So, you’ve found yourself in the vibrant and chaotic markets of a foreign land. But there’s a catch – you don’t speak the local language. Fear not, because we’ve got your back with a crash course on how to haggle like a pro without uttering a word the locals understand.
One of our favorite markets is the Pattaya Floating Market. Check out that experience here!
Before you dive into the fray, take a breather. Get the lowdown on the local market scene. Walk around the market and look for signs with prices. Understand what normal items cost (eggs, bread, etc). This will give you a baseline for local expectations – there is a reason a nickname for “money” is “dough”.
Check online for the the usual price for that mesmerizing rug or the handcrafted jewelry? Do your homework. It’ll pay off.
Do a quick check on the conversion rate from your currency to local currency. That way, you can do some quick mental math to see what you are effectively paying and what it is worth. We like this tool.
Walk around the market (literally) and see what other places are selling for. Its easy to tell someone that someone else has a better price.
Talk with other tourists to see what they are paying for things and how well they have haggled. Sometimes people place a higher price because you are a foreigner… you can get 50%-60% down just by holding firm to your price.
2. Embrace Non-Verbal Communication
What do I mean by this? Well… you can’t speak in the local tongue, but your body language is a universal translator. Smile, shake your head and point, and you’re already speaking a global dialect. Sometimes, it will feel like you are being yelled at… it’s OK you are the buyer have the control!
3. Haggle with Visual Aids
When in doubt, whip out your trusty smartphone. Show pictures of what you want, or tap into a translation app to get the digits and crucial phrases across. It’s like charades with technology.
4. Learn Local Numbers to haggle
Master the art of counting in the local language. You don’t need to discuss the weather; numbers will do just fine. Practice those digits, so you can throw them into the mix with style. It does 2 things for your negotiation: let’s them know you respect their culture and time, and helps clarify the situation.
5. Start with a Friendly Approach
No language barriers can stop you from offering a warm smile. It’s the universal icebreaker. With that grin, you’re a friendly face in a sea of strangers.
6. Haggle with Genuine Interest
You might not know the words for “How much is this?” but a curious look and a raised eyebrow can go a long way. Show that you’re interested, and you’re on your way to a winning haggle.
7. Master the Art of Silence
The golden rule of haggling: Let them speak first. Sometimes, silence is your most potent weapon. Give the seller the floor and wait for that price drop.
8. Make a Respectful Counteroffer
Now comes the pivotal moment. You know the price, and you want a better deal. Whip out that calculator or write down your figure. You can even pull out your wallet and try to pay the amount you want. It is surprising how often it works!
9. Be Prepared to Walk Away
When the numbers don’t align, make the international gesture for “I’m outta here.” (which to be clear is thumb pointing away and not flipping the bird). Actually, walk away if you must – they may follow you! Be polite, but make it clear you’re ready to move on. It’s a powerful bargaining tool.
Of note, we have actually been followed by 1 person through a whole market telling people that we tried to bring them down too much. If this happens, you may have to come back to try another day.
10. Haggle using Technology
Technology isn’t always the enemy of tradition. Translation apps can be your trusty sidekicks. Communicate your intentions clearly, even if it’s through a screen. In fact, you may pull up a price on Amazon depending on what you are negotiating.
11. Be Patient and Persistent
A language barrier can mean a longer haggling session. Be patient and keep that smile on. You’re in for a negotiation marathon, not a sprint. If you have a partner, rely on them to help lower the price.
12. Close the Deal Gracefully
When you’ve finally agreed on a price, seal the deal with a smile and a nod. Perhaps a handshake. No words are needed. You’ve done it!
Haggling without a shared language is not to be feared, it is like a game of international charades. But it’s also one of the most rewarding and entertaining aspects of travel. With these tricks up your sleeve, you’re now a true street-smart haggler, ready to conquer markets worldwide. Happy shopping and even happier haggling!