Life on the road Shopping

How To Bargain Ethically For Arts & Crafts


Haggling is part of the fun of travelling. Strolling through exotic markets, finding beautiful handicrafts and fabrics and securing a good deal is exciting. Especially for a Westerner who’s used to fixed (and inflated) price tags. But it can also be stressful and confusing and can sometimes leave you feeling ripped off if not approached with the right sense of fun, and local economy.

But when travelling in a developing country, it’s vital to remember that the best price for you also needs to be the best price for the seller. Knocking off that last 50 cents may seem a matter of principle in the heat of the deal but it can make a big difference to the trader. Always remember where you are and don’t get your bargain at someone else’s expense.

♥ Here’s 9 tips for haggling ethically ♥

9. Show respect to the sellers

Have the right attitude, dress and act appropriately for the environment, and be friendly towards the sellers. This will make the interaction feel more authentic for you, and maybe get you a fairer deal.


Fabric seller in Yangon, Myanmar.

8. Get an idea of quality

Is it handmade or has it been mass produced?  Look for imperfections and inconsistencies to see if something has been individually crafted. Research different styles and techniques before shopping so you know what to look for and look around before sealing a deal so you have sense of how different styles look and feel.

7. Ask the right questions

How long did it take to make? and what the process involved? This will give you an idea about the amount of time and skill that was required. The more you know, the more value you will place on the item both before and after you buy it.


Hand painted puppets from Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

6. Do you really want it?

Don’t ask for the price unless you’re sure you want something.  Entering into negotiations for something you’re not in love with will mean you try to pay too little for something you don’t even want. Then, nobody wins.

5. Know the exchange rate!

Yes it’s obvious, but also easy to get confused in the heat of the moment, especially with currencies which include denominations in thousands or millions. Also remember at all times that while the local currency is worth X amount of dollars to you, it will be worth much more to the seller.

4. Have a price in mind

Some things are worth more than you think, and some are worth a lot less. Make sure you have a vague final price in mind before asking an opening price – otherwise you can get swept up in the dramatics of it all and pay too much for something. You can check prices with your hotel, or ask in online forums or Facebook groups specifically dedicated to the country or city you are shopping in.


Hmong girl and Dao stall holder selling embroidery threads at Sin Ho market, Vietnam.

3. Enjoy the game

Always haggle with a sense of fun and keep a smile on your face. Enjoy the little salesman tricks you’ll encounter in different countries, and make some of your own jokes in return. The seller will appreciate them and you’ll both feel happy with the final deal.

2. Follow your instinct

If your heart is saying ‘yes yes yes’, then why not follow it? You know when you’ve fallen in love with something and want to take it home to treasure forever. This works both ways. Follow your head when you feel uncomfortable. If you are being pressured and heckled to buy something you don’t really want then say a clear and firm NO, walk away and don’t go back.

1. Keep a sense of perspective

Check with yourself: How much would something like this cost at home? Can you even buy it at home, or is this a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy a memento from your vacation? Pay more where you can and that way you will be contributing both to the local economy and the continuation of these crafts.

how to bargin ethically for arts and crafts when traveling

How do you haggle and bargin when shopping? Can you recommend some more tips for our readers?  Please share your experiences, ideas and suggestions in the comments box below.

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