t is inevitable not to bargain while traveling in Southeast Asia, be it for your transport or a shopping trip to the night market. Here are insider tips on how to bargain successfully in Southeast Asia.
1. Find out the asking price
If you fancy a bag from one stall, you will most likely find the same item carried in 4-5 other stalls. Take your time to casually ask for the price at several stalls. Once you are aware of the average base price, you can decide what price range you would be comfortable with paying.
2. Make an offer
Most stall vendors increase the pricing of their goods by 200%. Be brave and ask for 20% of their asking price. You will find that with continued negotiation, you will end up paying for 50% of the asking price, which is just about the right amount. With transportation, find out how much the locals are paying when possible and try to negotiate for that price range.
3. Prepare to walk away
If the vendor refuses to budge, simply walk away. They might give you a better offer, or they might not. If they don’t, treat is as a learning experience and find another place to haggle at. There will be plenty down the street.
4. Take it easy
Smile, be friendly and don’t be afraid to make jokes. If negotiations fall through, don’t take it to heart and treat is as a fun, friendly game. At times, the vendor may lose their temper. Instead of getting into an argument, simply seek your chances elsewhere.
BARGAINING TIPS & STRATEGIES
There’s nothing like the power of numbers. If you’re shy or unassertive, you may find yourself easily intimidated if the other party is more dominant. Friends can help take the tension away and you can negotiate for a lower price when buying in larger quantities. If staying at a hostel, invite other guests to travel with you to save on transportation costs.
2. Have a friend haggle for you
If there’s only one tip you ever need in bargaining, it’s this: NEVER DESIRE THE ITEM. With that said, if traveling with a friend, do the bargaining for one another. Since your friend does not have personal interest vested in that item, they can negotiate neutrally and walk away when they need to.
3. Look shocked
Humans naturally try to please one another. When the asking price comes, give an audible big “HUH?!” as if aliens have just landed on your doorstep. The vendor may sweat a little wondering if you have somehow heard an incredible offer elsewhere.
Bargaining is not something you can do easily under pressure. If you’re pressed for time, you’re unlikely to get a good bargain if you show it! Approach each stall with the mindset that you can always come back on another day to purchase the item if you wanted.
5. Bargain with the right person
If a young teen is tending the stall, he or she may just be standing in for a parent temporarily and may not have much power in settling the price. Make sure you’re speaking to the decision-maker.
6. Go with a local looking person if you can
If you look Southeast Asian, vendors are more likely to offer you a lower price. So get to know a local friend! (That’s one of the fun parts of traveling too!)
Vendors will find it difficult to refuse the deal if you are buying in quantity. Settle for a good price and prepare to walk away if needed. You may even find the vendor chasing after you through the streets with the final pricing.
8. Speak the local language
While most of the negotiation can go on in broken English, calculator punching or hand signs, surprise the other party with one to two words of their language. Even if you only know the words one number, make sure it’s the number for the pricing you want. Then keep repeating that number in their local language. Who knows, they might find it endearing and decide to give in to you.
A casual way of approaching bargaining is to pretend you have already bought the item at another town and is just checking the price. The vendor may coax you to get another one by giving you a lower price. You can in turn persuade them by saying “Well, I only got it for XX. How about you give me a better price and I’ll buy a few more…” (This strategy also works if you are carrying the item and secretly wants to buy another one)
10. “Bbbbut… It’s so much cheaper in my country…”
If you’re a Southeast Asian traveling within the region, repeat these keywords “ It’s cheaper in my country” and prepare to walk off. It’s tough to cheat a Southeast Asian of their money when you know how much things cost in general. Just by saying these words, a vendor’s initial asking price for one pair of shorts miraculously halved. Remember that you’ll get better with practice and don’t be shy. After all, you’ll probably never see the same vendor again.
Got more bargaining tips? Share them with us!