Travel Etiquette: How To Haggle Like A Pro

7 March 2016

Have you ever purchased something on your travels only to later find out that you paid five times more than it's worth? Bagging a bargain doesn't just take patience, a 'take no prisoners' attitude or a zest for a discount; it takes finesse, flair and a few manners. Some say haggling is an art form; others say it's a battle. But, it's also something that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Here's how to hone your marketplace haggling skills abroad.

Travel Inspiration A buzzing, bustling marketplace in Hong Kong

Understand The Lay Of The Land

Don't attempt to purchase everything on your shopping list on the first day of your trip. Wander around to suss out what you're after and how much different venders are quoting. If you're looking for a quality piece (ahem, knockoff), it's going to cost more than some spare change. You can't just throw around any old price – offending stallholders isn't going to get you the result you want. Be realistic about how much things might cost.

Learn A Few Key Phrases

No one's going to want to play nice if you storm in gun's blazing demanding that Bintang singlet for nothing. Best transactions begin by building a rapport. A smile and g'day goes a long way, but you'll impress stallholders even more if you can nail some key phrases in their native language. They may drive a hard bargain, but you can at least keep the transaction light and jovial.

Do The Math

The general rule of thumb is: halve the price you're quoted and work your way from there – 20 or 30 percent less than what you started with is usually a good result. Also, if you've seen the item cheaper elsewhere, say so.

Travel Inspiration Cash money

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Try Not To Look Too Interested

You're bound to come across a few overzealous sellers. The key is to not look too interested in their wares. Trust me, you'll find the same [insert souvenir here] at the next stall and the one after that. And at the shops down the road.

Know Your Limits

Know the maximum price you're willing to pay and stick to it. If you've done your research (point one), you'll have an idea of how much the item should cost. Venders can use all sorts of ploys to get you to buy more than you need, such as offering a lower price if you buy multiples. (Although that's always handy if you're picking up bulk knick knacks for the folks back home).

You Are Allowed To Walk Away

This is your biggest bargaining chip. If you can't reach an agreement – or you think you're blatantly being ripped off – walk away and don't look back. One of two things will happen. Either the shopkeeper will let you go, or call you back to agree on your final price.

Travel Inspiration "Just browsing, thanks!"

Don't Sweat The Small Change

You want a win-win situation. Profit for them, a fair price for you. It's not worth getting into an argument over the difference between a few cents or dollars. In developing countries, that money will mean a lot more to a local than it does for you.

Look The Part

That Apple watch and Bottega Veneta shoulder bag isn't doing you any favours if you're trying to bargain over a few mementoes. And realistically, designer brands have no place in easy-going Ubud or the foothills of northern Vietnam. Leave the jewels and designer duds at home, and keep that platinum Amex card hidden. You're just asking to be ripped off flashing that stuff around.


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals.


Anna Howard

Give me street food over Michelin stars, cellar doors over wine bars and small towns and wide open spaces over big cities any day. Travel for me means ticking off the 'to eat and drink' list one regional flavour and wine bottle at a time.