How to bargain while traveling

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If the thought of haggling over the gorgeous silk pashmina you found in a Delhi market makes you feel a bit nauseous, you’re not alone. Although most consumers would not hesitate to compare retailer shopping at the lowest price, many travelers, including myself, are uncomfortable playing the bargaining game head-on.

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But if you love shopping and want to take home a cherished souvenir, you may need to know how to do it. In many countries of Latin America and the Middle East, bargaining is expected; In some cultures, such as Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and India, it is disrespectful not to negotiate, says Nikki Webster, owner of Brit on the Move.

To do it properly requires planning, practice and patience. You want to avoid false mistakes like haggling in a Parisian store, which will likely make you see the door tout de suite. Here are some tips for bargaining like a pro.

Find out where to bargain. In Laos and Mexico, it is. In Japan and Sweden, this is not the case. In the Middle East, bargaining is such a part of the culture that it can be stressful. It is easy to quickly research whether bargaining is important or not in a particular country. Even in countries where bargaining is the norm, don’t expect to do so in supermarkets, malls or branded stores at fixed prices. “You can’t haggle over steaks or eggs at the checkout line in Morocco,” says Salvador Urdurica, CEO of Spanish Group, an online document translation service. Don’t expect to haggle at the independent markets, bazaars and artisan shops.

educate yourself. If you have a purchase in mind, get an idea of ​​what people are paying for that item before they leave the house. This gives you a frame of reference, says Jeff Moriarty, who has traveled to more than 35 countries in the past 10 years as marketing director for Moriarty’s Gem Art. Review the Tripadvisor reviews, search online for “product + country” or, for example, type in the search bar, “What should I pay for a real Bali leather bag?” You can also check out private online travel groups and forums.

Find the main markets of the city. Find out what each of them specializes in. Once you do this, note any “special” or “major” days, such as the first day of the month or Sundays. Those days are usually when you find the best deals, Moriarty says.

Budgeting. You can budget to gamble for a Las Vegas vacation; Do the same to shop internationally, says Miami-based Maria Dominguez, a shopping junkie who retired from British Airways after 43 years. Bargaining can be somewhat addictive.

Learn how to negotiate. The key to successful bargaining, says Webster, is understanding the process. The line is, “Tell me your best price”; Then you start, she says. “And you have to be brave enough to stand up to the ridiculous, inflated offer of $60 for a $20 item with a $10 bid. In other words, your first counter-offer must be less than it is worth or what you are willing to pay, so that there is room to haggle over the price you will pay. “.

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Don’t buy on the first or second day. Instead, wander the markets and stalls to get a baseline by inquiring casually about items and prices. Or, if the market has a mix of stores, check first with one with fixed prices. This gives you an idea of ​​the value of the items before you start bargaining. “In my mind, I was looking for a traditional silver harmony ball necklace,” Webster says. “At first I would go from place to place to ask for the price and walk away without getting involved. The range was $10 to $30 and then I found someone who started at $15. She responded with $4. We agreed the other one was silly, so we started again. He offered $9. I ended up paying $7.”

A little cultural sensitivity goes a long way. Learn some words or phrases – hello, please, thanks – in the local language. “I always greet the salesperson in his own language,” Urdurica says. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect, they’ll recognize the effort. Show some interest and curiosity about their culture, too.

Criticism is king. Exchange dollars for local currency, and always use cash in the market. Carry small bills. This helps you avoid the trick that the seller hasn’t changed. Find the current conversion rate (use the XE Currency apps or My Currency Converter), so you know the cost of the item in US dollars. Credit cards are not prohibited unless for a high-ticket item at an established store. If you feel comfortable using your credit card, you will likely be asked if you want to pay in dollars or the local currency. Urdureka says to choose the latter. “By paying in local currency, your bank determines the conversion rate and not the merchant, which is always the best rate.”

remove your clothes. “Leave the decoration behind. The moment you ask for the amount, the merchant will look at you and then set a price,” says Sharon Geltner, CEO of Froogle PR in Palm Beach, Florida, who deals extensively in the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Mexico.

Show respect. Yes, bargaining is a game, but it is not poker. You are not cheating, and it is bad to say that you will accept the price, and then walk away. “Ultimately, it’s your choice, but as a compliment, if they accept your final price, you should buy it,” Dominguez says. And be wise. Don’t be afraid to haggle when it’s convenient, but don’t haggle for a $3 scarf. If something is inexpensive, don’t grind the seller for a few cents.

Pay attention to body language. “You can tell if a person is uncompromising if they hold their arm, turn away, or raise their eyebrows. Either change your approach or take it as a loss and walk away,” Urdureka says.

Curb your enthusiasm. You cannot show any emotional connection to the item you want. “If they sense you’ve fallen in love with a particular piece, they’ll quickly switch to why it’s the most expensive,” Webster says.

Use multiples as a negotiation tool. You may get more discount if you buy two or three items from the same seller. Webster used this technique to buy many hookahs in Dubai. “I visited a traditional grocery store and saw that I could buy them for $20 each,” she says. “Then, I went to the market, and when I found some that caught my eye, I haggled with a seller and walked away three times. In the end, I paid $15 for all three.”

It just went away. This may be the hardest tactic, but it’s the most important, bargaining experts agree. Geltner recommends using it if you’re trying to see if a store owner has hit their bottom price or are ending negotiations. Politely say, “Thank you,” and walk out of the store. This is crucial. No matter how much you want a certain thing, always be ready to leave. If the owner signals you to come back, turn suspiciously and slowly walk back a few steps to see if they Seriously. If she’s still not ready to make a deal, get out again. If she follows you up and says, “I accept,” the deal is done. Success!”

Daily is a Denver-based writer. Her website is

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