Backpacker TipsMost people save all year for just two weeks in the sun, so of course whilst we’re away we don’t want to be sticking to a rigid budget.

Despite that, we’re not made of money, right? Of course not!  But while on the road, travelers are notorious for being overcharged on local products, souvenirs, and even food.  So how do you pay the same (or really close) to the price locals would pay for certain products or services?  

So how do you pay the same (or really close) to the price locals would pay for certain products or services? You haggle like a pro.  

Don’t worry, it’s not something to be afraid of.  Haggling is, in my opinion, a true art that may take some practice but after a few tries, you should notice a significant difference on what you spend while overseas.  Not only this but learning to haggle like a true pro also places you up for a better relationship with the locals as you learn some of their language, skills, sayings & even slang.  

This makes all the difference in the world when trying to lower the price of a product because you are showing the locals that you truly are trying to learn their culture, and they appreciate that.

How to haggle like a pro

Sapa Vietnam Market Buddha Souvenirs

But what can you do to set yourself up for success on your haggling adventure?

Save money before your vacation. –

Haggling starts at home, so practice now.  If you save money before your vacation and if you shop around, you can usually grab yourself quite a few bargains.  When you’re still at home, start shopping only for the sales & clearance racks.  Don’t go out to dinner, purchase fresh food cheap at the market and cook for yourself.

Just like when you’re shopping in the floating markets of Taling Chan or searching for an affordable flight anywhere else in the world.  Being clever with your purchases isn’t being tight, it’s being frugal, and that’s something completely different altogether.

Don’t by shy! –

When it comes to the real-life skill of haggling, however, so many people do tend to shy away.  Don’t be scared to try it – what’s the worst than can happen?  Somebody tells you no, big deal.  Move on to the next stall and see if they can beat the previous person’s price.

One of the last times I tried haggling was quite the baptism of fire, as I went straight into a stall at the local market in Hanoi, Vietnam and tried my hand at grabbing a bargain.  Apparently, I offered a price so low the woman looked at me in disgust, said something nasty in Vietnamese and spat at my feet.  

After little success with discussing further, I turned around and left to find myself another stall.  It turned out to be quite a comical episode, as I couldn’t do much for laughing!  Practice makes perfect no matter where you’re at in the world.

What to do: The basics. –

Chiang Mai Night Market Thailand ClothSo now that you’ve practiced a bit back home, gotten over your shyness & built up the courage to haggle, what do you do?

First, you ask how much, the seller will give you a price (which is generally much higher than you’ll pay) and you offer him or her a quarter to half of what they’re asking.  What follows is probably where the hilarity comes in, as sometimes they accuse you of attempting to steal their dinner money, they accuse you of a cheapskate, blah blah blah.  

But, if they’re a true businessman/woman, they’ll meet somewhere in the middle. The arms flailing and banter is all part of the fun, and don’t take it seriously, it’s meant in jest!  Worst case scenario is that you walk away and they ask you one last time how much you’ll pay.  

This is their last gesture to make a sale so, although they won’t show it, they really want you to purchase the product.  The balls in your court, you give them a price and you get what you want for the price you want.

Remain calm & keep your cool. –

See, it’s not about counting out your spending money for the day so rigidly, it’s just about being careful.  If you start your holiday chilled out too, then you won’t be so panicked about cash.  It’s a case of being up to date with what’s going on, and to do this, I’d recommend checking out real-time information with what’s going on around you.

For instance, prior to my flights I regularly stay up to date with information and what’s going on and as a result, I stay up to date on all the latest information, where I needed to be and was calmer as a result.

So the lesson?  Don’t be afraid to haggle, and keep yourself calm.  These are some of the mainstays of a vacation for me resulting in the best experience you can have while traveling.

What are your tips for haggling like a pro?