Shopping in Thailand is an attraction of its own. This is a country with absolutely world-class markets stuffed to the brim with colorful clothing, trinkets, and home goods. It’s thrilling stepping into a Thai market for the first time — the sights, smells, and sounds are sensory overload. It can also be overwhelming when you go to buy something and there’s no price tag.
Haggling is a necessity in Thailand. The vendors in the markets will often try to charge you 2-5x the price of the item. This is because they expect to negotiate a little bit.
You want a good deal but you don’t want to be rude. Here are some tips for bargaining in Thailand.
Ask the Price
You’re going to need to ask for the price of anything you want to buy. In the markets, they don’t put prices on things because they expect people to negotiate and haggle. They also do this so they can over-charge unsuspecting tourists. I’ve found that knowing a few numbers in Thai goes a long way. You’re able to get things for a much better price if you speak a little bit of the language.
When they tell you the price you’re going to want to play it cool. Don’t go looking for how much money you have in your wallet. Give them a look like “I know how much this should really cost” and tell them it’s out of your budget.
Make an Offer
Lowball a little bit without being disrespectful. For example, if something costs 500 baht I would offer 200. I would expect the vendor to negotiate up to 300 or 350.
Another tactic is to buy more. If the seller offers a price of 300 baht for one item I would ask to have two for 400. The more you buy the better the price you can get.
Play it Cool
Whatever you do, do not lose your temper. Thailand is known as the land of smiles for a reason. Thai people tend to smile even when they are angry or sad to ease the situation. If you lose your temper or show anger you have already lost face and lost the battle.
Bargaining is a game so make sure you’re having fun with it and not taking it too seriously.
More often than not, if you start to walk away the vendor will call you back and agree to the price you asked for.
If they don’t call you back, chances are that you’ll find the same item at another booth nearby. If you really want the item and you’re willing to pay more, go back and pay what they asked for. It may seem a little embarrassing after a long round of negotiating but they expect a little battle so they won’t make you feel bad about it.
Don’t Negotiate Everything
These tips only apply to market goods such as clothes and household items. Do not try to negotiate in actual stores or at food stalls. These are set prices and you will come across really rude if you try to get a lower price.
Also please try to remember that this is how these people make their living. Your extra $1 could mean another meal for their kids. It’s pocket change to you but survival for someone else. Don’t over negotiate and don’t get upset when the game doesn’t end in your favor.
Bargaining is something you get better and better at. The more time you spend in a country the more you know what prices should be. I spent four months in Thailand and I’m sure I got ripped off countless times.