How to Haggle Like a Local in the Middle East

Paying money in a street marker

[Zeynep Özyürek]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

Haggling can be intimidating if you’re not used to it. Often Westerners just want to be told a price and then–depending on the price– either hand over their money or walk away. End of story. Haggling can seem tedious and many people approach it with a bit of trepidation. Here are some steps to help streamline the process and make sure you get–if not a good price–at least not an over-the-top price.

Let’s say you’re in Morocco and you want an anti theft travel purse.You find one that looks nice and you enquire as to the price. The guy asks 800 dirham (roughly 80 euro or 100 USD) for it. That sounds like more than you should be paying, but you don’t really know for sure.

Here’s what to do:
1. First off, halve his price. Whatever the asking price is, chop it in half. In this case, counter him with 400.
2. He’ll probably come back with 600.
3. Sigh heavily.
4. He’ll say 550.
5. Make a face.
6. He’ll drop it to 500.
7. Shake your head and make a sound that conveys you still think it’s too expensive.
8. He’ll drop it down to 400.
9. Walk away and repeat until you have a sense of what a reasonable price is.

The best thing to do is to shop around. This will allow you to gauge what the market price is which can be one of the intimidating things about haggling. Often you’ve been in the country for less than 24 hours. You can barely remember what country you’re in, let alone what the standard price is for a leather satchel. Go to other stalls in the market places that sell leather satchels and go through the same thing. If you can’t get any of them lower than 400 dirham then chances are that’s a pretty standard price for it.

Don’t worry about haggling for food or hotels. DO haggle with taxi cab drivers and when shopping for anything other than food or other basic items. Basically anything you find in a grocery store, you won’t need to haggle for.

If haggling really intimidates you, having a friend along to go back and forth with can make the process a little less painful. See below.

You: What do you think about this satchel?

Friend: It’s alright. I guess.

Vendor: It’s 800 dirham.

You: 800? Hm, what do you think?

Friend: I don’t know. That sounds like a lot.

Vendor: Ok, ok. For you, 600.

You: 600?

Friend: That’s pretty much 60 euro. Do you really need to spend 60 euro on a leather satchel?

Vendor: It’s handmade and lined with camel skin. I can give it to you for 500, but no lower.

You: I do like the look of it. It’s perfect for carrying my laptop.

Friend: ::makes disapproving and unconvinced face::

You: Well, how much would you pay for it?

Friend: I don’t know. Probably not more than 300.

Vendor: Ok, ok. Student price. 400.

Et voilà. Or keep haggling if you’re still not satisfied with the price.

A good haggler is somewhere in-between the individual who accepts the first price and the individual who will stand for hours arguing over pennies (Don’t do that. It’s not cool. It’s obnoxious). Also make sure to store your wallet and valuables in a safe place when shopping in a crowded marketplace. Leave the open purse at home and go with the VentureSafe 150 cross body pack.  Bring a fanny pack like the Venturesafe 100 and throw off the street vendors even more.

And if you still think haggling really isn’t your thing, you can always hire a personal shopper (seriously, they exist in Morocco).

By Nikki Hodgson

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