Even tough you may promise yourself you’ll resist the bargains (that often become clutter around the house after a couple of months), nevertheless you’ll end up in the souvenir shop for ‘little’ shopping for your loved ones. If you are travelling to Turkey, Egypt, or Morocco it becomes harder to resist this incitement. As a person who travels frequently to Middle East, I’d like to share some of my personal experiences with North American travellers who are planning to visit these countries:
1) First rule: Always bargain at the bazaars and Souks. Salesmen in carpet, jewellery and leather shops work on commission basis; so never accept the first or second offer. Sometimes you can even get up to 70% discount over the original price.
2) Try to judge the price by how much you would be willing to pay for it in your home country. Fix the price in your mind and stick to it. On the other hand, always keep in your mind the value of the local money. Try to think in the local currency; most items might sound cheap when converted to USD but might be very expensive for local people. So purchase like a local.
3) Most salesmen understand many languages, so do not discuss anything in front of them.
4) Use power of ‘No thank you!’: At least learn this phrase in the local language and use it when you are hassled. Smile and walk away.
5) Keep your own currency and credit cards out of sight. It is easier to haggle over a price with your ‘limited’ local currency.
6) Guides get commission over your purchases. If you are not satisfied with the price, try to come back on your free day and check the similar item at the other shops. So another golden rule: Have a free day for shopping!
7) The top touristy places such as Khan El-Khalili usually visited in Cairo tours or Grand Bazaar in Istanbul will have the most expensive prices. Find out the residential shopping areas for better bargains.
8) For items where quality is important try to find a fixed price shop. You may pay little more but the quality will be superior.
9) Haggling is necessary if you are buying high value items, such as gold and jewellery, but with low value goods it is not always worthwhile the time and effort.
10) Shops in Middle East prefer cash. If you pay with cash rather than a credit card, you should have more power for getting a good discount.
11) Always shop around. Never buy at the first shop; you can always come back. Shopkeepers will try to persuade you that they offer you the best value, but will not be offended when you say you want to look around and would come back.
12) When buying gold/silver bargain on the price per gram not the price per item.
13) Usually little grocery shops, coffee shops, supermarket chains will have fixed prices and bargaining is not accepted.
14) Shopkeepers will show great hospitality. They will tell that purchase is not necessary, they will invite you to their shop, offer you tea, coffee; at the end you’ll feel so ashamed to walk away without buying anything. Don’t fall into this trap.
15) If you are buying more than one item or shopping with a group, you can haggle for a greater discount.