Getting things at the local rate is not always easy when traveling. That is why these tips on how to bargain like a pro when traveling are important. In western countries bargaining is not always acceptable and as travelers we are sometimes not used to this game and the rules that come along with it. It’s common to hear tourists complaining about prices being inflated by local sellers to make a few extra dollars without them noticing. My girlfriend Amanda and I have been traveling around the world on our bicycles for two years now. Our daily expenses hardly go over 10 dollars per person per day. Part of this is because we are traveling in developing countries, also our negotiation skills have improved a lot during this time. Although sometimes is very difficult to know how much are you paying over the local price, there are several ways you can improve your negotiation skills. Here you have some tips on how to bargain like a pro when traveling.
How To Bargain Like a Pro When Traveling
1. Always with a smile
Bargaining should never be a fight. It’s a relationship, a dialog between two people who are looking to find common ground that is beneficial for both parties. The ultimate goal is helping each other out. In some cultures, like the Arabs, it’s an ancestral tradition. No purchases happen without bargaining, it’s considered an essential part the transaction. So remember, the most important part is to enjoy yourself, always with a smile and with a deep respect for the seller.
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2. The golden rule: the first one who says a price, loses
It’s the most important rule of the game when learning how to bargain: whoever says a price first, will be in a total disadvantage. If it’s the seller, it will mean that you won’t pay more than that price and if it’s the buyer who says an amount, the seller won’t sell the product for less than that. So remember, let the seller set the price first and wait until he drops it a few times before you suggest an amount.
3. Use the local language if possible
If you can speak the seller’s native language, it’s a big plus. You don’t need to be fluent, you just need to know the basics, like numbers and a few phrases such as “how much”, “that’s very expensive”, etc. Speaking the local language will show that you actually care about the country and its people which will be very appreciated by the locals. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been to a shop when a tourist just entered without even saying “good morning” and shouting in English “how much is this?”, resulting in being given a price five times higher price of what I just paid. It’s like selling something to a friend. You sell it cheaper because you know him and want to help him out. This is the same principle. If you show you don’t care about the locals, their culture or their language, they won’t care about you either and you will be paying much more than the local price.
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4. Never show your money until you agree on a price
This is common sense. If you show your wallet full of $100 bills, don’t expect anyone giving you a good deal. If you look like a wealthy person who can afford to pay a lot, you will be in a complete disadvantage.
5. Patience, patience, patience
Take your time. Bargaining is not a sprint, it’s a long distance run. Even if you are in a hurry try your best not to show it, as it can work against you. If you only have a few minutes, the seller will just wait until you have to go putting the pressure on you to offer more money. That is how you bargain like a pro when you are traveling.
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6. Start way lower than what you would actually pay
You need to leave some margin for negotiation. Also, increasing your offer later on will show the seller you are making an effort to come to a compromise, which will be very appreciated. So the lower you start, the more room you have for negotiation.
7. Make them relate to you
Kids get what they want most of the time because people feel sorry for them. It’s exactly the same situation when bargaining. If you can make them feel sorry for you, you are likely to get a better deal. Try things like “I don’t have much money”, “I’m traveling long term” or my favorite “I travel on my bicycle, if I had money I would travel in a car and offer you more”. You get the point. Make up your story and refine it until it works.
8. Complement the seller
Making things a bit more personal can go a long way when bargaining. Comments like “you seem to be a nice guy” or “I bet you are a person who likes helping people” can be immensely powerful. Try them next time you bargain and you will be surprised with the results.
9. Show respect. Once you offer a price, you can’t go back on it
This is an important rule when bargaining when you travel that people seem to forget. Once you make an offer, you have to be content with it. Backing out will show total disrespect to the seller. So only bargain if you are truly interested in something and only make an offer when you really mean it.
10. Once the game is over, everyone is friends again
No matter how long it took to agree on a price, an agreement is enough reason for both parties to be happy. Even if the bargain didn’t end in a transaction, politely thank the seller for his time.
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In January 2013 Antonio, together with his partner Amanda, set out to explore the world by bicycle. They had big dreams, a massive bucket list and a plan. A month into their grand journey they decided to throw all their plans out the window. It was simple, they wanted a lifestyle that would allow them to travel…indefinitely. They wanted a life of adventure. So they changed their plan and slowly turned their dream trip into a dream life.