1. Do some research beforehand
Before launching into a 30-minute haggling session with a peddler, check the standard price of the souvenir with local friends or fellow tourists and compare prices in several shops. You’ll know what price you should be paying. Of course hand-made local art & craft items deserve a higher price than factory-produced goods, but be sure to check if they are authentic.
2. Pick up a few words in the local language
It always helps to learn a few local words like ‘how much?’,‘please’ and numbers in the local language to better communicate with the vendors. You’ll find that they warm up to you more easily. On the other hand, it’s also a way to let any tricky peddler know it’s not your first day in town and you’re not just another potential victim they can rip off.
3. Bring a local friend
If you have a local friend, it’s best to bring him/her along as she knows where’s best to buy and at what price. A local would also know if the vendor is trustworthy and he/she can probably communicate with the vendor better. When a sly vendor sees that you’re with a local, he will also be deterred from ripping you off.
4. Start with a reasonable price
Always decide on an acceptable amount to offer, otherwise you might be offending the vendor. For a Thai silk tablecloth originally priced at 1500baht, you might get away with offering 800baht but not 50baht! If you think it’s something you can’t afford it, then don’t start asking for prices.
5. Be persistent
If the peddler does not lower his price, try your luck and persist. Some vendors might be shrewder than others, and tell tall tales. Many inexperienced tourists might fall for the trick; double check the product to make sure you’re not falling into his trap.
6. Know your limits – don’t haggle for a $1 item
Have mercy on the locals; understand that they are just trying to make ends meet. While 11,000Rupiah (Indonesian) might be just US$1 for you, it might mean an extra meal for their family. Spare a thought, and know your limits.
7. Avoid buying at the tourist traps
Never look for bargains at a tourist-populated market. Prices are often jacked up here. Anywhere with more than 10 tourists, or 5 souvenir stores in a row, is a tourist trap. Head for the next dark alley where some treasure might await you, or check your guidebook for some best-kept local secrets.
8. Don’t be pressurized into buying anything
Many peddlers get offended when you refuse to buy anything even after they have lowered the price to what you have offered. Some vendors use all means to coax you into buying, while refusing to take “no” for an answer. Don’t succumb into buying anything if you never had the intention to. Similarly, try to avoid asking for the price of an item if you don’t intent to buy it.
9. Pretend to walk away if everything fails
Usually the ultimatum: walking away sometimes does the trick if the vendor is determined to sell you the product. It might be a rather despicable decoy, but it might just get you the perfect souvenir that’s within your budget! And if they don’t lower their price any further, then it’s fate.
10. Enjoy the ride
Getting a memento is a form of remembrance, to relish your memories when you’re back home. If buying a memento becomes a stressful part of travelling, then you surely haven’t completely mastered the art of bargaining!