Bargaining Etiquette

by Narelle Webber on Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Shopping in Costa Rica © used with permission by Alissa Adler, ISV Alumni

“Almost free today”…. “I give you very special price”…

I’ll be honest, I’m terrible at bargaining and I usually always end up paying more than what I need to pay. But in terms of etiquette, I have a few things to share with ISV participants who may need some skills in bargaining during their ISV program overseas. The concept of ethical bargaining fits with our responsible travel principles too, as it’s about respecting the local culture when you travel. Here are some points to remember when you have a go at it.

  • Note that the culture of bargaining (or haggling) will differ depending on the country you visit. For example, in Turkey I’d never drank so much apple tea in my life (vendors continuously offer you tea and it’s rude to refuse).
  • Normally you won’t bargain for a price in a proper shop (especially if you see items with a price clearly marked on them). Bargaining is most common in markets.
  • Take your time and have a look around the market first, and then go back for what you want. Basically, do a little homework on prices before you start and know what you feel comfortable paying for anything.
  • Ask yourself before you decide to buy

    Have fun and if you’re OK with what you paid, that’s the main thing! © used with permission by Shakira Harrison, ISV Alumni

    • Do I really need this? (responsible consumption behaviour)
    • Is it made from an endangered species (e.g. plant or animal)?
    • Can I safely get it home through customs?

If your answer is “Yes”, “No” and “Yes” (in that order), continue on:

  • Always let the vendors make the first offer and then ask, “Is that your best price?”
  • Depending on local customs, you might be advised to take the first price then halve it, or go one third.  It’s unlikely that you’d need to start lower than this, and in fact, it’s likely that your buyer would feel he/she had lost face (been disrespected) if you significantly undervalue his/her goods with too low of a price.

    Happy Bargaining (c) Shakira Harrison, ISV Alumni

  • Take your time, do a little home work and go back for what you want. Don’t start bargaining unless you intend to buy. You might inquire about the starting price, but if you respond with a different price, you’ve entered the game.  Don’t do that unless you’re fairly serious about actually going through with it!
  • Don’t be aggressive, raise your voice or be rude.  Be friendly, have fun and enjoy the experience. Do it with a smile.
  • Don’t be too cheap…. 50c, $1, $2 or even $5 might not seem like much to you, but to others it might mean a LOT. Try and remember this when you’re bargaining down to the last Baht, Rand, or Colones…
  • Say ‘Thank You’ for your purchase, and ‘No Thank You’ to plastic bags (bring your own reusable bag).
  • Have fun, and don’t worry if your buddy paid less. If you’re OK with what you paid, that’s the main thing.

Shop Responsibly, Be Safe, Feel Good About Paying a Fair Price, and Have Fun.

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link:

To learn more about ISV’s programs please visit our website:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: