Tips on Bargaining and Shopping in Southeast Asia

Tips on Bargaining and Shopping in Southeast Asia

Shopping around for souvenirs can be one of the best parts of traveling; with a multitude of different markets to choose from (indoor, outdoor, sometimes even floating!), you will undoubtedly come home with something for everyone (including yourself!). Here are some tips for bargaining in Asia.

1. Start Lower than You’re Willing to Pay

When a vendor initially tells you a price, you can typically expect to pay about half that. You should always offer, as your first price, even lower than you are willing to pay. That way, you and the vendor will end up “meeting in the middle,” so to speak: at a price you are both happy with.


2. Don’t Buy Anything Right Away

We all know the feeling – you walk into a store and buy everything you see, and then find something you like way more at the next shop over ten minutes later. Some of the best advice I can give you on shopping in SE Asian markets is to take your time – browse through a lot of stalls before making any decisions about what you want! The other options will always be just a couple steps away, and your patience will almost always pay off.

bargaining Hats_i1

3. Enjoy Haggling!

You’re not doing anything inherently wrong—haggling is a huge part of Asian culture (for the locals and tourists alike), and many of the vendors actually enjoy doing it. However, there is a big difference between smiling and being playful in your negotiations, and being hurtful and degrading to a vendor and their products. Be polite and use common sense—being rude will never get you the price you want!


4. Think Logistics

It’s helpful to use a calculator when negotiating prices—numbers are a universal language, and many sellers will have one handy. It can also be helpful to know a couple words of the local language (you should do this regardless of where you are!)—be able to say hello, thank you, and a few numbers. This will make bargaining much easier!

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5. Buy In Bulk

Any vendor at the market will be much willing to give you a good deal if you buy a lot at once; making a big sale can take care of all your souvenir shopping at once, as well as ensure that you get the best possible price on everything.

goods from Luang Prabang_i6

6. Pretty Much Anything Can Be Negotiated

Besides a few things with set prices (for example, food at a sit down restaurant), pretty much everything can be talked down. This goes for street food, hotel rooms, and shopping of all kinds. If you’re unsure, it’s worth a try.

7. Pretend Like You Don’t Want It

This is the best advice I can give for trying to get the price of anything down—if you start to walk away and pretend like you don’t want it, sometimes the seller will cave and give you the price you initially asked for. If not, the worst that can happen is you walk back and agree to their price. The vendor will always want to keep you interested, so pretending not to be forces them to take action.