In Thailand, whether shopping at a Bangkok market or getting a taxi in Phuket, almost EVERYTHING is for sale, and in most cases, the price is negotiable. In fact, haggling is a part of the culture and expected when shopping, especially at markets.
With this in mind, there IS a structure that is in place, and staying within these negotiating parameters will ensure that you consistently don’t get too screwed over on pricing when shopping at a market, negotiating transport or otherwise. Not all settings are appropriate to begin a negotiation; however, so please don’t enter reputable brick and mortar establishments and start haggling with waitstaff or hotel clerks, as some misguided tourists tend to do.
Agree on a price BEFORE accepting Goods or Services
This may seem obvious, but it’s imperative to agree on a price before going further. That means, don’t get angry when a taxi driver asks an outrageous fare after the ride is done when you failed to agree on a price before-hand. Clever locals will take advantage of this if you give them the opportunity, but very rarely will a Thai go back on their word. Once an agreement is made, you should have a reasonable level of confidence they will honor it. This also means not haggling over the price of a meal after you’ve eaten it…
Don’t tip your Hand
Don’t openly count your wad of 1,000 baht notes when you’re about to get into a negotiation over an item that costs 300 and don’t show it after either. Use some common sense and don’t give market vendors or drivers a leg up.
Never make the first offer
(Bangkok Market 101)
You need to get a baseline first, or you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s just how it’s done, even if you already know what the final price will be.
When they name their price, counter with 1/3 of that
If they ask 300, counter with 100. Like clockwork. That is, assuming you still want to pay that much.
The agreed-upon price will end up around 2/3 of what the asking price is
(Bangkok Market level Expert)
Example: They ask 300. You say no, 100. They say 250, you say 150, they say 200, you then will have a deal, or something thereabouts. Thais know what they’ll accept for things and will structure their first asking price exactly like this. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It’s like they were all taught the same simple negotiating math as kids.
Note: Just because you know the price will end up at 200, don’t start with that if you’re in a hurry. It will end up closer to 275. They follow this structure no matter what your counter is.
Stand your ground
Don’t fold because they appeal to your personal side with “Ok, for you I will go to XX price” Stick to the playbook.
Take a look at the competition, there’s plenty in every Bangkok market, for an immediate price drop.
Walking away is a negotiation tactic
If 2/3 of the asking price is still too high, walk away and if there was any fluff in the other party’s numbers, they’ll come down. But if they don’t, that’s really as low as they can go.
Don’t show emotion or anger
As is typical, remain calm in your every-day dealings. Nothing positive comes from losing your cool when in Asia. Get familiar with the concept of Mai Pen Rai.
These are the basics. Master them and you’ll be able to get in and get out of any monetary transaction within seconds while other people are still trying to figure out where their wallet is.
For a complete map of the main Bangkok markets, follow the link below.