Haggling in Bangkok? Bring your best smile!
Okay, so we’ve had the first of the Art of Haggling series, Haggling in Morocco, but the red city is just a tiny taster of what real haggling is all about. In Bangkok, you better bargain like you mean it because the Thai people are black belts in bartering.
But whatever you do to get those prices down in the heat of the Bangkok markets, make sure you always do it with a smile.
Haggling in Bangkok, Thailand: The Wrong Way to Do It
For me, it all started with the red elephant bag. The cutest thing I’d ever seen. A totally gorgeous addition to my boho traveller’s wardrobe. So, so chic. Oh, that culpable red bag…..
Money was clasped in between my fingers ready to transact, and my eyes lit up as the stall owner let me touch the bag’s raw, bohemian fabric. Mistake number one. But the moment I really reached the point of no return was when I nodded my head at her first proposal. By then, it was just too late.
Within a millisecond, 600 Baht made it into the saleswoman’s pocket then two stalls down I spotted the same bag starting at 400 Baht. FAIL.
So rule number one: don’t look like me (a little kid in a sweet shop).
Haggling in Bangkok, Thailand: Tips and Etiquette
Thais are black belts in bartering, yes but don’t be mistaken into launching a full attack – that won’t work. Bangkok stall owners are smart, not ruthless, and they certainly don’t respond to bad manners.
Here are some tips on haggling in Bangkok or other parts of Thailand:
1. Be friendly – Thais are a gentle kind of people and they don’t respond to the sort of tantrums which may get you everything you want in the markets of Delhi. In Bangkok, niceness goes a long way. And so does a bit of flattery.
2. Let the locals go first – in Thailand you are “farang” (a foreigner) and therefore you are different. No matter how much you try to blend in, there’ll be no blending in. Local prices are not the same as farang prices; this much we have to accept as business is business, but you can also barter to get the price down as much as possible. Let the locals go first and you can get a ball park figure of what the locals are paying.
3. Smile a lot – have you noticed how Thai people love to smile? If you want to grab a bargain, you’d better do all you can to make yourself instantly likeable.
4. Don’t bid too low – as haggling in Bangkok is all about likeability, you should be careful not to bid too low. Bidding below 30% of the seller’s price can seem like an insult. If you’re brave, attempt a 50% discount but avoid going any lower than that to avoid causing offence.
5. Walk away if the price isn’t right – always smile when asking for a discount and if the price still isn’t right, say “no thank you” and walk away. If you get called back then great – but don’t push the stall owner too hard. If you don’t called back then it will give you an idea of how low stall owners are willing to go.
6. Use the power of compromise – the best etiquette for haggling in Bangkok is to make the seller feel like he or she has met you halfway without decreasing too much as “face” can be quite important to the Thais. Never gloat about knocking a price down because you met in the middle.
Remember haggling in Bangkok is meant to be fun! So don’t forget to bring your smile with you! Happy haggling! x