Africa & The Middle East | Travel Tips & News

The ultimate Trafalgar cheat sheet to bartering in souks and markets

Recently updated on June 7th, 2023 at 03:09 pm

If you’re planning a trip to destinations known for their markets, such as Morocco and Egypt, you’re probably excited to dive into the bustling souks, markets and bazaars. From handmade clothing and jewellery to spices and treats, there are plenty of beautiful and unique items to take home as special souvenirs. However, if you plan to go shopping, you need to know about the art of bartering. From the souks of Marrakech to the markets of Cairo, our bargaining tips will help you start haggling like a pro.

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Do your research

Before venturing into the markets, it’s a good idea to do some research into the average prices of the items you might like to purchase. Get to know the local specialities and popular items and the usual price range for these products. It’s also essential to understand the local currency and conversion rates as this will you evaluate if a seller’s asking price is fair.

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markets in Marrakech Morocco

Dress appropriately

It’s important to dress modestly when bartering in the souks and markets. Wearing expensive or flashy clothing or accessories makes you a target for inflated prices and is also disrespectful to the local culture of modesty in places such as Egypt and Morocco.

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Be polite and respectful

One of our top bargaining tips is to always approach bartering with a friendly and respectful attitude. A smile goes a long way in building rapport with the seller and you always want to avoid raising your voice or appearing confrontational. Remember that haggling is an art and a cultural tradition – not a battle. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re new to bartering, but remember it’s the culture and an expectation, and you’ll always see locals bartering with each other as well. 

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people shopping in open air markets bargaining tips

Learn some local phrases

Learning a few phrases can also help build a connection with the seller. If you’re in Morocco or Eygpt, try some common Arabic phrases like “As-salamu alaykum” (hello), “shukran” (thank you), and “kam?” (how much?). It also shows you’ve made an effort to understand the local culture and leads to a greater experience all round. 

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Start low and be patient

When a seller quotes their initial asking price, counter with an offer that’s about 50% lower as this gives you room to negotiate. You’ll go up in small increments and the goal is to meet somewhere in the middle. The key to haggling is patience. In many countries with a bartering culture, the bargaining process is customarily slow. Don’t rush the process and enjoy the experience!

spice market in Morocco

Buy in bulk

If you’re interested in buying multiple items from the same vendor, one of the best bargaining tips is to try negotiating a bulk discount. Sellers tend to be more willing to offer better deals if you’re buying several items at once. 

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Spot the fakes

If you’re shopping for designer products, you’ll need to be wary of buying fakes. Before you purchase, be sure to examine the craftsmanship of the product. Fakes will have irregular stitching, uneven seams and poor quality materials, and incorrect or inconsistent logos and branding. You can always ask for documentation, such as a certificate of authenticity or a warranty card to prove the product’s legitimacy. As the saying goes, if the price is too good to be true, it’s likely a fake. 

glowing lanterns in a market

Pay in cash

Cash is king in many markets and souks and offering to pay in cash can sometimes secure you a better price. It’s also essential to carry small bills and coins, as some sellers may not have change for large notes.

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Walk away when necessary

If you’re not making any progress, you can always walk away. Sometimes, sellers will call you back with a better offer if they see you’re willing to walk away from the deal. At other times, the seller won’t budge, so be prepared to follow through on your decision to walk away!

trinkets in a market stall

Stay firm but fair

It’s okay to be firm in your haggling, but it’s crucial to be fair. Many vendors rely on these sales for their livelihoods, so it’s important to strike a balance between getting a good deal and participating in the bartering process, and not taking advantage of the seller and pushing them into a bad deal.

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Close the deal gracefully

Once you’ve reached a price that both you and the seller are comfortable with, it’s time to close the deal. Be aware that it’s very poor etiquette to agree on a price and then change your mind. Be gracious and thank the seller for their time and the price. You can now enjoy your purchase and the satisfaction of successfully navigating the art of bartering and haggling.

Do you have any bargaining tips for shopping in souks and markets? Let us know in the comments below! 

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