Travel SOS: What is the right way to haggle?

Elizabeth has been chased out of stores when haggling for prices overseas and wants to know how to do it correctly.

Q. Elizabeth
I have had mixed results when I have attempted to haggle when overseas. There have been times when I have not done it and, when returning to the touring party, I have been laughed at for the prices I have paid, while at other times when attempting to haggle I have been spat at and chased out of some shops? What is the best way to approach haggling when overseas?

A. I always find the motto that you hear on gambling advertisements also works well when it comes to haggling: ‘If it is no longer fun, walk away’.

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Bartering can be an important part of many cultures and it can be a fun process. You should take part when appropriate but, as you have outlined, the where, when and how is important.

The most important point is to keep it friendly and not ask for unreasonably cheap prices, especially when you are only trying to save what may be a few dollars or cents.

It is also worth bearing in mind the privileged position we are in when travelling and how your money can make a significant difference to the locals.

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If you are able to do your research before shopping you should go armed with the information on what represents a fair price for any item that you are looking to buy, not what could be the lowest price you might be able to get away with.

Depending on the country you are visiting, some of the traders are only just eking out a living and if you haggle too hard you have the potential to cause real suffering.

Some vendors do have a fixed price in some countries, where they operate as local co-operatives, and haggling can be inappropriate in these circumstances.

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Overall, remember that shopping while travelling should be an enjoyable experience for both parties, you are doing the right thing by trying to buy locally made products from smaller vendors and you should have a conversation as it will improve your understanding of the country and culture.

Just remember that you are most likely still going to end your transaction paying much less than you would have back home in Australia, and the haggling is just part of the story of your trip, not an opportunity to drive a hard bargain.

Also, if you have a really good shopping/haggling experience and feel you have got a good deal or a better deal than you were expecting, you can take the opportunity to tip the vendor for their time, which can make you feel even better for brightening someone’s day.

What are your favourite stories about haggling while on holidays? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.
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