How To Totally Win At Haggling In Asia

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How To Totally Win At Haggling In Asia

Before I went to Bali, I had never been to markets that I had to haggle to buy something, haggling was a foreign concept to me.  My time there and in Lombok made me think of some good tips from my experiences to share with you.

Firstly, you need to get rid of any shy bone in your body because to haggle, you need to be confident.  You can’t let them know you are a pushover otherwise you’ll end up with something you would have paid 3 times the average price for.  I learnt the hard way on the first day!  I brought a pair of shorts for double the price everyone else would have brought them for because I gave in.

Secondly, research on the internet what everyone else has brought products for, then you know what kind of price you should be aiming for.  I did a little research when I was in Bali and found this comment on Trip Advisor with a rough guide which was helpful on current prices.  If you can’t find anything online just ask the other travellers around you!  If that fails, then a good rule of thumb is whatever price they start with, half it.  That is usually around what sort of mark-up they put on whatever you’re buying.  Sometimes they put a mark up of 300% on top of the asking price!

How To Totally Win At Haggling In Asia

Start below the price you are prepared to pay.  For example, if you want to buy a watch and you want to pay 50,000 Indonesian Rupees for it, I would start at 30,000 then go up to 40,000, and finally say 50,000 as your final price.  If they insist on 60,000 walk away and usually you will hear them screaming ‘okay, okay 50,000!’.

That brings me to my next point.  As I said above, if your price is not being listened to then simply walk away.  If they think you don’t want to buy anymore then they will freak out and 8/10 times they will take your price.

Finally, think about the worth of what you’re actually haggling over.  It could be a day’s wage for some people so you do need to stop and think about what you’re haggling over.  If you have the extra money then why not give it to them if they have been helpful or friendly.  Use your gut feeling on who you’re giving your money to as well.  We walked in a lot of shops and just walked straight out because some of the market holders can be quite terrifying, to a woman especially.  We were walking around the markets in Kuta, Bali and my wrist got grabbed by a woman who clearly was on some hard drugs.  I was trying to walk away but she kept pulling my hand back quite hard so she could put a bracelet on me.  If that bracelet actually went on my wrist I could tell I would get hassled and made to pay straight away.  Please keep your bag close to you and your wits about you!

How To Totally Win At Haggling In Asia

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  • Reply
    Travelog with Jem
    February 11, 2016 at 1:35 am

    According to what I heard, haggling is an Arabic culture brought to Asia by the Arab merchants. It is meant to create friendship between the traders. However, over time it has lost its meaning.

  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    February 12, 2016 at 6:49 am

    I have tried, probably not most efficiently, haggling in a few places. I never had the sit down and drink tea experience.

  • Reply
    Dave (Silverbackpacker)
    February 14, 2016 at 1:26 am

    The last time i tried to bargain in a market it was in KL. All my techniques didnt work for me and i endeed up walking away from every stallholder. I must be getting rusty lol. I agree you should always think well what you are haggling over…… is it really worth it and do you really need it.

    • Reply
      April 23, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Some markets are run by an association (formally or informally) so every trader has an agreement on the floor price, thus preventing them from selling an item lower than their competitors.

      • Reply
        Anita Hendrieka
        May 10, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        Thanks for that!

    Leave a Reply to Dave (Silverbackpacker) Cancel Reply