The art of bargaining in Vietnam

practicalities - Vietnam: May 23, 2014

While Ho Chi Minh City has it’s share of shopping malls plying Guess handbags and froyo in air conditioned comfort, shopping at one of the local markets can give one a better sense of the city’s cultural, social and culinary heartbeat. These markets, mainly ones tailored to tourists offer a wide range of affordable clothing, souvenirs and handicrafts. However, finding the right price can seem elusive as price tags are non-existent in such markets as the famous Ben Thanh Market. This is where the art of bargaining comes into play.

Bargaining can be a fine line between friendly banter and downright indignation and it takes some experience to get it right. You can’t bargain correctly if you don’t know the price so it’s always good to do some research. Go to different shops to get a general idea on price. Once you have done your research, it’s time to start bargaining in earnest.

Head to that stall that you have been eyeing up and remember to walk with authority! Ask the shopkeeper to quote their price. The price hike will differ depending on the country and even region when it comes to Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City, the prices are inflated by about 30 – 40 percent on what a local can pay while in Hanoi, they can be inflated by up to 50 percent. Establish the price that you are willing to live with and counter offer with a number that is much lower than that. Some seasoned travellers that I know learn the word for expensive and feign indignation with a smile when offered an initial price. Shopkeepers know there will be a bargaining process so you might as well make it as fun as possible.

Try to stick close to your final price. If it doesn’t work out, and the shopkeeper isn’t budging, you can always try the walk off. This almost always works if the amount is within VND10,000. But if not, there’s always the next shop!

Whatever you do, don’t raise your voice or get angry. This causes you to lose face and makes the shopkeeper uncomfortable which won’t help with the bargaining

Enjoy the shopping extravaganza that is Vietnam with these bargaining tips!

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