How to Barter like a true Bangkokian

  • Posted onSeptember 14th, 2016

ChatuchakBartering might just seem like something fun you do on a trip to a Bangkok market, as an easy way to interact with the locals and feel like you’re engaging in everyday Thai life, but it’s actually an important part of Thai culture, and something you should do with pride and precision!

Haggling and bartering is a way of life in Thailand, and in order to barter with any dignity (rather than look like a total wally), it’s important to know when, where, and how to barter like a true pro:

Decide on the value

Before you even attempt to barter about an item you need to have some idea what its worth, or at least what the value is to you. Some sellers may be very genuine and having a good day, and offer you a starting price which is fair, other’s may eye you up and assume you have no idea what you are doing and start at a ridiculously over valued price. You need to know what you are dealing with.

If it’s a specific object which you are after you should already have done some research, or at least know the value. If it’s an instinctive purchase you are about to make and you don’t have a clear idea of the value either try to look for other stalls or shops selling similar items, or use your smart phone and get googling.

If you don’t have any idea what a product is worth it’s going to be very difficult to barter.

Bangkok MarketsDecide on your budget

Knowing the value of an item is one thing, but knowing your budget is another. Before you start to barter you need to decide how much you are willing to spend. If this is an item you’ve seen at many stalls and markets around Bangkok, then you can try your luck and set a low budget. If it’s something you haven’t seen anywhere else and really want it, you might be willing to pay a little over the odds to get it.

Start a connection and rapport

So you have an idea of the value of the item, you’ve decided on how much you want to spend, now it’s time to get that opening price and play ball! Wrong! Such a rookie move.. If you’re going to be a pro barterer you’ve got to learn to play the game. And before even mentioning money you need to make a connection and build a rapport.

Before you start speaking you should make a nice big smile and hopefully the sales person smiles back. Then compliment them on their store (but not the item), and ask for their name. Once you know their name it’s important you use it as often as possible (without sounding too weird).

Still, before talking figures exchange some light and friendly chat, make sure they also know your name and then..

Night - MarketBe Patient

We’ve got all day, and we’re going to get that item at an amazing bargain price. Let’s take some time to look around at all the different stuff on sale here, even the stuff we have no interest in buying, all the while continuing some friendly banter before the barter.

Now, take a good look at the item you do want  to buy and try to get the sales person to talk a bit about it. If you’ve done your research this will be a good time to check how truthful they are being, and get a feel for their sales skills.

Start the barter

OK, you’ve been patient enough, now it’s time to play and start the bartering. Firstly, bartering should always be calm and friendly, if it gets heated then the bartering has been soured and the fun and potential moment of pride will quickly fade away.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for bartering:

Do stay in control. Don’t feel rushed into making a purchase, dictate the pace of the conversation and slow it down when needed, to take time to think (and add a little drama!).

Don’t be hesitant or indecisive. If you use lines like ‘is it possible to take a little off the price?’ or ‘is it ok to get a little discount,’ you sound kind of weak and don’t motivate the seller to haggle.

Do give incentives and tease the seller. Say things like ‘If you give it to me for X amount I’ll buy it right now’ and show the cash!

Don’t go over your maximum budget. Bartering can be fun and it’s easy to get caught in the moment, but always, always stick to your budget. That’s bartering 101.

Do stick to your guns. When the seller is being reluctant to budge on a price, keep sticking to what you know you want to offer, and wait for them to crack. If they don’t, then be prepared to walk away.

Chatuchak MarketKnowing when to give up

Knowing when to give up is important. Not only for when the seller isn’t getting near the price you want, but also when things start to get a bit heated.

With that said it’s good to always have a way out prepared. You can keep it simple; look at your watch and mention that you need to catch your bus or you have a friend waiting. You don’t need the sellers permission to leave, just give your excuse and walk away. In some cases, walking away is the best tactic of all to seal the deal; when the seller sees you walking away with your money, that’s often when they’ll shout out that bargain price you were waiting for..


  1. Haydn Leseberg says:

    When bartering keep it light and friendly. Don’t come on strong and aggressive. Thais respond to a farang who is not a smart-arse but is relaxed and likes a laugh.

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