Tips on How To Barter

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Wondering how to haggle? After twenty plus years of travelling solo, I’ve lost count of the times where I’ve haggled in at a market stall or even with a taxi driver who was trying to rip me off! If you’re unsure how to do it, I share my tips on how to barter below. 

In some countries, bartering is part of the culture, and many locals enjoy haggling with tourists. Bartering, or haggling, is a way of obtaining an item for less than it is offered. The seller starts with a high price, and you start with a low one, and you both end up with a price in between.

If you’ve never tried it before, you may not think that you’re a natural but don’t let that stop you trying. Before you try, check that you can barter in the country first. Even if it’s a country where you are expected to barter only do so on market stalls or souks for items such as souvenirs or clothes. If it has a price tag, then generally, it’s a fixed price.

Bartering is meant to be fun but only start bartering if you really want to buy something. It is bad manners to decide that you then don’t want it after you’ve agreed on a price. There may be a local’s price and a tourist price so be prepared to pay more than a local.

Most importantly, don’t feel obliged to buy something if you really don’t want it (I have done this before). It may be “free” to look but don’t let them make you feel guilty for not wanting to buy. 

N.b. If you’re ready to plan your solo trip but are unsure how to do it, read my how to plan a solo trip article. 

Tips Before You Barter

  • Know the exchange rate for the currency so you don’t get confused. I use this currency app that you can use offline. 
  • Make sure you know the amount of what you want to buy beforehand. You can walk around and browse other stalls to get a rough price.
  • Set the maximum price that you want to pay for the item and try not to go over it.
  • Keep only what you want to pay in your purse. Hide the rest of your money somewhere else so that the seller doesn’t see that you have more and can pay a higher price. 
  • Go lower than you want to pay then work up to your chosen amount.
  • Start with at least a third of the original price. You could even go as low as a quarter.
  • Only look at things that you’re interested in buying.
  • Don’t act desperate as they will think that you really want the item and know that you’re prepared to pay more.
  • You can try for a bigger discount if you want more than one item.
  • Don’t get annoyed with the seller as bartering is all in good humour but don’t forget that $2 may be a lot to them. This is still their livelihood. 
  • Smile when you’re doing it.

Tips on how to barter

Tips on How To Barter

Make sure the seller is up for bartering. If they say it is a certain price (fixed price) and are not prepared to haggle then don’t push it. You can tell by their expression if they are serious or not.

Say you’ve decided to not pay more than $5. Here’s how you haggle for that price:

  • Go to the stall, look at what you’re interested in then either pick it up or point at it and ask how much it is. They will soon come over to you if they are not already there trying to sell it to you.
  • If they offer $10, go in at $3. Don’t worry about quoting a really low offer. They are not going to sell you anything unless they will make at least some profit on it, and they will let you know if the offer is too low.
  • They may smile and go in at $8.
  • Gradually raise your price. Say $4 then wait for their answer.
  • If they don’t agree go in at $5.
  • If they shrug or say “too low,” then put it down and shrug back. Say “Too expensive” and open your purse to show that you only have $5 on you.
  • If they say they cannot do it for that price, say “thank you” and walk away slowly. Even when you walk away, the seller will think you’re still interested unless you’ve offered them a really low price.
  • They will probably come after you and agree to the sale.
  • Once you’ve accepted the offer, shake on it. Don’t try and negotiate any more. If you feel bad for not paying enough, you can always give them a tip.
  • Say “thank you” then walk away when they give you your bargain!

This is just a guide to haggling and other situations may be different. If it costs slightly more than what you anticipated, don’t worry, as the money is benefiting the local person. Expect that sometimes you may pay more than it is worth, but when you convert it back to your currency, it’s probably pennies or cents. It’s all part of the experience and helps give back to the local people. I hope this article helped!

Frequently Asked Questions on Bartering

  • Is haggling disrespectful? No, haggling is completely normal in many countries and part of the culture.
  • How do you barter nicely? Time it right, let them know your budget, negotiate and know when not to push it. Follow my steps above 🙂

Tips on how to barter