Top 5 Tips for Haggling in a Souk
Haggling in a souk (a Middle Eastern market) is one of the joys of travel—if you know how to do it. Follow these tips and you’ll be scooping up bargains like a pro in Marrakesh, Egypt or Turkey no time.
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One of my favourite things to do while travelling is to partake in a little market haggling. But this is often easier said than done, especially in countries where you don’t speak the local language and blatantly look like a foreigner. While these are two strikes against you, it doesn’t mean you can’t avoid a major scam.
I picked up a few simple tips during my recent trip through the Middle East—keep them in mind the next time you’re bartering on your travels.
Souks and local markets are not for the faint-of-heart. There’s an obvious cloud of competition in the air. Most vendors sell the exact same products, which can create an aggressive atmosphere. Even if you feel overwhelmed, walk with confidence to lessen the chances of being swindled. It’s easy to sniff out nervous tourists, so in this case, attitude is everything.
2. Act Indifferent
Along the lines of maintaining a certain attitude, acting indifferent has helped me land amazing deals while travelling. Living in New York City has given me ample opportunities to fine-tune this art before putting it to practice in Egypt. If you are not satisfied with the starting price of an item and don’t feel like haggling, simply walk away and the seller will likely throw a much better price your way.
3. Be Cleverly Honest
When it comes to souk haggling, sometimes honesty is the best policy. I tend to tell the vendor exactly how much money I have on me (which, in my case, tends to be less than I would recommend). The seller may not believe you, but he will probably knock down the price regardless. Also, being honest about how much you are willing to spend shows that you are firm on your offer.
In Egypt, my first trip to the souk was with a local friend who lived in Cairo. He both served as an intimidation factor to anyone who would potentially bother me and also helped me to communicate with the sellers. If you happen to be travelling solo, go with a local you’ve met or even a fellow traveller. There is power in numbers, so sticking to the buddy system is a good way to gain confidence.
5. Don’t Think About the Money
While it’s true that a lot of market vendors shamelessly rip off tourists, it’s important to remember that vendors are trying to make a living, and selling goods in the marketplace is how they support their families. I’ve always enjoyed haggling for the pure excitement it gives me rather than saving money. While it’s foolish to accept a first offer, make sure you aren’t going overboard with your bargaining skills and depriving someone who needs it for their livelihood.