The Art of Haggling for Travel
Haggling for prices in foreign countries isn’t just about savings a dollar, it’s a full blown tactical sport. Natural competitive instincts kick in, you size up your target and attack it with a well thought out game plan. Sometimes the shear thrill of the chase can take over and become the best part. But before you hit the local markets and souvenir stands to try your luck you’ve got to have a strategy. Going in unprepared is the fastest way to watch those precious travel savings disappear. If you’re a seasoned veteran then most of this stuff will be common knowledge, but for those new to the art of haggling this will give you a good grounding in a very vital skill. Like reading a chapter out of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, this article prepares you with an appropriate battle plan, because you’re going to need it!
Learn the Local Language
Even a basic knowledge will get you started on the initial negotiation. If you can’t haggle in the language they’ll pin you for a sucker straight away, no matter how decent you are at getting the job done. You’d be surprised how far knowing the numbers and some really basic conversation skills will go. Vendors are used to foreigners having zero language skills, so you’ll impress them into some great travel souvenir bargains. If you’re cruising around Latin America be sure to check out some of the best choices for a Spanish school in Guatemala.
Do Your Souvenir Research
If you come into a negotiation with a rough idea of what you should pay it will make it a lot easier to whittle them down. Visit a few places selling the same things and practice before making a purchase. Work out an average estimate and start with that. Know how much you should paying and then work on it from there.
The Walk Away Tactic
Never disregard the power of the walk away. If you find yourself in a little stand-off with someone over a price, try telling them politely ‘no thanks’ and walk away. 90% of the time you’ll get them down lower. Even if they decide not to budge on the price, you can always give in and go back if you really want the item. Don’t let pride get in the way of a decent travel memory.
Know Your Transport Costs
Always pre-settle transport costs before getting in a taxi, bus, etc. Once on the road you’re in their world and abide by their prices. Don’t be surprised if it costs more than you thought when you ask them at the end of a trip. A lot of the time if you ask how much it is, chances are you’ll pay more. Be confident with your price knowledge and tell them how much it should be. Maybe even start lower just to rattle them.
The Bulk Deal
If you’re interested in buying a few items never tell them straight away. Haggle your first item down, and then start round two on the next item. Ask them for a discount if you buy 2 or 3 and I guarantee they give you one. If you and a friend are thinking about buying some items be sure to shop together and bundle as much into the deal as possible. Any smart vendor will start dropping prices for the next few items if you’re interested in purchasing a new wardrobe.
The Best Haggling Method
Try your luck on different things and see what works for you. You’d be very surprised just how negotiable prices are. Ask for discounts or to round prices off with a friendly smile. I’ve managed discounts at pharmacies, set menu restaurants and even clothing stores. It’s not about being cheap, it’s just ensuring you get the best price available so you can travel longer.
Don’t Fall for the ‘Special Price for You’ Trick
Before they’ve even met you they’ve opportunistically pumped up the prices. As soon as you show your face they’ll ‘drop‘ it for you out of good fortune. Their salesmanship charm can be a little cheesy at times, but they’re only trying to turn a buck. The price that is special is usually the start of the negotiation process, so don’t think you’ve already got them down too much. There’s still a little juice to squeeze.
Don’t Show Too Much Initial Interest
If you go in guns blazing they’ll see you as a walking cash machine right off the bat. Don’t walk into a store with wallet in hand and an eager look that says ‘I want to spend shit loads of money‘. Leisurely cruise in, ponder over items, hum and ahh and examine things you might not be interested in. If you act casual they’ll try harder to put the sale you on and start the bargains before you even ask.
Find the Balance: Don’t Become the Rip Off Yourself
At the end of the day there’s a definite line between haggling, and becoming the rip off artist yourself. Some people will drop their prices lower than they should because they’re desperate, and you shouldn’t take advantage of that. Haggling is a bit of fun, and in some cultures is part of the purchasing process. Next time you aim to pay record low prices, remember that a 50 cent savings for you won’t go as far as an extra 50c for them, especially in developing countries. You’re already traveling in their country for a fraction of the price, don’t be a tight ass on everything.