5 Tips for Bartering While Traveling

Something many people are not familiar with is bartering. In America it’s very rare to barter for any goods or services in a traditional marketplace. Of course things like eBay and Craigslist have changed the way we shop, but for the most part, Americans don’t enter a store and offer half of the advertised price and expect to get away with it.  In some countries, that’s exactly what you are expected to do though.

Know the market

Each culture is different.  Some places might expect and encourage bartering, others might be extremely offended.  Find out what is normal about the country you are visiting by checking your guidebook or doing research online before you go.

In some places you can barter over just about anything, including taxi rides.

Stick to your guns

If you’re doing some shopping for goods in a place that actively barters don’t let anybody talk you into buying something you don’t want.  Bartering is a game for most people and many shoppers will spend money just because they want to win or feel like they are getting a deal.

Decide your price early and stick to it.  Be prepared to walk out on a deal.  It’s funny how the price lowers as you have one foot outside the door.

Fez, Morocco
Fez, Morocco

Respect the economic differences

Sure, us westerners are experiencing a recession, but we still make more money than most people around the world.  Don’t barter with a poor merchant just to win a deal.  If the price is fair and within your price range, go for it.  You’ll probably provide food for their family for a week by making a small purchase.

It goes the other way as well.  I’ve had shopkeepers think I was a “rich American” and expect me to pay inflated prices for many items.  In Morocco I was offered a blanket for $50.  I could have purchased something similar back home for less than $10.

You’re going to have to eat that

I don’t care what anybody says.  I’ll never barter over the price of food.

Have fun

Most of all, have fun shopping and bartering.  Maybe the price was always 50% off what was originally quoted, but it still feels good to get a deal.  Don’t get taken advantage of, but enjoy your shopping experience.

5 Replies to “5 Tips for Bartering While Traveling”

  1. I love to barter! Both sides can have so much fun. I also believe that the seller will respect you much more if you are able to negotiate well.

    The best bartering advice I could give would be to wait to purchase anything. Spend some time looking around and you will likely see that most stores are offering the exact same products. Casually ask about prices and get a feel for how much they will go down. Make ridiculously low offers in the beginning to find out the real costs. In many countries, this can be less than half the original asking price.

    When you have a pretty good idea of the prices, then try to buy from a smaller, lower quality shop. They will always offer you the best deals.

    If you are going to buy a lot, try to find a taxi driver to take you to the wholesale markets. Here you will often be able to buy at 1/5 of the price.

  2. Going with the flow is a good way to get a good deal. No need to be confrontational or see it as a competition. It’s more of a game of chess and makes purchases more interesting than not!

  3. I love bartering! And I love that you point out about the economic differences. Although I hate getting blatantly ripped off, I hate to take too far and have seen too many other travelers take it into an offensive confrontation…umm, at the end of the day, you always have the right to walk away.

    Oh, and I have to agree on the food – at fruit stands I would occasionally ask for a little discount if I was buying a lot in SEA (I’m a vegie and would buy 4 baggies of pineapple/papaya at a time ) and they were always willing and nice…but that’s about as far as I took it :-)

  4. I love bartering too. Just one word of advice – make sure that you examine your product in detail there and then. I bought a carpet in the outskirts of Marrakech and the shop delivered it straight to the airport for the day I was flying out. However, it proved to stink, even within its brown paper package. It had probably been sitting on the top floor of a Moroccan home for years, with animals roaming all over it! So if you’re buying carpets, get down on all fours and have a good sniff!

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