Tips On Bargaining In The Middle East

in General

Bargaining is an integral part of most Middle Eastern cultures and something that can be both intimidating and easily misunderstood by travelers unaccustomed to the practice.

The key to being good at bargaining is understanding what purpose it serves – it is not about money or trying to maximize profit as many assume – but more about building relationships. These are some ways you can learn the art of bargaining to save money and see more when traveling in the Middle East.

  • Browse Around First – You’ll have a better idea of what the costs of a particular item are if you do some comparison shopping so you know the right merchant to bargain with.
  • Hide Your Interest – No matter how interested you might be in buying something, do your best to keep your feelings to yourself. Once you let on that you’re intent on buying something, it’s hard to drive a hard bargain.
  • Engage In Conversation – Don’t be timid but rather engaging. You’ll learn a bit about the shopkeeper and some about yourself and in the end are much more likely to walk away with a good price.
  • Go Close To Closing – Around closing time, or any non-peak times give you both time and more opportunity to bargain your way to a good price.
  • Know The Local Discount – In some countries a 25% discount means you’ve struck a good deal while in other places that number can be as high at 50%. Learn the common prices and bargaining discounts from locals, online research, or your hostel or hotel owner.
  • Don’t Feel Guilty – Many shopkeepers may try and use guilt to get you to stick to a higher price than you (or they) had intended. You probably aren’t rich and even if you were, you should get a fair price. Don’t allow yourself to think otherwise.
  • Learn The Local Customs – Avoid taboos or gestures that might be harmless in your culture but offensive locally.
  • You Can Always Say No And Walk Out – That is your most powerful bargaining tool.

You shouldn’t settle on a price you aren’t comfortable with and you’ll likely find many similar (or better) items at many nearby shops. Just keep looking and you’ll come across a shop where you find something you like, get a good conversation, and save some money too.

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