Ah, the wonderful world of haggling.  For me, it’s been a while.

I’m currently backpacking my way around Indonesia, and as such have been launched back into a world where nothing is fixed price. However, since I first dabbled in the art, back when I was living in India as a volunteer, I’ve learnt a bit.

Back when I was 19, I enjoyed nothing more than spending a good ten minutes knocking off an extra 10p from the price of a pair of trousers – because I’d been in  India for two months, so obviously I deserved to pay ‘local prices’.

Except I wasn’t a local, and 10p extra would not have made any major difference to my life. I wasn’t being cheated or ripped off by someone trying to get me to spend that bit more, I was being recognised for what I was: a tourist (albeit a long-term tourist), with money to burn.

Point is, there is certainly skill to haggling, and enjoyment to be taken from it, but the main thing is to keep a bit of perspective throughout the process. Be courteous, and recognise that if you have money to spend on buying that third pair of elephant-patterned trousers, then you probably can afford to give that extra 10p to make the stall holder happy.

Read on for my best tips on how to get a good price for your purchase… without being an arsehole Western tourist!


Start with a smile

Nobody is going to be in a good mood to bargain if you get off on the wrong foot.

Approach with a smile, be friendly, and start up a conversation with the stallholder. Shopping is fun, remember!

And end with one too

Even if you don’t get what you want, that’s no reason to storm off in a huff. If they don’t want to sell you their wares for the price you want, that’s their decision. Treat them as a normal human being, thank them for their time, and walk away.

Read: How to volunteer sustainably

Haggling in south America for blankets

Have a price in your head that you aren’t willing to exceed… and stick to it

It is so very easy to get caught up in the game and end up paying more than you want to, or buying things you don’t need in order to get a ‘better bargain’. Before you start the haggling process, think about how much is the most you are willing to pay. And keep that number in your head throughout.

Buy more than one item at a time

Though buying more for the sake of it isn’t going to save you money, if you are planning to buy more than one thing, buy them all at the same stall. This will enable you to drive down the overall price, as you’re giving the shop owner more business.

Plus it will put them in a more amenable mood if you’re buying a lot of stuff from them!

Local market stall in Timor

Learn a few key words and phrases in the local language

A few words go a long way when it comes to haggling. Not only will it please (and probably amuse) the person you’re bargaining with, it will also make you seem like you (slightly) know what you’re talking about.

It’s a good idea to get a basic grasp of the numbers in the local tongue, as well as phrases like ‘too expensive’ and ‘cheapest price’. And a ‘thank you’ always goes down well, too!

Read: A guide to hiring scooters in Indonesia (without dying or being ripped off)

Walk away, even if you still want it

If you aren’t getting anywhere, walking away is a good tactic to try. It will often push even the most stubborn of shop owners to strike a better deal, if they think they are going to lose your custom altogether.

And if it doesn’t work, well, you can always go back later if you still want it.

Remember that it’s all good fun!

Above all, don’t let yourself get stressed out by the process. I know it can be frustrating and boring and painful, but remember… it’s only shopping. It’s easy to get frazzled by the heat and overexcited with the thought of your new purchase, but ultimately it is not that important. If you find yourself getting grumpy, leave the market and go have a nice cold drink somewhere with air conditioning.

You don’t need to get angry at the poor person whose business depends on their getting a good price for their wares!

Crafts from the market


Haggling is a delicate process.

It can be fun, but also remember that when you get carried away trying to knock off that extra 50p, you might actually be making a difference to someone’s life. 50p is likely not all that much to you, but to someone who relies on sales to put food on the table, it can make a big difference.

More: Why I’m rethinking budget backpacking (and maybe you should too)

Be generous. Don’t feel like you are being ripped off because you pay £5 for something that you think a local could get for £3. That extra £2 is the price you pay for the privilege of being able to travel to another country, and spend hours in a market stall.

Being a pro at bargaining is great, but being a good person along with it is a hundred times more important.

Happy shopping!


Liked this? Pin it!

How to haggle like a pro without being a dick