfect to find some cheap deals!

ACCOMMODATION: Booking.com is my favorite site for finding great hotel deals.

TOURS & ACTIVITIES: I like to wander around on my own, but when I want to explore with a group I book a tour with GetYourGuide.


Skipped to the good part? Here is the gist

How to bargain on your travels is a skill and not as scary as you think. You have to follow bargaining tips for the markets and use a few strategies. They are easy to learn. From taking your time, to not showing and enthusiasm. Good news is that all the essential bargaining tips can bee mastered. Haggling for the price is one of those things that the more you do it, easier and more fun it gets. When a travel bargaining guide is used in the right way, you will be able to negotiate a fair price for a souvenir, spice mix, tour, accommodation, or transport rate. You will be haggling like a pro in no time.

I hope the essential bargaining tips will help you to bargain in the markets.

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About Anja On Adventure

anja on Adventure

Anja On Adventure is a travel blog, a collection of insider tips and information on destinations, that I visited as a solo female traveler, tour guide, teacher, yacht stewardess, and Survivor challenge tester.

Anja, is a thirty-something adventure-seeking, sun chasing, beach hopping, gin-loving, tropics enthusiast with a creative mind and sarcastic spirit, who loves coconut and mango but doesn’t like chocolate and sweets. I am passionate about all things travel, maps, and puzzles. Click here to learn more About me.

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17 thoughts on “HOW TO BARGAIN ON YOUR TRAVELS: 17 ESSENTIAL BARGAINING TIPS”

  1. Thanks for the tips!
    I always find bargaining a bit stressful, especially when I’m not used to the currency conversion yet 🤣

    Reply
    • Yes! Conversion is the worst! That is why it helps to bargain at the end of your trip, when you have a ‘better feeling of it’

      Reply
  2. You make so many good points and give great advice! It really is about understanding how to do it and be confident. Thanks for all the info!

    Reply
  3. It’s a little intimidating when you first start bargaining. But your tips are informative and I cannot wait to put them to good use!

    Reply
  4. In Jerusalem, I was once guilted into buying some earrings I didn’t even want, just because I was being ‘too nice’. I would say never let the vendor put something in your hand – -if you’re like me, you don’t want to be rude. And if you’re not comfortable with it, or with bargaining, you can end up paying a lot for something.

    Reply
    • Haven’t been there, but they can be aggressive sometimes! I think the pandemic helped with putting things in someone’s hand but they can really annoying even if you just look at something for too long. I guess you get a tougher skin the more time you do it.

      Reply
  5. I kinda love bargaining when I travel (to places where it is appropriate). At first I was a little nervous but after living in China for 2 years it became second nature, especially as a foreigner I knew that I was still going to pay more in the end than a local so I might as well do it to get the prices down a bit

    Reply
  6. I think I need to have this post in my “reminders” on my phone so that I could easily access it when traveling and shopping. So many great ideas. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hahaha 🙂 thank you! They are all common sense, but when you are on a souk and 10 vendors are trying to sell you something it is hard to remember what to do and don’t do. you got this

      Reply
  7. This is great! I love all the tips and will be sure to implement them on my next trip, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  8. Yessss. My mom is an absolute master at bargaining so I’m still just learning from her, haha. I’m good at the pretending I’m not interested and saying I’ll go look around first, but not so great at starting off with a suuuuper low offer. Great tips!

    Reply

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