10 tips on surviving a Bangkok street market

A Bangkok inspired cocktail of hangovers, pushy sales, tuk-tuks and scam artists are not a good combination and can make surviving the many markets a perilous experience.

Bangkok, as crazy as it is beautiful

The markets in Bangkok come in many shapes and sizes. They 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!

Beware of the many scams you'll encounter in Bangkok

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.

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.

How to get a great deal in an Asian market

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!

Markets in Bangkok come in many shapes and sizes

These rules can be applied pretty much anywhere in the world but 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.

Enjoy these tips for surviving a Bangkok Market

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12 Replies to “10 tips on surviving a Bangkok street market”

  1. Very interesting article I look forward to following your advice in the future. My travels start next year and I’ll keep you updated.

  2. LOL these are too funny. I’m a seasoned market shopper growing up in Europe where we learned how to bargain. I never buy anything without a deal. These are some interesting tips for novices though. I like the ‘don’t make eye-contact’ one.

  3. I’ve never been one to want to haggle! When stand/store owners are aggressive toward me about a sale, I just want to walk away! Haha But you offer a great perspective here!

  4. I have been to Thailand but didn’t spend too much time in Bangkok. I didn’t encounter people who were quite as pushy as this but definitely some good points to help avoid getting bothered. The eye no eye contact is a great tip!

  5. Hahaha! The struggle is real!! I am the worst in negotiations and at saying no. I would end up buying a bunch of useless things that I’d probably give to charity. 🙂

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