A Bangkok inspired cocktail of hangovers, pushy sales, tuk-tuks and scam artists are not a great combination and make surviving the Bangkok market experience quite a challenge. Luckily for you, I have written these quick tips to make the experience a little easier.
Bangkok, as crazy as it is beautiful
Whether visiting briefly while backpacking through Southeast Asia or enjoying a whole weekend with a packed Bangkok itinerary, the chances are at some point you will come in contact with a local market.
They are a great place to find authentic street food but can be loud, often a bit on the smelly side and full of potential scams, so be prepared.
It really helps if you have someone who is local to help you out, but if you are short of a friendly resident, don’t despair, just follow the tips below to spend the day marketing like a pro!
Be aware of potential scams in Bangkok
First off, do some research before you visit Bangkok. Make sure you spend time educating yourself on common scams as there are lots of them about and the Bangkok scam artists are incredibly good at what they do.
Spend a few minutes Googling “Bangkok scams” and you’ll find all the classic’s such as ‘The temple is closed’ scam or the ‘Gem sale’ scam. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Suggested reading: exploring Bangkok using BTS
Rules of engagement in a Bangkok Market
But what about the markets – when you are shopping in a market, there are certain techniques it is good to perfect to keep things peaceful and get the best deal possible, here are my market survival tips;
1. Study the merchandise as you pass but make no movement, no matter how small, towards the stall. Practice the sideways glance while paying close attention to the angle of your hips and shoulders, the slightest lean and the game is over.
2. If you see something you like the look of don’t show it. Note the stall owner’s location and approach from their blind spot.
3. Have a look but DO NOT touch it up, they can sense you want it.
4. If it turns out you do not like it, you have about a three-second window to beat a hasty retreat. Be sure that you are counting in your head when you start your approach.
5. At this point, DO NOT make eye contact.
6. If you still like the trinket you are subtly looking at and want to study further, pick it up, but prepare yourself for first contact.
7. Be sure that you DO NOT look interested or show any sign of excitement, you could have found the flipping Holy Grail but do not let them know you like it. Instead, say “It’s OK, but there’s a better one down there.” and point in the direction of a different stall.
8. Put the item back down, even if you want it, and look at something else while they are breathing down your neck. After a minute or so (Give them time to think you don’t want it) casually point back to your item and ask “How much do you want for it?”
9. Negotiations are on . . . it’s up to you to get the best price you can. Always make your first offer around 30% of the asking price and then have some fun. Be sure to make good eye contact and smile a lot. Negotiation should be enjoyable.
10. Feel guilty when you realise you are haggling over $1 and end up paying more than they are asking for . . . well, this step is optional but I always find myself doing it!
These rules can be applied pretty much anywhere in the world, whether signing up for your first sacred Sak Yant tattoo in Chaing Mai or negotiating prices for a Ha Long Bay tour in Vietnam. However, please remember this, you earn more money than that market seller will probably earn in a lifetime. They couldn’t imagine flying halfway around the world to do some shopping.
A fair price for a trader is whatever someone is willing to pay for what they are buying. I guess the golden rule is to have fun and never feel like you got ripped off, be happy that you bought someone dinner instead.
So what do you think? Do you have any other tips to share? Be sure to add them in the comments below.
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