After my two weeks in Thailand and with Sarah the avid shopaholic that she is, you could say that I have had my fair share of haggling matches with the Thai market stall vendors. Haggling is something many people are afraid to do but in the markets of Thailand it is pretty much expected. Don’t be surprised when asking for a price if you get an answer that sounds 4 or even 5 times the items expected value.
The Thai street vendors are masters of haggling and it’s important that you level up your negotiating skills before you go, or you will find yourself quickly out of pocket with very little to show for it. So here are some of my top tips for haggling and getting a great price at the markets in Thailand.
Tip #1 – Never Show an Item Too Much Attention
The first and most important tip is to never show too much attention to an item you want. Sarah was terrible at this. After finding a top or something that she wanting, she was smiling, saying how good it looked and then looking towards me to see if she could have it. From this point on the vendor knows that you want the item and are therefore likely to pay a higher than usual price to get it, making the haggling process that much harder.
Tip #2 – Go for the Multiple Purchase Discount
Just like the 3 for 2, or buy 1 get 1 free sales in your local supermarkets don’t be afraid to ask for a freebie if you’re purchasing a couple of items. The night bazaar in Chiang Mai had a number of stalls selling virtually the same cheap t-shirts and vests. By purchasing a number of these from the same stall you are likely to receive a much better deal than buying a few from individual vendors.
Tip #3 – Shop Around
This one really goes without saying. Most of the markets in Thailand have numerous stalls selling the same items. So once you have received the best price one will offer you, move onto to another and see if they will match or beat it. If they don’t, go back to the initial stall and get your item for the agreed price.
Tip #4 – Don’t be Afraid to Walk Away
If you’ve tried all of the tips above and you’re still not getting the price you want then don’t be afraid to walk away. Odds are is that the seller will make you a better deal as soon as you go to leave and often walk with you down the road trying to get your business.
Tip #5 – Know When not to Haggle
At the end of the day you’re a tourist in Thailand and if you’re coming from country with a much stronger economy than theirs, it’s likely that an extra 100 Baht will mean a lot more to them than to you. Just make sure that the price is fair and both parties are happy.
For example in Chiang Mai we visited one of the hill tribes where they had a few stalls set up selling souvenirs. At one of the stalls was this adorable old lady and there was no way I could haggle with her. She was so adorable she could of probably sold snow to the Eskimos.
For more tips on how you can make your money go further when abroad I recommend checking out Credit Card Insider’s Study Abroad Resources page.