Mastering Bargain Shopping Abroad: An In-Depth Guide to Saving While Traveling

Who loves a good souvenir? Who loves to spend a lot of money on a souvenir? Shopping for bargains while traveling abroad can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Why? You want to pay a fair amount for your location, even if you don’t have much money after all.

Plus, who does not love a good challenge?

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone shopping in India, and returned home with what I thought was a good deal. My aunts and relatives immediately said “you paid too much” when I bought a stone elephant that was hand-carved.

Being a foreigner makes you a target of scams and frauds.

You don’t want travel with unjust deals.

It is important to keep in mind that your money will quickly run out on long-term trips.

The whole purpose of shopping abroad, is to buy authentic, locally-made and sourced items that locals purchase. You should pay the same price as the locals in this case and receive the same deal.

Table of Contents
What is bargain shopping?
What are you willing to bargain for?
How can you get the best deal?
Last Notes on Bargain Shopping
Enjoy your shopping!
What is bargain shopping?
Haggling is what I mean when I say “bargaining”. You don’t need to pay the price that is given.

Some areas do not allow this but for those who do, you should know how to negotiate with the shopkeepers.

This blog post will teach you how to get the best deal possible and use techniques that work.

What are you willing to bargain for?
You can bargain for the price of any item you see being sold in an area where bargaining is allowed.

Included are food, clothing accessories and decorations.

You can bargain at other food stalls that sell spices or packaged products.

You may be denied by the shop owner, in which case you will not be able haggle. But it doesn’t hurt to try!

How can you get the best deal?
When bargain shopping abroad, I would like to give you some “rules-of-thumb” that will help you.

If you love an item, can afford it and are willing and able to pay for it, go ahead and buy it.

In this case, bargaining for a lower price is not as important, since you are more concerned with getting what you want. There’s no substitute for what you enjoy or want to use.

You should also bargain for small items or items you want to buy as gifts.

Knowing where and HOW to shop is a key part of finding the best deals and getting them.

First rule: ask the locals about their favorite places.
Here are some key phrases: “Where are popular local markets?” “Which markets have the best souvenirs?” and “Which markets allow me to negotiate?”

If you are looking for anything about markets (night markets, weekend markets etc. ), then this is the place to go. The markets are usually set up outside with stalls after stalls of random products.

These markets are great because if the owner of a shop won’t negotiate with you and you like an item, you can almost guarantee you will find it at another stall.

You don’t need to be stuck in one spot.

Second: Be nonchalant
Do not act overly interested. Shop owners will be less willing on price to negotiate if they know that you are really interested in something.

They know you will eventually give in if you show lots of interest.

The third step is to know where to begin your haggling
Expect the price to be at least twice what a local would charge. Double (or even triple, depending on what you want and how much interest you have) is the answer.

Do not be afraid to insult them. Imagine how you feel when you’re overcharged!

Calculate the amount in your own currency.

Then, if it’s more than you are willing to pay for the item, figure out what you would pay. Take that number, and then start your negotiation a little lower.

The hand-carved stone Elephant I bought in India was priced at Rs 1200 in the local currency (roughly $18). I calculated the price in my mind and decided to pay no more than Rs 120.00, which is approximately $12. 840.

So, my starting point was around Rs. 560 (or $8). My starting point was around Rs. 560, or $8. 500). After paying Rs 800 or $11, I left.

You can see that it’s a little under half of their original price.

You can either jump straight to this or calculate in your mind as described above, so you know the range you feel comfortable with.

The price that you are willing to pay will also depend on what you think the item is worth.

You will find that the process is a lot faster if you pay a little bit more for a piece of art.

The savings are another thing that I would like to mention. The amount I saved in our dollar currency is not very much, but when converted to the local currency it was Rs. 400.

In India, 400 rupees can be used to pay for a meal, tickets to an event, or public transport. To maximize your money when traveling, bargain-hunting for those few dollars of American can go a very long way.

Fourth: Bundle items for a better deal
If you say you are buying multiple items, many shopkeepers will be more willing bargain with you.

This is a good technique to use when someone refuses to move for some reason. I will look around to see what I can find and ask them to add something. Then I will pay whatever price they are asking.

If they insist on 18 dollars for the elephant then I will add another item to their list, such as a pen, wall hanging, fan, or pendant. I will say, “I’ll pay you 18 dollars if this item is included.”

If you cannot find anything else that interests you, I suggest buying two of what you’re bargaining for. You can give the extra as a present to someone else.

Five: Only give the money that you are willing to pay
This is what I’ve done. Some shop owners are very stubborn and I am no exception.

It worked. I took out the exact amount of change I needed to pay the item’s price and gave it to the person.

Just think about this. Cash in hand is difficult for a store owner to refuse. You won’t be chased by the shop owner to get your money back just to ask for more.

Sixth: Get up and walk away
It is important to not be afraid of walking away.

Remember that if they are unreasonable or unwilling to compromise, there is another stall or market, perhaps not too far from yours, with the same product.

You’ll be called back half the time when you begin to walk away. Wait for the price to be reduced.

Stop and turn around and repeat YOUR price if they call back. If they don’t agree, walk backwards.

Most of the time, they’ll call you back to give you exactly what you asked for.

This is a result of not being interested enough.

Seventh: Shop with a local
Use local resources if you have someone who lives nearby or a tour guide that is willing to assist you.

Ask them first what a typical price or fair price is for consumer goods and souvenirs. Use their feedback to start and compare different store owners.

If a seller offers you a price that is exorbitant compared to the one you were told by your guide, you should walk away. Don’t bother to bargain with this seller.

It is even better if your guide can help you in the negotiation process.

Locals can help you get better deals, as they will be able assist you in pricing items. Shop owners know they cannot cheat you when you have a local on your side.

This is a situation where I would recommend caution. You should still trust your instincts, even if you seek help.

I’ve heard several stories about how tour guides and shop owners sometimes work together. It is in your best interest to pay more, as they will split the profits.

If you feel that a deal is not right, or if something seems off, walk away. You’re not obliged to buy anything because someone is helping you.

Eighth: Do your due diligence
Be sure to inspect all items before purchasing them. Remember, you’re a target and these markets do not offer a return or exchange policy.

Do your inspection before you start the offer or process. You should look for any defects and decide how you feel about its quality. You can sometimes use a minor defect to help you bargain and lower the price.

Sometimes, depending on your feelings about the product, you will be more or less willing to bargain and you will pay a different price. Trust your instincts.

Do not pay before you are sure.
After you have settled on a price and reached a deal, make sure you are happy with the final result.

There are no exchanges, returns or refunds. In many cases, I regret my purchases after the fact. I wasn’t 100% certain about the price of the item or the price in each case.

Do not pay until you are sure.

Last Notes on Bargain Shopping
Be careful
Watch out for scams. If it sounds too good, it’s probably a scam.

If someone leads you to an alleyway or a stand-alone store and claims that they have “great merchandise”, don’t go.

Play it safe and listen to your gut. It is not worth buying local products, regardless of how good a deal they offer.

Don’t make promises
Before you pay for your product, I also said to check it out. If you are buying something cheaply, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality is poor or that there are defects.

Do not promise to purchase anything before you have seen and felt it. Do not hand over any money before you have done your research.

Protect your belongings
In a country in the third world, these markets are often crowded and many of them are poor. Be careful with your wallet.

Separate your money and keep some in the wallet, others in the front pockets and some at bottom of your bag.

Dress Casually
Avoiding fancy clothing and leaving your valuables at your hotel are two ways to protect your belongings. You are more likely to be scammed if you appear richer.

Wearing closed-toed shoes that are comfortable is also a good idea. You will be stepped on in a crowded marketplace.

Some of these markets are also located on alleys and side streets that are unpaved and full potholes. It’s not enjoyable. You’ll thank your feet.

Counting the money
If you expect to get change back after paying for an item or service, make sure you count the amount and that it’s correct.

This has helped me to catch many mistakes. You may not save a lot, but you still want your money to go the furthest when you travel.

Wrap your purchases properly. If you’re going to be returning your purchases, it is important that they are not damaged or broken.

Ask them to do so if they refuse. You shouldn’t be charged for packaging. All that should be included with the price of your souvenir.

Enjoy yourself
Shop owners in other countries love meeting tourists. You can go along with them if they are friendly and curious.

Ask them questions, make jokes and get to know their products.

You may be able to get a better price AND learn more about the local culture. You’ll also make the shopkeeper’s day. It’s a win-win.

Enjoy your shopping!
Once you make your first purchase, bargain shopping will become a fun and rewarding experience.

You’ll learn what’s fair and what’s not as you continue to do it. It’s normal to pay more than you should the first few times, but that’s because you are learning.

With practice and these tips, you will soon be shopping like a native!

This post was originally published on Wealth of Geeks. It is being republished here with permission.