Visiting local markets while traveling can be adventurous. But testing your bartering skills there can be even more exciting. However, there are a few things you should know first.
If you’ve traveled internationally, you know that one of the best places to get good deals on everything from produce to souvenirs is open-air markets. The hustle and bustle, energy, and chaos create a unique cultural experience. Learning how to barter in markets can be a challenge and even a competition among travelers as they try to find out who can get the lowest price.
If you’ve built relationships with locals during your travels, ask if they’ll come with you to the market. They can help you determine if you’re getting a fair price or if you should walk away. If there is a language barrier, a local can act as a translator and help you communicate with the seller.
One word of caution: Sometimes local tour guides have relationships with vendors and get kickbacks when they take tourists to shops. While this isn’t inherently bad, it may mean that you’re not getting the best deal possible.
Just because you fall in love with the first djembe you see, doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If there are several markets in town, and you’re trying to purchase a big ticket item, shop around. If you don’t see exactly what you want, ask if they are made locally. If so, it may be worth it to pay a trip to the person who makes them for a better deal and a greater selection.
It’s definitely okay to be confident, but it’s equally as important to be kind when dealing with local vendors. Remember, you are representing future travelers and setting the tone for their experience. If you don’t want to buy something, it’s okay to be firm and walk away, but do your best to be nice about it.
It’s important to know what the market rate is for whatever you’re planning on buying, especially if it’s a big ticket item. Know the market value will help you make an educated decision when you are in the heat of the moment bartering.
…but not too low. You want to start low enough that you have some room to negotiate, but not so low that you offend the seller. Give yourself some room to haggle so you can meet in the middle on a fair price.
Remember too that you are a guest in the country you are visiting. Do your part to travel light and be eco-friendly when possible.
All in all, bartering in local markets is a thrilling experience. As a traveler, it’s important to keep in mind that a small amount to you can make a big difference for the seller — so be sure to keep that in perspective as you barter in markets. When done right, bartering will be a good experience for you and the seller. After spending a few months traveling last year — bartering for everything from gas to bananas — it was almost disappointing to go into a store back in the US and pay a set price for my produce.