One of the most important things we’ve learned in our travels, particularly our budget traveling, has been the value and art of bargaining: confident and shameless yet strategic bargaining. Backpacking around the world has shown us that there’s always a better deal than what you’re offered, and if the locals can get it, so can you! (Ok, maybe not the same deal, but close!) Bargaining isn’t just about the price though- it’s a cultural institution around here.
So- How do you haggle like a pro?
Successful bargaining is an art, no doubt,and traveling on a budget and bargaining go hand in hand. Bargaining revolves around the mutual understanding that everyone wants the best deal, it’s just a matter of who’s most willing to ask for it. Both the seller and buyer should feel satisfied with the end price and enjoy the game along the way.
It’s another way to experience local daily life and throw yourself into the mix of things, while also making the most of traveling on a budget. As you haggle for that beaded llama keychain you don’t even need you’ll make brief and wonderful connections with the people you meet, get the thrill of interacting with locals in markets, and see why the backpacker mindset helps any traveler, budget or not, get the most out of their experience. So let’s all appreciate the art of the haggle, and let us show you how to bargain like a pro!
Just keep in mind- if you’re dealing with the person who actually made the item you want to buy, don’t belittle the workmanship in order to get a discount. The general rule on all items is to take the approach that you appreciate it and want it, but can’t afford the current price. Even when things already seem dirt cheap- the vendor is anticipating the haggling dance, don’t let them down! (And if you’re backpacking on a budget, those dirt cheap gifts have a sneaky way of adding up!)
After bargaining across the world, we’ve rounded up our best tips for you so you can go get that authentic baby alpaca sweater for cheap and have your local moment on a budget. Go get ’em!
Be Strategic with Your Money
Change. Bring small bills and have it separated so when you see what you want and have a price in mind you can always fall back on “this is all the cash I have”. Also, don’t bargain something from $10 down to $7, then give them a $10 and expect your change. Rookie mistake.
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Always smile and talk with the vendors, it only takes a couple minutes to make a friendship as you shop around and they may throw in a few free things with your purchase (and you’re guaranteed to meet someone interesting, or entertaining at the very least).
Take Your Time
Never buy right away! Look at other places, other versions, and if you don’t find a better deal you can always return. Play hard to get! (Also, mentioning the neighboring stalls’ cheaper prices will help you get a better price).
Have a Friend
Team up- It’s great to have a friend to give you advice, to weigh in if you’re being ripped off, and to “notice a lower price a few stalls down” just as you’re about to complete the sale. The vendor will be so ready to sell it, they’ll usually just offer you the lower price your friend just “saw” (or actually saw).
(Also- Markets everywhere are crowded tight spaces with a lot going on, it’s easy to miss someone pickpocketing you if you’re alone and digging through piles of coinpurses for the “perfect one”, so friends are useful on that front as well).
Buy in Bulk
When you decide to buy, try to localize your shopping. Instead of buying clothes for yourself at one place, souvenirs for the family at a second, and last minute keychains at a third, find a place with everything you want. Bargain per unit first, then make it clear how many things total you want (and do some mental math before you do). Suggest a total price that is lower than the individual bargained for prices, emphasizing how much you’re buying. Another reason to shop with friends!
Be Quick to Offer
When you hear the price you’ve been waiting for, get your cash out instantly. Some vendors try to take it back, or start increasing again, so when you hear it, buy it
You have to get a little bold here, this is the most difficult, but effective, strategy. Even if you’re hopelessly in love with something and it’s the perfect color no other vendor has, if the price is still to high you need to walk away. Walk to other stalls. Criss cross back past the original stall a couple times, make sure they see you checking out the competition. You wouldn’t believe the number of times we’ve been called, even begged, back
Now go haggle your way through every local market you can find!
We hope our tips can help you avoid tourist traps and higher prices- you’re a seasoned traveler (or at least ready to act like it), so you know that with some tricks and humor, you can travel local style and enjoy the benefits.