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If you’re heading to a country where they’re known to haggle, read this article to learn the basics and pick up some tips before you go. 

While haggling can be said to be uncommon in the UK, many countries across the world have been immersed in this culture for thousands of years, which puts many of us Westerners at an unfair advantage when visiting markets in other locations.

Sellers have often been battling prices with tourists for the majority of their lives, and make a living by driving a hard bargain, meaning they are experts at going head-to-head with the less experienced. So, in order to help, we’re going to take a look at the countries where it’s acceptable to haggle, and give you some pointers so that you don’t get ripped off. Our infographic condenses all this information into one handy guide, and you can find the full haggling information below it:

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Where it’s appropriate to haggle

For those of us who have zero experience at haggling, it can often be a daunting prospect and feel very unnatural when we make a first attempt. However, it’s important to remember that this is standard in many countries, and the initial price you will be quoted is often way over the value of the actual product. So, you could say that it’s your responsibility to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of.

Haggling is a tradition in countries such as the below:

·         China

·         Egypt

·         Greece

·         Malaysia

·         Morocco

·         India

·         Indonesia

·         Spain

·         Thailand

·         Tunisia

·         Turkey

When it’s appropriate to haggle

We all know that it’s not appropriate to walk into an Apple or John Lewis store and begin haggling for an item we want but can’t afford. So, how is it possible to know when it’s okay to make an offer for a lower price when in another country?

It’s safe to assume that markets will be open to haggling, but you may wish to ask locals or friends before you go ahead and offer a price. Shops may also be open to haggling, but if prices are prominently displayed in places such as shopping malls, it’s best to assume that this is not the case.

Don’t haggle for food items in Southeast Asia – food is considered a necessity rather than a tradable good, so bartering for it is an insult.

If in doubt, browse for a while and see what other shoppers are doing, especially the locals.

Things to bear in mind when haggling

One of the most valuable tips we can give, is to know the market before you begin, asking for the price of a particular item at a number of different stalls.

Secondly, perfect your poker face. If you look too enthusiastic about buying a product, the seller will immediately assume you are putty in their hands. Show interest in a variety of items, including the one you wish to purchase, and this should help throw them off the scent.

Keep your money out of sight. As soon as the seller sees how much cash you are carrying, he will be more determined to ensure that you pay a higher price, as you clearly have the money to do so. However, you may wish to display your final offer in cash to show that this is your last and only offer. A good idea would be to have a small amount of cash ready in a secure pocket or purse. Never take out all of your holiday money in one go!

You’ll also want to avoid disclosing your nationality, as if you’re in a much poorer country, they may assume that you are more affluent and can afford to pay higher prices.

What to say and what not to say when haggling

When you’re used to paying a set price for things, the art of haggling can be hard to master, even for those who have had a pop at the local car boot. However, once you get started, you will soon learn that it can be a relatively positive experience if conducted properly.

Always ask the shopkeeper what the price is, rather than answering if you’re asked what you’d be willing to pay. If you are buying more than one item, ask for a discount, as this could save you even more money during your cheap holiday.

Don’t offer a price unless you are willing to pay it. Once you have suggested a price which the seller is happy to accept, you will have formed a verbal agreement, and have an obligation to buy the item.

If you cannot reach a price that you are happy to pay, be prepared to walk away. Fundamentally though, if you’re happy to pay a certain price, then that’s all that matters, and you shouldn’t be bothered if you meet someone later during your travels who paid less than you.

If you’re unsure whether bargaining is appropriate, just let the shop owner know that the item is out of your budget. They’re sure to offer you a lower price if they are open to haggling.

Seasoned traveller Ben Groundwater suggests that you should see haggling as a game, and remember that no one is really getting upset or offended, no matter how little you offer.

One last thing, please don’t forget your manners. It’s always polite to say thank you, even if you do not end up purchasing anything.

Luckily, English is the most widely spoken language when you combine native and non-native speakers, so odds are you’ll be fine speaking English. It wouldn’t hurt to know some of the basic phrases in the native language of some of the biggest bartering countries.

Chinese

How much is this? – Duōshao qián?

Too expensive – Tài guì le.

Thank you – xiè xie.

Modern Standard Arabic (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia)

How much is this? – bikam da?

Too expensive – ghali katheer!

Thank you – shukrān.

Greek

How much is this? – Pósa kostízi aftó? (Po-so ko-stee-zee af-to)

Too expensive – Αυτό είναι πολύ ακριβό (A-fto e-ne pa-ra po-le a-kree-vo)

Thank you – S’efharistó (S’ef-xa-ree-sto)

Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia

How much is this? – Berapa harganya ini?

Too expensive – Terlalu mahal.

Thank you – Terima kasih.

Spanish

How much is this? – ¿Cuánto cuesta?

Too expensive – ¡Es demasiado caro!

Thank you – Gracias.

Thai

How much is this? – Raa-kaa tâo rài?

Too expensive – Phaeng pai.

Thank you – Kòp kun.

Turkish

How much is this? – Ne kadar?

Too expensive – Çok pahalı.

Thank you – Teşekkür ederim.

 

For pronunciation advice check out the useful foreign phrases section of Omniglot.com.

 

Image Credit: Boris Bartels, Tinou Bao, Son of Groucho, Sarah & Austin Houghton-Bird, Michael Goodine, claire rowland (flickr.com)

 

 

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