Budgeting is a big part of travel planning and it is usually divided into 4 categories: accommodation, food, transportation, activities/leisure.
To be able to stick to your budget, especially while traveling across Asia or Africa, it is important to master the art of NEGOTIATION!
One thing to keep in mind: if the price isn’t clearly indicated, the seller will tailor it to each customer, which means you’re at a higher risk of getting ripped off! Negotiation is part of the journey, and it quickly becomes a daily practice!
But this of course doesn’t apply to grocery stores and restaurants where the price is usually shown.
This brings us to our next question: what type of product should you negotiate?
From your hotel room to your meal from the street food stall, when buying a trinket from the artisan market or renting a scooter, even the taxi fares and excursions you’re participating in, etc …
It might be a little scary at first, especially if you’re not used to haggling back home: the indicated prices can only be fair, right? Or so you’d think.
But everything is very different over there!
I’ve had the chance to try my hand at bargaining a few times when traveling to Senegal and across Asia,
and here are some of my tips and tricks to become a pro haggler:
• Hold the money talk
Before even thinking about talking money with the seller, greet them and have a bit of a chat. Show genuine interest in the object that caught your attention. Smiling is extremely important.
• Before starting the negotiations
Make sure to have a look around the market and check the prices on the other stalls. They usually sell the same type of products and this will give you an idea of the price but will also be a good point of leverage for negotiation (capitalising on competition is an effective method of bargaining).
• Never go first!
Another important point to keep in mind is that you should always let the seller give the starting price. There are three different prices in every negotiation: the actual price of the object (without the margin), the given price (the one the seller expects you to pay) and the offered price (the one we are willing to pay). You want to reach a balance between the given price and the real price: after all the seller still needs to make money to live!
• Turn it into a game
Negotiation is a tradition. You should take part in it with a good spirit and a smile, without becoming aggressive, and in the end the transaction should be a win-win situation. The aim of this game is not to get individual victory, but to reach a common ground. See it as a ping-pong game: sometimes your opponent will not give in. It’s then time to let it go and try your luck somewhere else. It is ok to not win every time.
• Don’t lose your temper
There is no need to get angry, it would only cut short to the negotiations and you would lose any chance of winning over your opponent. If the price announced by the seller is excessive, it is better to keep smiling and let them know that you are aware of the actual market prices. Don’t hesitate to walk away, once or even twice, and you will see that the seller will come back to you with a lower price.
• “That’s all I’ve got”
I’ve used this little trick on many occasions during my trip to Senegal and it is one of my personal favourites! This is one of the easiest ways to haggle (especially If you’re a beginner)! It’s all in the attitude and requires just a little bit of acting skill, but you’re almost guaranteed a 100% success rate. 😉
You need to do some preparation beforehand and make sure that you only have small notes on you. You should also have an idea of the cost of the object you are wanting to buy and get that amount ready. Once the seller gives you his price, take out the money that you had prepared and tell the seller “that’s all I’ve got”. If you play your cards right, the seller will soon realise that there is no way you can give him more than that. It’s an all-or-nothing type of situation but if your offer is decent, the seller should accept without protesting.
• Negotiating as a couple
Being two can be an advantage, if you know how to make the most of it.
The best way to negotiate as a couple is by using the “good and the villain” technique: one person is very interested in an object while the other one is more sceptical and makes comments about the price. This will push the seller to drop the price and try to convince the hesitant party to seal the deal. Negotiations start when the seller asks you “How much are you are you willing to pay?”. Now that he has an idea of the amount you are willing to give, he will probably have a laugh and raise an eyebrow. He might lower the price a little bit, but not by much… If you are feeling confident that the given price is right, stand your ground and insist nicely. If you’re right, the seller will give in. If not, you will need to rethink your strategy and slightly raise your price to show you’re willing to make some effort. It will take several tries before you reach an amount that will satisfy both parties.
It’s not always an easy feat and some days you’ll cave in because you’re tired, despite knowing that you are being ripped off, and on some other days you will be on top of your game and get amazing bargains. It can depend on your mood too!
We also often think “it’s actually pretty cheap!” (compared to the prices back home) or “it’s only $5 for taxi after all….” but paying $5 instead of $2 means the price is over twice the actual cost! You have to adapt your spending to the cost of living of the country you are visiting. For example, if you have planned a $1000 budget, it should be enough to cover your expenses for a month in Thailand, but this wouldn’t be enough back home. You can’t compare the costs. Because if you are not careful, you will blow up your budget and find yourself with very little left over at the end.
It would be a shame to not be able to enjoy the last few days of holidays because you haven’t been paying attention to how you spend your money and didn’t dare negotiate from the very beginning!
So there you go!
You know (almost) everything about how to haggle on your next travels!
I’ll be back very soon with new tips and tricks to guide your through your adventures.