How to haggle on holiday

How to haggle on holiday

Haggling on holiday can help make your holiday spends go further, check out this guide to help get you started…

I love haggling, I have done it for a CH4 programme and that started a flood of messages from you guys with your own stories about haggling. I especially love to hear about haggling on holiday as it’s a completely different feel. So many of you have came home with authentic souvenirs, for a fraction of their stated price. Bartering and negotiating over items is much more commonplace in almost every country outside the UK, we seem to be ashamed to do it here in the UK for some crazy reason, and so occasionally us Brits are reluctant to quibble on price – but it’s gotta be worth a go, right?

Haggling is not only a great way to spend less for more when abroad, it is also key when getting to grips with local culture, and getting to know the locals themselves. This handy guide to haggling in some of the most popular holiday hotspots around the world, to help you bag a bargain that even David Dickinson would be envious of!

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If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Singapore it’s all about the location for the success of your haggling. Singapore is a tiny country which is well known for its glittering malls with lots of designer stores. Haggling over designer goods is a rare sight, however, areas like Chinatown and Little India are bursting with bargaining opportunities.

  • Some of the best places to try haggling: Tekka Market, Sim Lim Square, Lucky Plaza, Little India, antique shops at Tanglin Shopping Centre, Arab Street and Chinatown. If you’re after an electrical bargain, or buying a number of items, try asking for a discounted price in department stores.
  • Singapore is quite an expensive country, a good way to ensure you don’t overspend is to think ‘How much would I pay for this back home?’. This should be your maximum value.
  • Simply ask the seller ‘how much?’
  • A good place to start is by knocking off around 40% of their asking price as starting offer and see where that gets you, this is when the haggling begins.
  • The key to bargaining in Singapore is to maintain a respectful and polite manner. Sellers here are a lot more honest about the value of their products than you may find elsewhere.
  • Take your lead from the seller – the cheeky wheeler-dealer act probably won’t go down too well!

Top tip: If at all possible, try and buy more than one item from a vendor, as this will give you a lot of leverage to ask for a larger discount (it could even end up being even less that you would have paid for one item).

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In Peru, most of the daily shopping in done in markets so haggling over the best price of an item is part of everyday life in Peruvian culture. This has given you a head start already, you’ll need to have your wits and sharpest bargaining skills about you when shopping in any Peruvian town.

  • The best places to try haggling are at craft and food markets in cities like Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and Ica.
  • Due to the nature of Peruvian haggling, stallholders will rarely have prices on their items so you will need to ask how much an item is This could make haggling easier as the seller makes the opening offer. Get a starting offer by simply asking ‘¿cuánto cuesta?’ Try asking this for a few different items – if the vendor sees you are interested in just one, it puts them at an advantage.
  • This is where you should be extra savvy – monitor the vendor’s reaction to your question. If they think about the price, it means they’re not used to selling it, this then gives you greater room for negotiation. If the answer is quick, it is likely to be more genuine.
  • If the price you are offered seems reasonable, genuine and something you would have been willing to pay, try knocking off about 25% anyway, remember it’s worth a try! If you suspect you’re being quoted an inflated price, deduct 50-60% and haggle from there.
  • As haggling is part of daily life in Peru, stallholders will be glad to haggle, and the whole process is seen as a friendly, lighthearted game. Try to maintain a sense of humour and a smile throughout – this will endear you to the vendor! However, if you are haggling in a smaller village or at a stall by the side of the road, a less boisterous approach will be appreciated.

Top tip: If you aren’t having any luck, try saying ‘no tengo dinero’. This literally translates as ‘I don’t have money’, but the vendor will understand that you have reached your maximum offer. Attempting to haggle, however little, in the Peruvian national language will sweeten the deal.

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Although European capitals are not automatically associated with haggling for the best price, there are plenty of popular tourist ares that have tons of market stalls. Stallholders are used to getting more than they should for their items and Rome is no exception. With many antique, food and flea markets to explore, negotiating over prices is a savvy move that is sure to pay off!

  • The best places to try haggling: Porta Portese, Mercato delle Stampe, Lungotevere Castello and Via Sannio Flea Market.
  • You are likely to find stalls in Roman markets selling objects that have marked prices. An important thing to note is that prices are denoted with commas and stops used in the opposite way to what you’re used to, e.g. £1,00 instead of £1.00 or £1.000 rather than £1,000.
  • If the price is not stated, ask the stallholder ‘quanto?’
  • As much as you might be tempted, don’t buy from the first stall you see. In most markets, there will be multiple stalls selling the same things, just like you see here in the UK, so shop around a little, and get a rough idea of the value of the item you want to buy.
  • When you choose the stall you wish to buy from, try knocking off around 30-40% of the marked price. The stall holder will be keen to haggle with you, as many are not used to the back-and-forth interaction with tourists (many just pay the marked price).

Top tip: If you get stuck when haggling, walk away from the stall and return an hour or so later. You are more than likely to find the price has fallen significantly!

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The Canaries are extremely popular with tourists, it’s no surprise really! The weather, the low flight times and the chance to escape the daily routine for a week or two. Haggling is becoming more and more popular in The Canaries as some of market stallholders, shopkeepers and craftspeople of the Canary Islands are used to getting a lot more from visitors they would from local people. Whilst haggling in supermarkets and chain stores is unusual, in smaller, independent shops and markets it is encouraged and a lot of fun!

  • The best places to try haggling: Torviscas Market and Los Cristianos, as well as any knick-knack or antique shops.
  • Stallholders and vendors won’t always be used to haggling from holidaymakers, and so if you ask ‘how much?’ use his/her hesitation to your advantage.
  • Use shock value to manoeuvre, and knock off about 65% of the asking price. When it comes to negotiating over prices in Tenerife, silence is often your most powerful tool. If you seem to be considering and distracted, the vendor will work even harder to get your business.
  • As well as this, playing down the item you are interested in will work wonders – if you point out any ‘flaws’ you might find it has, you’re in a much better position to agree on a lower price for it.

Top tip: Hesitate after you are offered a price. The longer you can stay silent, the more tension will be created and then vendor may well crack first.

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Sri Lanka seems to be a really good place to put your haggling skills to the test. The stallholders and vendors in Sri Lanka love to really get into the game of ‘bluff and counter bluff’. The majority of goods are sold at markets, but haggling is also acceptable in most shops (although shops may have price labels). Sri Lankans are very friendly too so you will probably leave with a friend as well as a bargain!

  • Best places to try haggling: Colombo Flea Market, Pettah, Jaffna Market and The Good Market in Colombo.
  • If not immediately obvious, begin by asking ‘kopamaṇa da?’ Which is Sinhala for ‘how much?’
  • Vendors in Sri Lanka will often begin the game of haggling by offering a ridiculously high price. If you suspect this is the case, the best way to proceed is to counter it with an equally outlandishly low offer. Think 75% off the asking price.
  • In some cases, particularly if you are haggling in a shop, you might be offered tea and snacks by the vendor. This is all part of the social aspect of haggling, and does not place you under any obligation to accept a higher offer than you’d like or even purchase at all – just enjoy the experience!
  • It is also common for stallholders to pretend that selling the item to you at a low price will mean he/she is unable to feed their family, and that they would be practically ‘giving it away’. Take this with a large pinch of salt. It is all done in good humour and the seller will never sell something at a loss.
  • Just as it does in many other countries, playing down your interest in the item you want to buy works wonders for dropping the price.

Top tip: Try laughing at the vendors suggested price, but don’t be derogatory. Act as though their offer sounds wildly high to you, but that you are keen to play the haggling game!

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Thailand’s markets and stalls are extremely popular and are known the world over, They are bright, vibrant and full of bargains, this is paradise for those who love a good deal. Haggling here is not only par-for-the-course, it’s essential if you don’t want to end up paying a whole lot more than you should. It is even acceptable to haggle in the malls in Thailand, so what are you waiting for?

  • Best places to try haggling: Khao San Road, Silom, Chatuchak Market, Nana BTS Station stalls, Klongsan Market, Bangkok Farmers’ Market and any informal looking shop.
  • A great tip for shopping in Thailand is, where possible, to go early in the morning. Vendors believe that the first sale of the day is lucky, and will be keener than at any other kind of day to seal the deal.
  • Rather than asking the vendor how much they want for a certain item, try telling them how much you are willing to pay for it first. This will set the tone, and let them see you are serious about haggling.
  • After you have made your suggestion, the stallholder will counter it with a much higher one. Your next offer should be about 50% off their counter.
  • If buying multiple items, try asking ‘lot noi, dai mai?’ which means ‘can you discount?’
  • When bargaining in Thailand, be a little more discreet than you may be in other countries. Thai stallholders are less appreciative than most of you revealing potential price-cuts to your fellow shoppers.
  • If you’re really serious about bartering your way to a real bargain, have a calculator to hand. Using it to make your offers will show the stallholder that you are being thorough and exact, and means he/she will be less likely to try and confuse you with ‘exchange rate’ talk.

Top tips: Have the maximum amount of cash you are willing to pay for the item counted out before you start bartering. Then, if you reach an impasse, show it to the vendor – often seeing the cash in reality is enough to clinch the sale.

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Goa is the perfect place to give haggling a go, it also looks great as stalls are bright, colourful and full of perfect little trinkets to take home with you to remind you of your trip. Stallholders rarely expect you to pay the asking price for an item straight away, they love a bit of spirited banter and boisterous back-and-forth.

  • The best places to try haggling: Mapusa Market, Anjuna Flea Market, Calangute Market Square, Arpora Saturday Night Bazaar, Mackie’s Night Bazaar and Margao.
  • Knowing a few phrases in Konkani (the language spoken in Goa) is an incredibly useful tool. The vendors will immediately hold you in higher esteem, and therefore will be less likely to take advantage.
  • When you notice an item on a Goan stall that takes your fancy, begin by asking the stallholder ‘kit ke jaale?’ (how much?) Other phrases like ‘khup saangta tu’ (the price is too high) and ‘naaka’ (no thanks) are also very useful.
  • Your starting offer should be about 50% off the vendor’s stated price.
  • Let the stallholder know you’re aware that he/she is trying to cheat you. This will build up a playful rapport and level the playing field.

Top tip: Walk away. If the stallholder is refusing to sell an item to you at your maximum price, try leaving the stall. If he/she follows you, you’ll get your price. If not, you’ll know that they legitimately could not have gone any lower.

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