4 cities, 4 markets, 4 rules: How to haggle your way to a good bargain

2018-11-30 14:00 - Marisa Crous
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(PHOTO: iStock)

The Grand or Spice Bazaar, Stone Town, Accra, Hong Kong. Finding a bargain at a local market when travelling is always an itinerary-first for me.

I don't like sales, but I do love markets. 

It's usually a fantastic place to find locally-made crafts, spices and other treats. 

WATCH: Find trinkets and gadget galore at these top Hong Kong markets 

A lot of people swear by the just-walk-away approach or tell you to be warm, charming or to even point out flaws when haggling for good deals.

Most of these tactics tend to work a charm. But all markets are different, and often, tactics need to be adjusted.  

Here are a few haggling rules and how they worked for me in various markets around the world: 

READ: Ditch the crowded malls at one of these SA Christmas markets 

Accra, Ghana

Rule #1: Know your price

In Accra our guide made sure to tell us the real prices before we went to the market. Always know what things cost for locals, and expect to pay a bit more than that as a tourist. 

Never accept the opening bid. Always slash that price by at least 50%. Vendors tend to put a 500% mark-up on their goods for tourists, so do a bit of research beforehand. 

At these markets my best tactic was to use hesitation. I knew the real price, so slashing and then still hesitating eventually made vendors drop their prices. This man (below) sold me a basket for R90, still not the local price, but it was cheaper than the R180 charged by other vendors in the same market.  


(The vendor I bought a woven basket from in Accra. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 

Stone Town, Zanzibar

#Rule 2: Strength in numbers

Now here I got my money's worth. Two baskets for R50 and spices for cheap as chips. People were very open to negotiations.

However, I think it was because I was travelling in a group. Strength in numbers. Five voices are way more influential than just one. 

In Accra I was alone, and struggled a bit to find my voice. 

Hong Kong, People's Republic of China 

Rule #3: Use the "I only have X amount with me" line 

Here, I bought a fake Chanel bag. Black on white, there it is, I supported the counterfeit industry. *cringe*

Wearing a black and white dress, I entered one of Hong Kong's many, many city markets on a very humid, rainy afternoon. Almost immediately I was approached by a woman who profiled me as a Chanel fan, asking me if I wanted "Chanel". 

I did.

She whipped out a laminated catalogue, showcasing the available "Chanel" options. 

Here, the just-walk-away technique worked for me. Her opening price was way too high. I didn't want to pay Chanel prices for "Chanel". 

READ: Avoid the mall and do your festive shopping at these Eastern Cape Christmas markets 

She ran after me and dropped the price. I kept walking. She followed. Eventually I used the "I only have X amount with me" line, and she caved. 

The Grand or Spice Bazaar, Istanbul 

Rule #4: Stick to your guns

For me, this mostly entailed avoiding eye contact. There are so many people trying to sell you things: gold jewels, rugs, lamps, Turkish Delights, nuts and more.

Everyone is hustling and it can be very overwhelming.

So approach these markets with an exact idea of what you are looking to buy. And stick to that. 

Avoiding eye contact here isn't rude, it's a means of survival. Browse around, and compare prices until you find the best deal. The 2-for-1 approach works very well here. Especially with jewellery in the Grand Bazaar. If one ring costs R100, ask for 2 for the same price. I promise you, you'll get it. 

Again, never go with the opening price. Only 'bad tourists' do that. 


(The Spice Bazaar, Istanbul. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 

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