How to haggle like a pro

People travel the world to experience new cultures, especially ones drastically different to the one they are used to. But just because it’s fun doesn’t mean that it can always be easy. Adapting to new customs and ideas of politeness can be baffling and a little scary. Especially when you’re British and therefore terrified of appearing rude to anyone.

Can I just make a comment on how pleasing the word ‘haggle’ is to say? Seriously, try it out. “Haggle”. it sounds like a teacher at Hogwarts. Anyway, back to scheduled programming.

One of the things that can freak a lot of people out is the idea of haggling. I’ll even freely admit that it terrified me a bit too. Not having apparently set prices on things is daunting when you’re used to price tags everywhere you go, but it’s the done thing in many countries and something us westerners must get used to if we’re to acquire our hippie pants and bintang singlets while we’re away.


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The first time I haggled was by total accident. After somehow losing my sunglass inside the room of my homestay (slow clap for me) I ventured out, near blind in the tropical sun, and vowing to pay whatever it cost to shield my delicate eyes from the harsh UV rays. When I found a stall selling some genuine fake ray bans it took about two seconds for me to rip a couple from the display and offer the lady money. I was so baffled by the Indonesian rupiah and it’s multiple zeros that I pretty much just shoved a note at the puzzled looking Balinese woman repeatedly until she took it with a shrug. Only when I walked away did I realise that I’d given her about half of what she’s initially said.

“I haggled!’, I thought, giving myself rather more credit than I deserved. “I did a haggle!”

From then on there was no stopping me, and I became the official head negotiator whenever we needed to buy something. Now I love to barter, and find it oddly enjoyable. Finally the stubbornness so irritating to my other half has paid off.


So sure it might seem scary but never fear. You too can become a master haggler like me – only this time not by accident…

Have a price in mind

You know how sometimes in a shop you coo over a top and then check the price tag and wince? It’s the same here. Decide how much you want to pay and stick to it. If the vendor won’t come down to meet you there then walk away. Know the value of the thing you’re buying.

Be nice

It’s one of the most important rules of life, but I always find that if you’re nice to the vendor it makes things feel less awkward. I was buying my darling other half some singlets and the ladies kept offering me different colours so I told her my husband looked sexy in white. They thought it was hilarious and I got them for cheaper than I found anywhere else. Try to have a laugh about it and always smile. Otherwise you’re just saying numbers in a strangers face.

Start at about 35% of the price

If they say 100 it’s probably worth 50-60, but you need somewhere to work up from. Give yourself some wiggle room or risk paying over the odds. It’s not cheeky it’s just playing the game.

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Stand firm

Do you know how many times I’ve not got the price I want on something, and then walked out of a shop without buying? Once. And it was for a kite that would have been absolutely useless to me anyway so they did me a favour. If they want you to pay more than you’re happy with, walk away. You might find they change your mind when you decide to leave…

Buy multiple items

If you’ve got a few things in mind, get them from one place and you’ll find there will be a lot more wiggle room on the price. Get your souvenirs, hippie pants and friendship bracelets in bulk: it’s a smart move.

Don’t feel bad

So long as you’re respectful, firm and stick to the price you’re happy to pay there should be nothing wrong with how you haggle. The hardest thing to conquer is the feeling of being impolite when you barter!

Be confident!

Fake it till you make it. Even if you’re feeling totally nervous about bartering push back your shoulders and say a price with authority.

What do you think? Can you haggle like an absolute pro or would it be you worst nightmare? Are there any tips you’d add to this list?


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