wherever your travels might take you, chances are you will come across some sort of bazaar, a market or at least a cheapjack selling fake amazingly cheap Ray-Bans in the street.

I just L.O.V.E. getting lost in those gaudy allies, admiring local crafts, taking pictures, tasting local delicacies I have never even heard of and – most importantly – shop till I drop!

But this is exactly the crux of the matter: It is common knowledge that marketers all over the world overvalue their goods, for they expect you to bargain.

I’m sure a number of you are pros and would never pay any more than 50% of the prices you’re being offered. But for all those to whom bargaining is still a riddle, here is some advice, which will hopefully make you feel more comfortable next time you have to haggle over the prizes of bags, shawls or sunnys.

1. Looking self-confident

In most places, people will immediately recognize you as a tourist, which is to your disadvantage. Plus: You are a woman. And you might not know the language. Bazaars can be pretty swamping. If you feel uncomfortable, wear sunglasses to cover the uncertain expression of your eyes. This way the marketers can’t see what you are looking at and can’t tell if you are interested or not.

2. Don’t seem too interested

To be precise, pretend you are barely interested at all. No matter how desperately you need to get your hand on those shoes, the rascal on the other side of the stand doesn’t need to know that. When dealing him down, tell him a bunch of reasons why you’re not willing to pay more than half. (example: I already have similar ones. I am not even sure I will wear them much. I’m pretty sure I saw them for half the price at a different stand earlier.)

3. It’s worth comparing

When I went to a Tunesian market, I wanted to buy a shisha for a friend. The stands at the entrance of the bazaar were selling them for an enormous amount of money, but as I kept walking, they became cheaper and cheaper. With every stand I passed, the prize went down approx.10 % and I ended up buying one for half the money! Later, the receptionist of the hotel told me, that all the stands belonged to only one person anyway… If I remember correctly, he even mentioned the word “mafia” and made a mysterious face. So lesson here: check out a number of market stands first and only then get into buying,

4. How much is it worth?

Well, the answer to that one is easy: It’s worth what you are willing to pay for it. If you can’t afford the price your counterpart is asking for, you can definitely beat him down 20-50 percent, depending on what you are buying. Keep leaving if he doesn’t want to sell it on your terms, he WILL make you another offer, for he knows it’s not worth the prize he is asking for. Depending on how strong a hustler you are, dealing someone down by 50% is not unrealistic at all.

One danger to haggling is that often, one gets tempted into thinking that haggling is required always and everywhere and we may get angry at people who will not bargain. Even if you are in Thailand or India or Marocco, if someone does not want to alter their prices, they likely don’t do it with anyone and you can just decide if you are willing to pay what they’re asking.

On a sidenote: I have to admit I’m not a big fan if bargaining, especially in less developed countries which make a living from tourism. Therefore, whether I haggle or not depends on which country I travel to. Example: Four friends of mine once went to Thailand where they haggled over the price of a watertaxi. The driver wanted 300,- Baht (6euro), they tried to beat him down to 200,- which – correct me if I’m wrong – makes a difference of 2,- Euro. For the driver a huge amount, for 4 (!!!) European travellers probably not even worth mentioning!


photo by Eurri Kim