How to Barter in Bangkok

Ranked among Asia’s most popular shopping destinations, Bangkok is a city that enjoys a reputation as one of the top bargain hubs in the country. With its landscapes littered with local markets and maze-like thoroughfares, Bangkok’s bargain hotspots offer visitors a plethora of products from consumer wares to keepsakes and souvenirs. From haggling down the price of an item to striking a bargain when purchasing multiples, here are some useful tips for bartering in Bangkok.

  1. Explore Bangkok’s Bargain Hotspots
JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com), Chatuchak Weekend Market Soi, CC BY-SA 3.0

Those who wish to make the most of the bargains and discounts available in Bangkok should first and foremost make shopping in the city’s local markets a top priority. Bangkok is home to countless iconic shopping hubs and department stores and shopping complexes but visitors must keep in mind that bargaining is a practice that is restricted to local thoroughfares and bazaars. So put your haggling skills to the test at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Suan Lum Night Bazaar, and the Pratunam Night Market as well as other spaces including the Patpong Night Market and the many wholesale markets in the city instead. Visitors based at a centrally located apartment hotel in Bangkok whether it is a venue such as the Anantara Baan Rajprasong Bangkok Serviced Suites or countless others in the city will have easy access to these markets.

2. Be Patient and Look Around
One of the best and most successful ways to secure bargains when shopping in Bangkok is to shop around for longer by scouring each stall in the marketplace. If a souvenir or product appeals to you, the chances of the same item being available in several stalls or shops in the same market are quite high. So take the time to look around and compare price points to find the best bargain available. When sellers promise you the “best price” what it really means is the price they have decided based on how much profit they wish to make on a single item and this will differ from stall to stall.

3. Start Bidding in the Right Range
When you first begin to bargain, it is important to start with a reasonable discount compared to the asking price. It is recommended that shoppers make a bid which is 30% or 40% less than the asking price and not makes demands for larger discounts. This gives the shopkeeper adequate space to shift the price from the inflated figures concocted for unsuspecting tourists to a more reasonable number. Showing interest in buying the item for 30% to 40% less also shows that you are serious about the purchase and is willing to pay a fair price with a margin for profits for the seller. As a rule of thumb, the actual cost of the item will be 25 to 50 percent cheaper than the quoted price and it is crucial to keep that in mind when one bargain.

4. Don’t Appear Desperate or Too Keen
When engaging it shopping activities in Bangkok markets it is imperative that shoppers feign a slight indifference when perusing products for purchase. If one dives into a stall and picks up an item one fancies and declares its personal value or beauty to a travel mate or shows excessive interest, the process of bargaining is a waste of effort. The shopkeeper already knows you are hooked on the product and will not offer any significant discounts as he knows you are very keen on the purchase. It is important to act nonchalant when shopping in local markets for this reason and to maintain a casual composure at all times. This evens the playing field for both you and the seller as both parties can opt out of the exchange or transaction at any point.

5. Purchase in Bulk to Pay Less

Biyu Lau, Pratunam, CC BY 2.0

The wholesale shopping hubs in Pratunam are ideal for discounts as the markets are designed to entice shoppers to buy in bulk and pay less in turn. This is ideal for purchasing souvenirs and other items such as Thai t-shirts as one can buy a dozen for the price of 6. Wholesale market sellers are more upfront about the profits they are making and will attempt to provide a sizable discount for buying more than one item. Most clothing retailers hit these markets because they offer the real bargains.

6. Walk Away Like a Pro
Although walking away from a stall after a dissatisfactory bargaining exchange is one of oldest tricks in the book, it can work, if used carefully. There is a chance the technique might fail if you walk away too soon or feign disinterest to such a degree that the seller is convinced you won’t make the purchase. So use it wisely and sparingly.