Getting the Best Deal: How to Haggle Abroad

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How to Haggle Abroad

Bargaining or haggling is something many travelers have the joy of experiencing while studying abroad. If you study abroad in certain countries, such as Greece, Morocco, or China (a budget shopping dream), you’ll get the chance to haggle for your souvenirs, too. While it can be fun and save you money, haggling is an art form that takes time to master.

Getting the Best Deal: How to Haggle Abroad

Here are a few pointers to get you started off on the right foot and learn how to haggle abroad:

Shop Around

Before testing out your haggling skills, it’s important to know how items are priced throughout shops in the area. You’d feel pretty silly if you talked a shop owner into selling you a used soccer jersey for 10 Euro when you could have bought a new one for the same price down the street. Comparing prices isn’t an easy task, as many shop owners are adamant about selling items to everyone who walks into their stores. Instead, shop with a large group of friends and scout out the area as a team. Go to separate shops and then reconvene to to discuss which shops have the best prices and items.

woman shopping for fruits and veggies at the market
Even a regular grocery shopping trip can turn into a lesson in how to haggle.

Speak the Language

Shop owners can recognize a tourist and will take advantage of dealing with someone who isn’t familiar with the area or the art of haggling. One way you can show a shop owner that you mean business is by speaking the country’s native language or a language spoken largely in that area. Learn a few key phrases and show confidence when you speak. If you are spoken to in English, don’t give in. Show that you are well-cultured and know what you’re doing (even if you don’t— fake it ‘til you make it, folks!).

Be Confident

Confidence is key in learning how to haggle. People will try to convince you of all sorts of things when they’re trying to earn a buck. They may act insulted if the first price you offer is too low. They’ll try to convince you that they have the best deal on the item you’re thinking about purchasing. Shop owners will tell you anything to get you to stay in their store until you buy something. Don’t get bullied into making a purchase.

Even restaurants in some areas will do anything to squeeze an extra dollar out of you. Double check the menu prices with what you are charged before paying the bill, and don’t be afraid to say something if things don’t add up correctly.

young girl at a market stall at night in Aruba selling gifts
Never pay too much for souvenirs to send home (it’s not like your sibling ever gets you anything anyway…)

Stay Cool

Don’t walk into a store, pick up an item and say, “Wow this is exactly what I was looking for!” That’s a game over for you in how to haggle and budget shopping 101. Remain cool and calm while you’re looking around. It’s like dating— play a little hard to get.

For fun, you could make up code phrases with your friends to communicate interest in an item without seeming overly interested to the shop owner. When you do find an item that tickles your fancy, look it over very carefully before making an initial price offer. By keeping a cool head you show the shop owner that the object isn’t that important to you, and you have no problem leaving if you don’t like the price.

Watch Out for Teams

Many times, shop owners will work with a partner to convince customers to buy from their store. If you seem unsure of a purchase, this person will reassure you of the amazing deal you’re getting. He may even run to another shop (likely his own) to grab you something that you can’t find. And if someone makes a personal trip for you, you’ll feel guilted into buying that item even if you don’t want it. That’s how they get ya! Another special weapon store owners use is children. Yes, cute little kids strolling the streets, asking if you’d like to buy a nail clippers or pack of tissues. Stay strong! Only buy what you want or need, no matter who’s selling it.

crowded storefront in Indonesia
Tchotchkes for you, tchotchkes for me!

Don’t Get Tricked

In some countries, shop owners are so good that you’ll be looking at something one minute and paying for it the next, without even realizing what happened. One way vendors are able to do this is by making it seem like they’re giving you something for free. This happens often with people who make the products they sell. They’ll make something such as a small bracelet, put it on your wrist and then ask for money. This could also happen if you visit a touristy-type shop that gives product presentations. You’ll be given a bag to fill with items you want to buy, but don’t be surprised if during the show the presenter puts an item into your bag. He’s not giving you a free sample; you’ll be expected to buy that. If you attend one of these presentations, sit with your bag held shut.

Have Fun Practicing How to Haggle Abroad

Haggling in market places can be intimidating, but it’s also a lot of fun! The first purchase that you make after negotiating a price is exhilarating, even if later you find out it wasn’t such a good deal.

bright spices at the market in India
Spice markets in India will fill your senses— but keep your wits about haggling!

Don’t take things too seriously and treat everything as a learning experience, you are going to study abroad after all. The more markets you visit, the better you’ll get at negotiating prices: it’s all part of the study abroad learning experience! And don’t be surprised if once you get home you find yourself trying to haggle with a cashier at Target.

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