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5 Tips for Negotiating the Price You Want in Local Markets

Local market in Cusco, Peru
Local market in Cusco, Peru
Greg Rodgers

Asia, South America, Africa - no matter where you go local markets are the best place to experience the buzz of daily life in a place.  The sights, smells, and energy of the markets will be one of the things that you remember most about developing countries and also where you will end up doing a lot of your shopping.

As a budget traveler every dollar that you save will keep you on the road that much longer, so good negotiation skills are essential when you make a purchase.  Here are some tips for not getting fleeced on your next trip to the market:

5 negotiating tips for local markets

  1. The number one rule for properly negotiating a price is to smile first.  Don't be shy, in most places it is expected that you will negotiate.  Approach the process as a friendly game and a fun chance to interact with a local - this is particularly important in Asia where "saving face" is a crucial part of daily life.
  2. Take off your sunglasses, it is courtesy to look someone in the eyes, and don't expect to land a good price if you're wearing flashy jewelery.
  3. You will always get a better price if you try to negotiate in the local language - just learning "too expensive" and the numbers is good enough.  If you aren't comfortable in a language yet, use a calculator or notepad to show numbers so that there aren't any misunderstandings!
  4. Make your first offer no more than half the asking price of what you want to buy.  Go up from there, always willing to give in a little at the end to help the vendor save face by not feeling desperate to make the sale.
  5. If the person you are negotiating with won't budge on a price, don't be a afraid to turn around and walk away.  Many times they will call you back and if they don't, chances are that there is another vendor nearby selling the exact same thing!

After the sale

After you make your purchase, don't let a shopkeeper make you feel bad by saying that they have "lost money" - they do this every single day and are masters at what they do.  They would not sell it to you if they lost money!

Negotiating in frenetic markets takes practice, but it can be a fun exchange with a local and always remember, that .50 cents you are working so hard to save may mean a lot more to a family in a poor country.

See Also:

Negotiating Prices in Thailand


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