You want to save money when traveling and are looking for the best tips & tricks for negotiating abroad? Then watch out! Does this sound familiar to you? Quickly buying a nice souvenir or fresh food at the market or in the Arabian souks – heavens no, I’ll have to negotiate! For you, these customs of other cultures are pure stress? You feel pressured by the many sellers? You always have the feeling that you have paid too much in the end? In order to be well prepared for the next negotiation on your next trip, I have summarized the basic knowledge and the best tips for you.
What will you learn in this article?
Negotiating abroad | Tips and tricks to save money
The important topic “Improve your negotiating skills” is part of my collection Saving money on travel | 25 practical tips that will help you save money on your next trip.
I can still remember my trip to Tunisia, as a “little boy” with almost 13 years in the company of my parents. My first contact with unpleasant negotiating situations. The many traders on the market, who immediately came rushing towards the bus of our group like moths on the only lamp in the darkness.
“Best price, my friend!”, “All for free! Looky looky!” “Where are you from? Ah, Germany! Good day! Munich! Oktoberfest!”
… a dream, that’s exactly what you need – NOT!
Sure, some of the souvenirs and craft items were really interesting, but nowhere was there a price tag. Negotiating was the order of the day – pure stress and in my perception a kingdom for fixed prices. Had there been a halfway decent price tag on it, I would have paid it.
In the meantime, I learned a lot about negotiating while traveling and at home, including in my job as a sales manager. Today, negotiating while traveling is really fun! I wish my 13-year-old self had known all this back in the market in Tunisia….
So that your learning curve is much steeper and you can really save money when traveling thanks to the basic knowledge for negotiating, you will find the most important tips summarized here:
Basic rules & framework
Negotiating abroad: always remain friendly
It goes without saying, but when you are harassed and sometimes even touched by many jumbled merchants, it can be extremely annoying. Nevertheless, always try to stay friendly and treat people with respect. They are just doing their job and trying to feed their families.
It is extremely beneficial to know at least a few words in the local language. The more the better, but even “No, thank you!” is enough to refuse in a firm but friendly manner. No matter how good you are in foreign languages, you should memorize these words beforehand. English usually works, too, but you’ll always score points with the local language.
And one more thing: humor also helps immensely and noticeably lightens the mood for your sides! People want to do business with you, which can also positively influence the price for you.
Get a feel for local prices
This is a crucial point! Only then can you judge whether you have negotiated well or not – and in the end paid a reasonable price. It is especially helpful to ask local friends or acquaintances, if necessary hostel or hotel staff for advice. This will give you a first overview.
In many markets, the same souvenirs are available twice and ten times over – use this to your advantage. You are not dependent on a merchant, but he is dependent on us – he absolutely wants us to buy from him.
In professional negotiation management, this is called “dominance position”
You should be aware of this and behave accordingly. Attention: Being dominant does not mean arrogant or unfriendly!
Another aspect is important for a good feeling of the local prices: You should also have an impression about different quality levels of your desired items. A higher quality justifies a higher price.
Negotiating abroad: Generally, you don’t have to buy anything
Is actually obvious – this sweet “actually”…
When you are already in the store and have discussed for a long time, you get the feeling that you HAVE to buy something. NO, you don’t have to. Make yourself aware of this again and again. You can just thankfully decline and move on, that’s totally ok.
Do not buy something immediately
No matter how cheap it seems at first glance.
If you are in a city for several days or are relatively sure that you will be able to buy similar (if not the same) items in other destinations on your itinerary: Don’t buy anything on the first day! Period.
In the meantime, keep refining your research as to what is a reasonable price.
Negotiating abroad – not “to the knife”.
Always keep in mind what the final amount is. Especially if you calculate in your head in a foreign currency, too many zeros can cloud the picture.
I made this experience in Bangkok / Thailand, for example. It was obvious that the tuk tuk driver wanted too much money from us, we already knew the route and the corresponding price. The discussion dragged on, both sides became increasingly unenthusiastic – until my friends pointed out to me that we were just arguing about (euro) cent amounts. I hadn’t even noticed that with the bill in Thai baht.
The result: Instead of a friendly smiling Asian as a driver, we now had an annoyed service provider, who drove much too fast and without consideration for his passengers through the dense traffic of Bangkok – bad negotiation result with a few saved cents…
Especially travelers from wealthier countries can sometimes get over paying a little bit more – the locals are happy about it. It should just not be outrageous much what you put on it.
The tips are helpful for all regions, whether Asia, Africa, South America…. all.
Negotiating abroad: concrete negotiation tips
Important: Set the right anchor point
When you ask for the price, the dealer gives his first price – we all know: Way too high!!!
This is the so-called “anchor point“, the technique is called “anchoring“. During the whole negotiation this anchor point is in the room. One even tends to proudly claim after the purchase that one has been able to “bargain down” the dealer by xx% from his first price. Great tennis… NOT.
What is the right way?
Usually in a negotiation you try to set the first anchor point yourself. Unfortunately, this is often not possible in these situations when you still have to ask for the price. If you already have a good feeling for the local prices, you are at an advantage and can surprise the seller already with a very low price as the first anchor point – to your advantage!
Important: Should you not be able to name the first price, it is important that you immediately set a new anchor point – as low as possible. The dealer’s first anchor point must be neutralized, otherwise it will always be and remain the reference point during the negotiation.
Cheap price paid elsewhere
Especially if you have a good feeling for the “right” prices, you will go into a new negotiation quite relaxed.
It is especially helpful to claim that you have already bought the item somewhere else at your target price. This is especially effective if it is actually true. But the mere assertion is also sufficient. The seller will probably try to convince you with his “better quality“, but you can remain relaxed and firm.
Good Guy / Bad Guy Technik
It can be helpful to have at least two people. This is also recommended in professional negotiations.
The “Good Guy” is always friendly and interested, the “Bad Guy” can strictly reject the supposedly “good” offers of the dealer – without damaging the friendly relationship with the “Good Guy”. Because: Relationship is the be-all and end-all in any business deal.
The “Bad Guy” always refuses and only actively enters into negotiations when you have already reached an attractive price level.
In combination with the tips “Turn around and walk away” and / or “Lower price paid elsewhere” extremely effective.
Negotiating abroad: Turn around and walk away
In my eyes, one of the most effective tools.
In the course of the negotiation, name a very low, maybe even in your eyes much too low price. The dealer refuses – of course. Then you politely thank him, turn around and slowly walk away.
Now there are two possibilities:
- The dealer waves you off and lets you go – then you know that the price was really too low and can set your “Last price” a little higher next time.
- The merchant is still interested and calls you back – so even this “way too low” price is fine for this merchandise. Learned something again!
To make the crowded markets more fun:
Another tip to lighten the mood while walking around the crowded markets:
Are you annoyed by the constant “Hey sir, where are you from?” followed by scraps of words and city names from your home country? Ignoring it can be quite rude, people are trying hard. I always make it fun and switch through different countries in my answer. Be creative!!!
As a German, answering the opening question with “Netherlands” or “France” and then hearing “Goedendag”, “Amsterdam”, “Baguette” or “Ik hou van jou” (I love you) accordingly can really lighten the mood.
Now you know the best tips for bargaining when traveling. Whether it’s for the souks of Marrakech or other Arabic-influenced countries, the markets of Asia or the “mercados” of Latin America, these recommendations will help you save money and keep your travel fund well-filled.
You are looking for more important tips and tricks to save money when traveling? Then you can find more important information and recommendations in my articles Save money when planning a trip: 20 practical tips and Save money when traveling | 25 practical tips.
Do you have any other great tips for negotiating? Feel free to let us know in the comments!
Have fun trying out the negotiation tips on your next trip, enjoy!