How to Haggle in Southeast Asia

For Westerners, haggling can be a foreign and intimidating practise. We've been conditioned to pay the ticketed amount our entire lives so it only makes sense we feel awkward asking for lower prices. But come to Southeast Asia, and it's a whole new ball game. If you don't want to be ripped off, you'll need to have some bargaining skills up your sleeve. Here are six tips on how to haggle in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia and more.

1) Find out the average price

So you've just arrived at a bustling market and have found some souvenirs you'd like to buy. What next? Take a stroll and ask multiple vendors how much their goods cost. Calculate the average price and keep it in mind while you decide on an amount you're willing to pay. Remember that these initial prices are often extremely inflated so set your desired price 30 to 50 per cent lower. If you are friends with a local, you could also ask them how much things should cost.

2) Start your offers lower than what you'd pay

It's time to start haggling! A good rule of thumb is to start your offers at least 50 per cent lower than the asking price. For example, if a seller is asking for $10, counter the offer and say $5. This gives you a lot of room to negotiate further. Most likely you'll both agree on an amount somewhere between $6 to $8.

3) Don't seem too interested 

When you find something you like, don't look too interested. If you show a lot of desire, the seller will know you want it really bad and therefore may ask for a higher price. Keep it cool.

4) Walk away 

So you've been at the bargaining table for a few minutes and the seller isn't budging. At this point, you're best bet is to walk away. Most likely, they'll call you back and agree to your terms. These people hate losing out on a sale. If they don't call you back, relax! Chances are there are a gazillion other stalls selling the exact same thing.

5) Stand your ground 

When I was a travel newbie, I had trouble standing my ground. I'd get intimidated by sellers and end up paying the amount they were pushing. Not anymore. I learned to never pay a price I wasn't happy with. Always be firm (but still polite) and stick to your desired price range. 

6) Have fun 

Remember to have fun! For locals, haggling is a game that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Enjoy the shopping, meet some new people and don't forget that a smile goes a long way. 

Got any other haggling tips? I'd love to hear them! Feel free to share and leave me a comment below. 


I’m a Canadian girl on a quest to step foot in every continent before I’m 30. You’ll most likely find me chowing down on Japanese ramen, partying at a music festival, hiking to the top of a scenic lookout, cuddling with cats, or chilling out at the beach. I’ve visited over 60 countries so far and hope to inspire you to do the same.

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