Visiting the Far East for the first time can be a bit of a shock for Western travellers. We’re just not used to haggling for goods or services anymore (unless it’s very specific industries like car sales or holidays but, even then, not always).
There was a time when haggling would have come second nature to us but unfortunately that time is now long gone. The problem with that however is that it leaves travellers at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to visiting a culture in which haggling is common place.
Below you’ll find Cruise.co.uk’s spectacular top tips on bagging yourself a great deal from haggling. You’ll be calling yourself an expert in no time…
Know Who You Can and Can’t Haggle With
This is an important lesson to learn if you don’t want to offend anyone. Just because you can haggle for some things doesn’t mean you can haggle for everything!
If you’re out at a market, paying for a tuk tuk (a local taxi) or buying a quick snack from an outdoor food vendor then feel free to haggle away but if you’re in a restaurant, a bar or in a shop then you’ll find the prices are set and trying to haggle with someone will only annoy the person serving you.
Try To Learn What The Locals Would Pay
This can be difficult to do without wandering around asking random people but if you’ve an idea what you’re looking for ask your hotel staff or tour director before you go out; they’ll be more than happy to help out!
If you’re feeling a little braver try playing two vendors off against each other, but don’t pick side by side stalls as they’ll know straight away what you’re up to but see how low you can haggle someone down then promise to come back. Then go do the same with someone else and compare your prices!
Another great tip is to watch what other people are paying for the items. There’s no harm in seeing what someone else pays then trying to get it for a little less! – You may even learn something from watching them haggle.
Don’t forget to Relax!
Even if you end up paying completely over the odds for something it will still be a lot cheaper than you probably would have got it at home. That means you don’t need to worry about being ripped off, you’ll still get a good deal; it just depends on how much of a good deal!
So relax and enjoy the experience, it’s part of the holiday!
The Money Will Mean More to Them Than It Does to You.
$1, on current exchange rates, will be worth about 75 pence to you, so remember when you’re in the middle of haggling with someone and they’re refusing to knock off that last dollar you didn’t want to spend, ask yourself, is it worth walking away for the sake of £0.75p?
Don’t Haggle Unless You Want The Item
Browsing in a store at home we’re used to asking helpful shop assistants how much something is; it’s almost second nature.
Try to resist that temptation however when you’re browsing in a market abroad. If you ask someone how much something is they will start to haggle with you.
If you then haggle someone right down (unless you’re trying to play them off against another vendor) then it’s only polite to buy the item.
Smile and Be Friendly.
You’ll be amazed how many people get offended when they try to haggle.
“I’m not paying that, what a rip off, I won’t pay more than………”
You might save yourself a little money this way but we doubt it- nowhere near as much as you could by being nice anyway. The old adage of you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar is most definitely true here.
Smile and be nice to the person you’re haggling with, you know it’s a game and they know it’s a game so treat it as such.
If the person likes you then you’ll get a much better deal although if you’re not careful this can back fire and if you find yourself liking them and falling for their patter you can end up paying EVEN MORE than you would have – It’s a double edged sword so be careful!
Try Not to Follow Too Many ‘Guides’, Especially Any Offering a Percentage!
Ironic advice, we’re sure you’ll agree, seeing as you’re reading this but a lot of older guides out there encourage you to try to get a percentage off the price.
A classic is – If you’re shopping for a t-shirt worth £5 make sure you only pay $2.5. Hordes of tourists then end up walking around knowing they have to get a fixed amount of items.
The problem with this advice is that the vendors you’re haggling with know it as well.
This means the first price they give you may be massively inflated, two, five, even ten times what the price should be.
You can then happily discount them down by half and they’re still making money off of you. This is why knowing what you should be paying can be so important! (See tip two.)
Learn Some Basic Phrases
Much like the above tips you’ll be amazed how much a few local phrases will help you with your haggling.
Not with the haggling itself so much but more with the banter – The stall holder will be able to smile and laugh, correct you and maybe offer you some more phrases – The more they like you the easier it will be to get a discount.
Nothing could be truer than the old adage practise makes perfect. The first time you try to haggle with someone you will be ripped off!
You will be walking down the street and be offered the exact same thing for half the price. Try to take comfort in the fact that it’s happened to all of us and you’re not alone.
It does lead us on nicely to our last tip about practising though……….
If you assume you’ll get better at haggling as your trip goes on (and you will) try to avoid buying any expensive items till the end of the holiday when you’ve found your ‘haggling feet’. Use your first few purchases on cheap items and save the electronics and jewellery till you feel more confident.
Above all else though have fun! Haggling is part of the experience of a holiday to the Far East.
You won’t be able to avoid it so you might as well enjoy it!