Haggling in South East Asia

“How much are these sunglasses?” I asked.

“800 baht” he replied.

I giggled, and said “I’ll give you 150 baht!”

The haggle war had begun.


Haggling in South East Asia (Custom)

Love it or loathe it, haggling in South East Asia is all part of the experience of visiting this wonderful part of the world.

When done properly, haggling can provide both you and the seller with a fun and friendly experience, without you or the vendor leaving the situation feeling anyways frustrated or angry.

I quite like bargaining and I actually think that I’m quite good at it. Having said this, I have to be in the form and frame of mind for the battle that haggling can bring about.

Haggling in South East Asia

Otherwise, I just get annoyed and end up paying far too much than I should of or I’ll walk away empty handed with a sour taste in my mouth!

Haggling works in my favour the majority of times, but there have been instances where I’ve left feeling angry and frustrated when my haggling skills just didn’t match up to them of my opponent, aka, the vendor!

Haggling is a part of every day life here in Southeast Asia, and becoming a “seasoned haggler” may result in you saving a considerable amount of money while travelling.

It is not something most people can pick up overnight, and becoming a master haggler takes lots of time and practice. Before you dive into the sport of haggling, you’ll need to know the simplest of basics and the most complex of guidelines on how to become a pro.

Ok, there are no complex guidelines, but there are simple basic steps that you should follow.

First, you need to figure out which shops/places you can bargain at in the first place. Even though bargaining is standard in the majority of shops/stalls in Southeast Asia, there are some places that have set prices.

Haggling in South East Asia

Should you haggle even if there are set prices?

Where there are set prices, the thought of haggling should be forgotten as in most instances you’d look like a fool if you start asking for a lower price.

Places that you shouldn’t haggle in usually include restaurants, grocery shops, and any place that has a sign saying ‘no bargaining.’ They have price tags for a reason.

You should always pick your battles wisely. Take a minute and say to yourself, is it really worth spending time bargaining down the price when all you’ll end up saving is a few Euro?

If the answer is yes, let the battle commence!

Are you too embarrassed to ask for a lower price because you think you look stupid? Don’t be! Vendors here are so used to bargaining with their customers that they won’t mind you approaching them and initiating the process of haggling.

Now here’s a problem that every successful haggler must not ignore, how can you gauge if you’re getting ripped off?

Haggling in South East Asia

If you already have an item in mind you want to purchase, do the necessary research on that item in order to give yourself an idea of how much you should pay for it.

When it comes to haggling for more expensive items, you should always make sure that you know what particulars to look out for, so you don’t end up buying an imitation item (unless that is what you want of course)!

One of the most important things to remember when haggling is your manners, a smile and a friendly attitude go a long way. Nobody wants to give a rude person with a nasty attitude a lower price, do they?

If you feel comfortable, take the smile one step further and try to engage the seller in conversation. Remember to be firm on your reasons for why you want a lower price, while still maintaining your politeness.

Make sure you have a cutoff price in your head. Consider what would be the maximum price you’d pay for the item, and be prepared to walk away if the seller isn’t willing to match it.

If you do decide to walk away, the timing in which you do so is crucial. If you walk away too soon, the vendor will think that you were not really interested in the first place. Hang around too long, and the vendor won’t take you seriously. It’s all about the timing!

Another effective method, and one I use quite a lot, is to pretend to call someone on the phone in order to get their ‘approval’ on the price that’s being asked. For this trick to work, you need to make it sound like you want the item, but the person on the other end of the phone is not sure about the price. Works every time!

And there you have it! These tips and tricks will turn your haggling experiences into an enjoyable, rewarding and hopefully profitable experience.

Bottom line is, don’t get yourself frustrated or annoyed when bargaining for items. If you don’t get the price you want in one place/shop, move onto the next…practice makes perfect!!

Haggling in South East Asia


“Aw ma’am, you crazy! I cannot do. How much you pay?”

“I will give you 180 baht,” I replied.

“Oh, 180 means no profit for me.”

This continued for another five minutes.

The result?

I now had a new pair of sunglasses that cost me 300 baht. 🙂