How to haggle successfully abroad (without offending anyone)

Unfortunately, whenever you head to a new destination there is always an element of getting ripped off. Even people armed with a month’s worth of research still have that element of doubt as to what’s the going rate. Paying over the odds is just one of those things that you have to accept but paying massively over the odd isn’t.


Unfortunately, haggling doesn’t come naturally to those of us who don’t work on Wall Street and at times it can feel uncomfortable. At it’s core haggling is unAustralian – you rarely see anyone on Neighbours arguing over money in public! But the fact remains that in almost every other culture it’s an essential part of day to day life. So, as unnatural as it may be to our sensibilities, it is just something we have to get over and stuck into. But being completely alien to us it’s hard to know the do’s and the don’ts, so to help out I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for haggling.

Don’t be too keen

Haggling is essentially a game of poker and as soon as you drop that cool facade, letting your opponent know exactly what hand you have – you’ve lost. If you let anyone know you’re keen or desperate they are instantly going to take advantage and crank the price up. Instead, it’s better to take a take it or leave it approach. Remember they’re the one’s trying to sell you their goods/services, they’re the one’s who need the income from it and they’re the ones who should set the initial price. Let them tell you how much it is, never ask them, and if you disagree then simply make as if you will go elsewhere – they’ll soon drop it.

Forewarned is forearmed

Haggling over products is all well and good, but where you’ll really get ripped off is with transport. A tuk-tuk driver, a taxi cab, a kayaker or a man operating a rickshaw can, at times, be as unscrupulous as any big city banker. It’s in these situations where having done some research beforehand can really help. Knowing exactly how much a fare to and from the airport is, knowing what the going rate to a tourist attraction and knowing how much a tour of the city roughly costs can help you to instantly drive down that price.

Be polite

Haggling is essentially arguing over money! But at no point should it ever become an argument. Like doing any business deal or transaction it’s completely non-personal. Instead, it’s better to stay detached, try to build a rapport and then drive the hardest bargain of your life from a position of love.

Never tell the merchant how cheap it is

If there’s one big no no, it’s ever saying the words “I can’t believe how cheap this is”. As soon as a vendor hears those words, any previous bargaining power has completely flown out the window. With them knowing how cheap you think the items are they won’t accept anything less than the full whack.

Use timing

The chances of driving a bargain during peak times is nigh on impossible. With so many people about they will just swat you off knowing that there is potentially another sale in a matter of seconds. However, when trade dies down they may not be so hasty in brushing you aside.

Low ball

Never make the first offer but as soon as the vendor has set his price, you low ball him. The sheer gall of it will shock them into one of two responses; either laughing you off and sending you on your way or forcing him to reassess the value of the product. It’s a risky tactic but done right it can reap massive benefits.

Treat it like a game

Yep, don’t take it too seriously. Remove yourself and the situation from reality.  By doing this it sorts of makes you feel more comfortable, more daring and soon you start to find yourself driving some seriously hard bargains.


Stephen Leo
Stephen Leo
Stephen Leo is a veteran paddler and a former Olympic participant. He started his career a cyclist but later he moved on to kayaking as the later offers more excitement and adventure. He loves exploring nature and he is planning to visit every single country in the world before he dies.
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