Does haggling come naturally to you?

Haggling can be fun, but in Bali it is a way of life.  Most shops and stalls expect customers to bargain down the price.  Let me show you how to haggle like a pro when shopping in Bali.

The truth is that in many countries, negotiating a purchase is common practice and often expected. 

Can you barter down the price without feeling like an extortionist?

How to haggle like a pro when shopping in Bali

There is a haggling code of etiquette which is important to follow.  Respect, courtesy and good-natured humour with a little friendly banter is always involved.

Department stores and Shopping malls like Discovery Shopping Mall and Bali Galleria and others don’t generally bargain.  Their prices are firm but there is no harm in asking for their best price.

Many of the tourist spots have small shops nearby selling artefacts and souvenirs.  Shop around and engage in conversation with the store holders.  Often the prices won’t be much different but I will likely choose a store owner with children around, figuring they need the sale more.

1.  Learn the Rules

Haggling is a game and is different in every country you visit. In some countries, its acceptable to haggle down the price by at least 50%, but many countries don’t encourage haggling at all.

Bargaining is an expected process when shopping in Bali.  Up to 50% discounts are likely, so start by cutting the initial sellers price in half with the expectation that you will haggle to a point somewhere in the middle.

Just remember to make sure the price is fair for you and the seller.

2.  Be Friendly

One of the easiest ways to score a great deal in Bali is to smile.  Break the ice first with a friendly greeting.

If you can speak a little of the local language, that’s a big plus. You don’t need to be fluent, you just need to know the basics.  It’s much friendlier if you learn the salutations and pleasantries in the local language. By acknowledging the shopkeeper with a smile and a polite ‘good morning’ in their local language may bring about more favourable negotiations.

In Bali, the first sale of the day is considered good luck and often inspires more incentive to reach a bargain deal.

3.  Make sure you really want the item

Shopping in Bali

Don’t begin the bartering process unless you really want the item you’re haggling for.  If you’re not totally sure you want the item don’t even start negotiations.

Say you need to think about it and walk away. You can always go back if you decide you want it.

4.  Know your price point before you start haggling

Consider the item you’re wanting to buy carefully.  Consider how much you pay for it if you were at home?  This becomes your maximum target price.  

Convert it to the local currency and that’s you price point!  Now, you’re ready to start haggling.

Decide how much you are willing to pay for the item before you start the negotiation.  Make sure you are committed to paying the price you offer. Once you throw a number out there, if the seller meets it you can’t change your mind. The deal is done.

It is considered poor form and bad manners if you haggle an item to a fair price, and then decide you don’t want it and walk away.

5.  Show your best poker-face

When shopping in Bali, know that these people are seasoned professionals. You must play it cool and appear disinterested.  Find the item you like, look at it for a minute then put it down.  Move on to show interest in something else.

You will have no bargaining power if you act excited and enthusiastic.  The shopkeeper will push the price higher because you’ve shown interest.  Be cool and remember facial expressions can give the game away!

Chances are, there are dozens of other shops that offer the same item and if y

Once you checked the stores choose the vendor that offers the most reasonable price.

6.  The golden rule is the first one to open the bid, loses

If you’re patient, you are bound to find better deals. So go ahead, explore and go to other shops for comparisons. As you explore other shops you will learn the average cost of that item, which is important if you are a hardcore haggler.

It’s the most important rule when learning how to bargain.  Whoever opens with a price, will be in a total disadvantage.

If it’s the seller, it will mean that you won’t pay more than that opening price and if it’s the buyer who nominates the price, the seller won’t sell the product for less than that.

Let the seller set the price first and wait until he drops it a few times before you suggest an amount.

7.  Start low and be patient

Shopping in Bali

Haggling Tip:   Don’t be afraid of silence.

Silence almost always works in your favour suggesting that you need just one more prompt to complete the deal.

Take your time. Be patient. That is how you haggle like a pro when you’re in Bali.

With your price point in mind, ask the shop keeper what they want for the item. They’ll suggest something ridiculously high.  The game is now in play.

Feign shock, shake your head and counter with an equally ridiculous price that is much lower than your price point.

It is now the shop owners turn to scoff at you. They may say, ‘No, no, no! I have a big family!  I need to make a living!’.

8.  Start much lower than you would pay

You need to leave some margin to bargain with.  Increasing your offer as the negotiations progress will show the seller you are making an effort to come to a compromise.  So the lower you start, the more room you have for negotiation.

The haggling continues.  They’ll come down in price and you’ll go up in price, it’s the way it works. Just be sure you stick to lower than your price point you decided when beginning the negotiation.

They will throw in stories about how poor they are, their mother is sick, business is slow or something equally unbelievable.  They will often suggest that you’re rich and can afford their ‘reasonable’ prices. Don’t let them get inside your head, it’s all part of the haggling game.

9.  Show respect. Once you offer a price, you can’t go back on it

This is an important rule when bargaining. Once you make an offer, that’s it, the deal is done.  Backing out will show total disrespect to the seller.

Only commence haggling if you are truly interested in an item, and only progress to an offer if you intend to purchase.  If you feel the deal is too high and the seller is not putting a fair price on the item, just say thanks but no thanks, and walk away. You can just try again tomorrow, somewhere else, because everyone in Asia sells the same stuff!

10.  Never show your money until you agree on a price

This is common sense. If you show your wallet full of money, don’t expect anyone giving you a good deal.  If you look like a wealthy person who can afford to pay a lot, you will be in a complete disadvantage.

11. The point of no progress

There may come a time in the haggling process when you find yourself at a stalemate.  The seller won’t budge and it’s above your price point.

Be clear, say something like, ‘Look, I’m not paying more than $(last offer).  I’ll find somewhere else’, as you shrug in disappointment and turn and walk off slowly.  More times than not, the seller will counter again with their lower, ‘best price’.   Note: the words ‘best price’ don’t mean a thing! 

12.  Don’t be rude or lose face

Even though negotiations can get heated from time to time, remember to always keep your cool and never, ever be rude or ‘lose face’.  Their hardball haggling tactics are just how they do business.

Learn how to haggle like a professional when shopping in Bali.  Maintain your dignity and never lose your temper.  Don’t be too ruthless with the seller, be humble and always leave some ‘meat on the bone’ so both can walk away with a win-win deal.

13. Once the game is over, everyone is friends again

No matter how long it took to agree on a price, an agreement is enough reason for both parties to be happy. Even if the bargain didn’t end in a transaction, politely thank the seller for his time and wish him a good day.

14. Avoid shopping while on a tour

If you are serious about getting a great deal, you will be better to go shopping on your own than with a large group of tourists.  Most tour agencies and guides get pretty hefty commissions, up to 50% or more when they bring tourists into stores. When you shop on your own, you are more likely to score a better deal.

15. Head to the Mum and Dad shops

Shopping in local stores offer the best deals. Be sure to keep the haggling to a minimum because these shops are run by families, not large companies and there are less margins. The Balinese work very hard for their money.

In these establishments, I make sure I leave some generosity in the deal.

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How to Haggle Like a Pro when Shopping in Bali

Shopping in Bali

Bali is one of my favourite places to shop.  The people are friendly and gentle but when it comes to bargaining, they are are persistent and skilled.

Some people love to haggle seeing it as sport, but it is important to remember that the price should be good for both you and the seller.  It will never hurt to spend an extra few thousand Rupiah, but it could mean a lot to someone selling goods in Bali.

Make it fun and keep smiling and be light-hearted with the sellers.

Where to stay in Bali

Bali has so much to offer when it comes to accommodation so for some great tips to get the best deal read my earlier post – Great tips to Travel Bali on a Budget.  Decide where you want to stay – Ubud, Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua or somewhere else?  You may just snare yourself a bargain!


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Want to read more about Bali?

Do you have a haggling story to share with us?  I’d love to learn how you managed to secure your win-win.