The Art of Haggling in Peru

Haggling in Peru
••• Tony Dunnell

Haggling is a normal part of the shopping process in Peru, especially in souvenir stores and traditional markets. Furthermore, Peruvian shopkeepers and market stall owners rarely put prices on their wares, and this lack of labeling leaves a lot of room for inflated prices, especially when foreign tourists stroll in to town.

To avoid spending silly money on souvenirs and other items, it's worth brushing up on the basics of negotiating prices in Peru.

The following bargaining process will work in most situations...

How to Haggle in Peru: A 10-Step Process

  1. Approach the seller in a polite but friendly manner. Establishing some kind of amicable connection is a great start to the bargaining process. Don’t be too enthusiastic, as you’ll give the impression that you’re there to spend, spend, spend.

  2. Browse through the goods on offer. The seller will probably start showing you various items, commenting on their beauty, exquisite craftsmanship and, in some cases, the incredible medicinal properties that they impart (aphrodisiac, more often than not).

  3. When you spot something you like, first consider how much you’d be willing to pay for it. Then, ask how much it is – “Cuánto cuesta?” This is where the fun begins.

  4. The seller’s first reaction can be telling, so watch carefully. If he or she thinks about the price for an unusually long time, you’ll probably receive an unreasonably high starting price (foreigners often have the dubious honor of paying “gringo prices” in Peru). In general, an instant answer indicates a more genuine price, one that the seller is accustomed to quoting.

  1. Either way, it’s now up to you. Take into account what you were willing to pay beforehand, the seller’s pause and the price given. If the price seems reasonable, try offering something slightly lower, knocking off maybe 10 to 20 percent. If the pause was long and the price seems unreasonably high, don’t be afraid to start with an opening offer at half the stated price.

  1. There’s a good chance that the seemingly reasonable seller will accept your 10 to 20 percent offer and both parties will be happy. Great, make the purchase. For the 50 percent offer on the overly expensive item, prepare to dig in for round two.

  2. If unwilling to sell at half the stated price, the seller will probably give you a nonchalant show of indifference. Expect a laugh, a jovial comment and a general shift towards things that don’t involve you. You might receive a counter offer, but haggling in Peru can sometimes be a bit one sided in terms of verbal bargaining.

  3. If the seller doesn’t engage, increase your offer a little. If the original price was 100 soles and you countered with 50, offer 60 to 65 soles. He’ll now know that you are willing to negotiate.

  4. Now that you’re in the thick of things, keep on haggling until you agree on a price -- but only until you reach the price you were willing to pay initially, or thereabouts.

  5. As soon as you hit your limit, call an end to the haggling with a polite “no, gracias” and start walking away. The ball is now in the seller’s court: if he wants to make a sale, he’ll call you back with a new offer closer to your ideal price. You can accept or start haggling once again. If your ideal price was indeed too low, he’ll let you walk away. If that’s the case, look for the item in another market and start the process again.

    Pro Bargaining Tips for Peru

    • It’s easier to haggle in Peru if you buy two or more items from the same seller. Negotiating a discount for multiple items is standard practice.
    • Think of haggling as a friendly game, even if you come up against a particularly stubborn or gruff seller. You should never be rude or aggressive during negotiations.
    • The people you are buying from are trying their hardest to make a living. If you find yourself haggling well below the price you were willing to pay, consider upping your offer or at least buy some more items from the same seller.
    • Tailor your tactics to your environment. Vast city markets are much more brash and boisterous than small stalls in indigenous villages, where a more polite, reserved approach is best.

    What You Need For Negotiating in Peru