Local markets can be some of the best places to find authentic gifts and souvenirs—but to get a good price, you’ve often got to do a little bargaining. While some may think that haggling with vendors is not for the faint of heart, you’d be surprised how easy it is to master the skill.
Research! Research! Research!
If you have a specific big-ticket item in mind, research ways to verify authenticity before you go. If you’re not well versed in the tell-tale signs, you may end up purchasing a faux leather jacket in Florence or a mass-produced rug in Morocco. Visit your local specialist, such as a rug dealer or a leather shop, and talk to an expert about what distinguishes a real from a fake.
Don’t feel timid about offering a lower price than what’s on the tag. Items in markets can be marked up as much as 50% more than the actual value because shoppers are expected to bargain. Make a respectful offer lower than what you actually want to pay and work up from there.
Talk the talk
If you’re abroad, being able to communicate with some conversational phrases goes a long way. Along with mastering key phrases like “How much does it cost?”, learn how to say hello and make some friendly small talk. You’re more likely to get a deal if you’re likeable and polite.
Say “This is interesting, what’s the price?” instead of “Wow, I have to have this!” Don’t give away that you’re excited about the item—vendors won’t bother to negotiate if they think they have you already.
Buy a bunch
If you’re shopping for small gifts for friends or family, it is best to buy them together. Usually a vendor will cut you a deal if you’re purchasing more than one item from them. Try offering a round number (say $20 if your items come to a total of $23 separately), or negotiating getting an item free when you buy two or three.
Say “no thanks”
Be prepared to walk away. This is the most important rule in getting a good deal. If they won’t offer it to you at an acceptable price, walk away. Don’t pay more than you think is fair, and don’t worry about the vendor taking it personally if you don’t want to make a purchase with them. We’ll say it again: walk away.
The bottom line?
Buy things that you love at a price that seems fair to you. The real value souvenirs hold is in evoking special memories of your trip.