Haggling: Negotiating a Price in Bali

how to haggle in bali
Don’t be intimidated, jump in to the Balinese market and haggle like you were born to it.

For many tourists, the process of negotiating a price is something to dread.  If you fear haggling, use some of these tips to negotiate like a pro (or at least, better!).

Here are some guidelines for haggling in Bali.

Smile and be pleasant.  In some countries, one is supposed to be very serious and stern during negotiations, but not so in Bali.  So relax, use humor and adopt a friendly attitude.  Don’t be afraid of them, even if they seem to come on strong.  You want to buy something and they want to sell you something, so you are coming into the transaction on totally common ground.

Go first thing in the morning.  The first customer of the day is considered good luck, and they will be more willing to give you a good price if you are the first.

Be pleasant, but confident.  Don’t act like you don’t know what you are doing, or like this is your first time.

If they ask you where you are staying, lie.  You can either say you are staying with friends or pick in advance a very cheap backpacker hostel.  They use this tactic to size you up and see what your price range is.  This is not the time to name drop your 5 star resort.  And to this end, don’t expect to get a good deal if you are dressed really nicely and wearing jewelry.

Smile, but tune out the seller while you are figuring out what you want and how much you want to pay.  They are talking and talking and talking at you, and it’s distracting. So tune them out, decide what you want and decide in advance how much you want to pay for the total of your purchase.  In other words, if you are buying three things, don’t bother with how much you will pay for each, just get the total set in your head.  As they are talking and talking, smile and nod, but don’t let it distract you.

Now that you know what you want and how much you are willing to pay, turn to the seller and ask them for a good price.  Try this: look them in the eye, smile and say, “give me a good price.”

Don’t be the first to offer a price.  Let the seller always start this process.  They will say something about the magnificent quality and rareness of the materials, etc.  And then they will likely quote you an exorbitant price. No worries.  Don’t even think about the price they offered, just be happy the process has started.

Now, think of your price.  Never lose track of it.  If it is a reasonable price, you may get it, or you may end up paying a tiny bit over.  It’s okay.  If you stick to it, and keep smiling, you will likely get something close to your price.  So now you’ve been quoted a very high price by the seller, you keep smiling and exclaim (use a little flair and drama), “oh, that’s so expensive!”

At this point they will make all kinds of reasons why the product is worth this amount, don’t worry about it.  They will either now ask you what your price is, or you can offer it at this point. Start at a bit lower than your target price.  So if you are willing to pay 200 for all the items, offer 120.

Now you are going to go back and forth until you reach a price.  Don’t worry about it!  Smile and every time you ask for a better price, use terms like, “what is the good luck price?” or “what is the morning price?”  or “for me, a little cheaper, what is your best price?”

Always be pleasant.  Never let them distract you with details. Just stick to your price range, keep asking them to move closer to it.  And if you can’t get in the range, state your final offer and be prepared to walk away. Tell them it is your best and last price.  If they say no, remain pleasant, say you are sorry it didn’t work out and walk away.

If you were anywhere in their range of a reasonable price, they will stop you as you walk away. They may then give you your last stated price, or ask for you to come just a little bit higher, usually an incidental amount. You can either agree to the higher amount, split the difference or stick to your price.  In any case, it is very likely a deal is struck at this point.

Generally speaking, they are happy to make the sale and will respect you for engaging in the process with a good attitude.  They will not sell you something for no profit at all, so no matter what the process was like, remember that it is now over, and both of you should be happy.

Make sure you thank them sincerely, and wish them a good day or good luck with the rest of their sales.

Using this process, I’ve never had a bad experience, and I’ve never been unable to make a sale at an agreeable price.  Sometimes I get my price and sometimes I pay a small fraction over it. It’s all within range, and the sale always ends with smiles and pleasant exchanges.

This is not a blood sport!  Relax and enjoy the process.  If you find you really hate this part of shopping in Bali, there are more and more fixed price stores that have everything you might want, no haggling required.  You will pay considerably more, but it may be worth your peace of mind.