Haggling, bartering, bargaining call it whatever you want but it is a way of life in Thailand, the first rule of bartering is: never accept the first price you are offered, unless you are shopping in a shopping centre or store with clearly marked fixed prices. The same rules for bartering in Thailand will also work for barting in Bali as the market scene is very similar., keep these tips for haggling in mind and you will do fine!
Now days we often get emails from fans and friends and family asking a lot of how to questions such as:
How to barter in Thailand?
How to haggle in Thailand?
How to bargain in Thailand?
How we do we get the best Phuket Tailor prices?
How do we get the best price at the markets compared to the fixed priced shops?
How do we know if we are getting taken for a ride with prices?
(Barter, Haggle and Bargain are all the same thing!)
I wish we had known this on our first shopping trip in Phuket, we went out shopping for the day and thought the prices they were throwing at us seemed fairly reasonable and even got sucked into a tailor store (which we had sort of planned for and got a good bargain compared to suits in Australia.. anyway I digress). When we got back to the hotel we looked on Tripadvisor and googled how much we should be paying for things at the Phuket markets and I was shocked at how much we had been over charged! We quickly learnt how to barter.
Firstly, think about what you want to purchase and do a bit of research online, Cathy and Gary’s page are fantastic for prices in Bangkok and prices in Phuket. This will give you an idea of what you would expect to pay. Keep in mind this a guide and prices can fluctuate during high and low tourist seasons.
The words “how much” are like magic words to a vendor’s ears. A calculator will get thrust at you with numbers on it (this will of course be the cost of the item in Thai Baht), our general rule is to offer a significantly lower price such as 75% of the original price by typing the number in the calculator, the vendor will “look hurt” and say “no no no” and provide you with a new number, this will go back and forth. When shown the new figure, look a little surprised and umm and ahhh, then make another offer, go up in small increments and you might end up at maybe 50% of the original price, if you can get 25-50% off of the original price you are doing well.
Our top 10 Hot tips
1. Be flexible and also remember that sometimes you are bartering over mere cents. Keep in mind how much the item you are purchasing would cost at home.
2. Be prepared to walk away, if you feel like you are being reasonable and the vendor is asking far too much, politely say thank you and proceed to walk out of the store, chances are if your offer is reasonable, the vendor will chase you and agree to your price.
3. Always smile, be happy, joke and laugh with the vendor, don’t ever get aggressive or angry as this is not the Thai way, you will loose face and embarrass yourself. Remember this is a fun activity; there is no need to be aggressive.
4. Feel free to provide a small tip if someone has done a good job to help you or accommodate your sale; this is earn you a BIG smile and make that vendors day! (while this isn’t required it would certainly go a long way for some vendors, if you have a bit of change).
5. Don’t be shy, bartering is a part of the fun at market stalls, it’s the best way to get the best price when shopping and a part of the culture.
6. Look around at different vendors before making your purchase or enquiring about price. People often make a purchase at the first place they see and then miss out on a bargain or getting something in the colour they wanted or for a better price.
7. If a vendor is really pushy (and yes sadly, there are a few vendors like this), just say thank you and walk away, chances are they are not going to give you a good deal and will try to guilt you or push you into the sale.
8. The more items you buy, the better deal you will get, make sure to look around and pick out a few items and ask the vendor for the best deal!
9. Have the money you want to spend in one pocket, if you pull out a 1000 baht note after haggling down to 200 baht, the vendor may be offended. Instead provide 2 x 100 baht notes and explain this is all you have and don’t keep bargaining once the deal is agreed upon, it’s rude.
10. Use lines like: “I’ve seen this cheaper somewhere else.” And “I’m not really sure…” or look at your friend/partner and say “I don’t know, what do you think”, the vendor will see you are not sure and try to give you a “discount”