When you visit Thailand, this is an essentail skill and experience!
For most people travel is exciting and adventurous until they hit a brick wall – bargaining.
We are used to popping into a shop and seeing the price of the items we wish to buy. In much of Asia there is a dual system. At large department stores the price you see is the price you pay. But in smaller shops and on the street, you have to bargain. For most Westerners this can be an ordeal, but it needn’t be.
So, you’re browsing at Chatuchak Market and you find something you just have to buy (you’ll do that a lot in Thailand), and you open the negotiations by asking how much the item costs. The seller will then give you a price. Now the game’s afoot! Many Westerners just pay the price and walk away, too embarrassed to haggle. But it’s the custom, so go along and enjoy it. Now you counter with a price below what you’re willing to pay. Ah no, its good quality, says the seller and counters your lowball offer with a lower price than they first quoted. And so you go to and fro. If it’s a cheap bit of merchandise, you might get it quickly, but the higher the price, the more enthusiastically you bargain.
By haggling, you should end up bringing the price down by 10-30%. However, if you’ve been pegged as a rich farang (foreigner), a merchant might have raised the price by a factor of 2 or 3. Don’t buy the first thing you see. Look around. Get prices from a few merchants. You’ll soon get a sense of what’s reasonable.
Don’t expect to haggle at food stalls and when you buy a bottle of water. That would be considered rude. Above all, have fun. It’s easy and enjoyable once you get the hang of it.