I’ve spent some time now in Morocco and Turkey, two places where the prices you see/hear are merely suggestions. If you are feeling unadventurous, go ahead and pay the ridiculously inflated prices. But, the only way to get the good deals on the scarves, shoes, pants, carpets, lanterns, etc., etc.,Ā  is to talk talk talk and barter your way to those goodies you know you want to cram into your backpack.

Being a backpacker, my budget is tight, so bartering is the only option. I’ve gotten some pretty sweet deals (meaning I have paid likely the cost or a tad bit under what the price should be for items).

My tricks of the bartering trade?

1. Be prepared. If you are cranky, tired, hungover or in anything but a decent to excellent mood, you won’t last a second in the souks or stores. They are overwhelming. People are talking at you from all sides. They do anything to get your attention, from calling out to you in a multitude of languages to slurring racy (and annoying/inappropriate at times come-ons). If you can’t go in to the abyss with a good head, there’s no way you will be able to negotiate.

2. Don’t reek of money. Walking wide-eyed through the winding turns of shops with a hole to burn in your pocket is noticeable. Don’t ask me how, but the owners know you have money to spend and they will rope you in. The more casual you act when walking through, the more times you shake your head “no” before landing in front of displays, the longer your money will last.

3. Don’t act too interested. Eager Beavers won’t fare well. Don’t “ooh” and “ahhh” too much over anything. To owners, it screams “sucka” and they will start their bidding even higher, giving you less of a chance to barter without looking like a tool. They know the sale is imminent. The less you love something (or appear) to love something, the lower they will start.

4. Establish you are on a budget. When they say the starting price, look a bit put back. There’s just no way I could possibly afford that. If you have someone with you (and this works great for couples or co-ed teams), you can have a conversation with the eyes. You know the one — “honey, I really like this.” “No, dear, it is out of our price range.” Feign disappointment. Then, go name your price. I start really low.

5. Don’t be afraid of seeming insulting. Unless you know the shop owner, start LOW. They are used to it and if it is too low, they will tell you right out they can’t make the deal.Ā  I typically take the price they offer and more than half it.

6. Leave your wallet out of sight. Before you even enter into the carnival of stores, take the money out of your wallet you want to spend. Put bills in different pockets (front pockets — and keep an eye for pickpocketing) so when you name your price and they agree, you don’t look like an ass when you open your wallet to a roll of 100s. This also helps when you tell them you only have 50 YTL to spend. The times I have gotten the best deals, I have pulled the money I have out of my pocket and explained that “this is all I have …” More times than not, if the money you have turns them any profit at all (even an itty bitty bit), you get the item.

7. Walk away. You have gone back and forth. No deal can be struck. What do you do? Walk away. If the discrepancy is only a little bit, you will get called back and told it is a deal. If you don’t hear that call? Well, then really walk away. Go somewhere else.

8. Make friends. If you are spending some time in one place, and walk by often enough, shop owners will get to know you. You can stop, chat, etc. but never buy anything. Then, if/when you are ready to buy, go to them. At that point, you have established a “relationship” with them and they will give you a good deal. A genuine good deal. If you don’t believe me, make friends, see them barter with other customers, and then see what you get.

9. When you get worn out, leave. (See Tip #1).

Do you have a trick of the trade to share? Post below!

37 comments

  1. these are universal tips and work in SEA also. Here in Thailand, I love to work them up and then I spew out and ask if they are Burmese in Burmese just for the fun of it. I end up getting great deals because how can they rip of a sistah eh!? I did that when I was a tourist here. Now that I’m here in Thailand (to live here), I don’t really go to the night bazaar. I usually have an idea of how much I want to pay than I reduce that by another 20-25 % leaving room for some negotiation in between. It is a fun process and you really have to do it with a big smile.

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  2. Excellent tips, I have used everyone of them at some point.

    Along with making friends, try to ask them a few personal questions. If the store owner feels comfortable with you, they will drop the price.

    Show up early in the morning, sometimes store owners are willing to give you a better price for their 1st sale of the day (it might just be a tactic), but it might be true!

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  3. Great article with a lot great hints!
    I am bartering since 2 years and i love it,its easy, fun and its free.
    I am trading with friends, neighbors and online on Barterquest.com, you should try it…

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  4. Awesome D,
    These are great Tips that i wish i had the last time i went to Mexico. Especially Rule 3, I paid way too much for Luchador masks, ponchos and Viagra.

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  5. This is JUST what my friends and I did in India — CONSTANT looking at each other and going, “Are you sure you really want that? You’ve got another one just like it,” or “I’m just not sure it suits you.” Tag-team bargaining is huge. And we stumbled onto the “walk away” strategy by having gotten frustrated and actually trying to leave a shop, only to have the price dropped to next-to-nothing and buying the thing after all. Best final-move strategy ever.

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  6. I have only bartered once and it was such a rush! Living in El Paso (next to Juarez when it wasn’t full of crazy murdering drug cartel people), as a child we would go to the mercado often. Actually, pretty much everything from my quinceanera was bartered for…

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  7. I’ve bartered throughout Africa and Southeast Asia. Some days it’s a pain and other times I find it to be fun! I always try to make small talk and get to know the shop owners. It also helps if you can even speak a few words in the language, even if it’s just the numbers to barter. And I always walk away if I’m not totally sure I want to pay the amount being offered- it almost always draws a lower asking price. Great tips you’ve compiled!

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  8. Very good tips. Another one I usually follow (I made it for myself) is to offer between 1/4 and 1/3 of what they initially ask and then take it from there. However sometimes you can get a better deal, like when I bought a painting in Bali for 10usd when the guy was initially asking for 100+! Number 7 is a superb one too

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  9. ah, the art of the deal. I love this stuff. It cracks me up because it’s the same in this arena of traveling and bartering as it is in my husband’s work. He’s the one who taught me, “Remember Sally Soprano would have sung for free,” and “always be willing to walk away.” Fun and very useful post… damn I want to get out of town NOW(and go to Morocco)

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  10. I’m embarrassed for all of you… yep embarrassed!…if you can’t afford to honer the artist’s workmanship and the merchant, (they both have to make a living)… than stay home.. It’s just not cool anymore.. grow up.
    This isn’t the grand tour of 1890. You’re making a game out of people livelihoods… so patronizing and superior…

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    1. you spelt honour wrong cockroach !

      You sound like the sort of gimp would pay over the odds because you haven’t the balls to question.

      Toddles xx

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      1. Lovely! I’ve never been called a cockroach before. Or a gimp. Then again, I typically am insulted by people who have balls enough to leave their own name in a post. Anyway, thanks for the lively commentary!

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  11. Hey oh, gay one, you sound like the kinda guy who would crush his own grandmother into the ground to get a good deal, wow, congratulations! What a rock star… Oh and by the way, that’s “who would pay” you forgot the word “who”

    big hugs and kisses, dirt bag…

    ps I don’t have balls…. ya know, being female n all…

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  12. by the way, English is not my first language… I’m fluent in French and Spanish… You? Oh, just English… pity…

    Maybe the French and Spanish speaking people are just the same folks you would “bargain” with and destroy if you had the chance. Or possibly you haven’t traveled the world and are just full of ….?

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  14. I think #8 is fantastic because I’m a 11 yr old boy and I’m staying in bali with my family me and my brother both love sports so we made friends with the local sportswear sellers and now. My whole family gets bargains thankyou

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