For many travelers, haggling can be a daunting prospect. And I should know, because I'm one of them.
Yes, despite spending six years traveling around the world and finding myself bargaining in many hundreds of situations, I still get nervous when I know I'll have to do it. Despite my awkwardness, though, I have still managed to pick up several tips to help you out.
If you’re worried about whether you should try to bargain for a different price, whether you’re being ripped off or not, or whether you’re offending the vendor, this is the guide for you. After all, let's face it: haggling can be a cultural challenge that can land a traveler in hot water if they’re not careful.
Here’s how not to haggle.
Get Angry When You Don’t Get the Price You Ask For
One of the best ways to successfully haggle is to start an argument. Just kidding. Rather than getting angry if you don't get the price you want, treat haggling as a game and laugh if you don’t manage to bargain the vendor down to the price you were hoping for. Smile, remain polite, and if you don't think you can haggle them down any more, just walk away.
Getting angry just upsets the vendor and makes it even more likely they’ll flat out refuse to lower their prices. You’ll end up getting ripped off and offending a local in one fell swoop.
In most parts of the world, many stalls will be offering similar goods for similar prices, so laughing and walking away is a great way to figure out what a good deal is. If the vendor doesn't call you back when you leave, you know you'll have to offer more at the next stall. The happier and more likeable you are to the vendor, the more likely it is that they'll lower their prices.
Don’t Research Prices in Advance
Because who doesn’t like to be surprised when they travel?
Instead of leaving it all up to fate and having no idea what sort of price you should be aiming for, decide what you’d like to buy in advance and take a look online at the sort of prices you should expect to pay for it.
That way, you’ll know if it’s something you’ll be expected to haggle for, be aware of the sort of price range you should aim for so as to not offend or be ripped off, and can relax and enjoy the moment.
Decide Not to Haggle at All
If you’re shy and nervous about interacting with a stranger, haggling can seem like the most terrifying thing to do, especially as it’s so rare here in the United States. That was exactly how I felt about haggling when I first started traveling.
In many countries outside of the U.S., though, it’s expected that you’ll haggle and the locals will think less of you if you don’t. Yep, it's true. If you don't haggle, they'll think you're weak minded and made of money. Everyone is expected to haggle, so you won't be blending in with the locals if you opt not to.
Rather than being intimidated by the process, use the opportunity to increase your confidence and leave your comfort zone. You can start off small and try bargaining for a price that’s a dollar less, or you can even stand and watch other people negotiating until you get the hang of it. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, just shake your head, smile, and leave.
Buy Something You Don’t Need
There are so many beautiful souvenirs from around the world that can be tempting to buy, but you must remember you’ll need to be able to fit them in your backpack. If you want to buy a 12 inch high replica of Angkor Wat, you’re either going to have to find an Angkor Wat-sized hole in your backpack to fit it in, throwing out half of your clothes in the process, or pay a lot of money to have it shipped home.
Rather than buying souvenirs, opt to focus on building lasting memories of the places you visit by taking lots of photos and keeping a diary. If you do decide you want something to remember your trip by, why not collect something like magnets or postcards that won’t take up much space in your backpack?
If I'm tempted to spontaneously purchase something on the road, I usually give myself a 24 hour period to think it over. I walk away, spend the next day mulling over whether I'd like it or not, and then head back to buy it if I do. Most of the time, I don't.
Buy Something Fake Because It's Basically the Same Anyway
It's easy to get scammed when traveling, so in order to avoid it, do some research beforehand. Make sure you find out who the decent sellers are, where you can find them, and how you can tell if an item is genuine or not. The last souvenir you'll want from your vacation is something that's been made in the United States.
This is especially important to do in places like Turkey, where it's so easy to be ripped off when purchasing a Turkish rug. The vast majority of them are not handmade and they can be incredibly overpriced for what you get.