Hoi An, Vietnam is well known for its custom clothing, beautiful lanterns and hand made souvenirs at very affordable prices. Just how affordable? It depends on who you ask. The one thing you'll notice missing from almost every shop is price tags. The home of the Unesco World Heritage site, Hoi An Ancient Town still works on a haggle/barter system. If this is one of your first visit's to Asia, you may not be used to haggling in a market. This guide will teach you exactly how to haggle in Hoi An without being insulting and while respecting local culture.
How To Haggle in Hoi An, Vietnam
1. Offer half the first quoted price
This is a great starting point and by no means the end all, be all. Never accept the first quoted price which they will display for you on a calculator. Start by offering HALF of the quoted price. Remember that you most likely wont end up paying this price. It will give you a great starting point to find a lower price.
2. Get your poker face ready
Your expression and reaction to the item you're shopping for can dictate the price in Hoi An. In western culture, people will express how much they LOVE something even before they buy it. It doesn't matter how much they love it, the price will remain the same. With the haggle system, expressing your love for an item makes you an easy target for an inflated price. Even the smile on your face as you try on a new pair of shoes is a giveaway. Make sure to not show too much emotion when looking at items. If you find something you love stay calm, cool and get ready to negotiate.
3. The walk away
Want to know if you have the best deal possible? There's truly only one way to find out. You have to be willing to walk away no matter how much you love the item. If they can go lower, they will and they'll give you a new price. There is one problem with this. If you start to walk away and they don't stop you, it means that they have already gone to the lowest price possible. Going any lower for them would mean taking a loss on the item which doesn't make good business sense. If you loved the item and they don't call you back, this is when you have to turn around with your tail between your legs to go back and pay. Don't let your pride get in the way, it happens all the time.
My wife Kashlee recently learned this the hard way. She was positive a lady vendor could go lower on a silk dress that she absolutely loved. After 10 minutes of haggling Kashlee wasn't quite happy with the price and started to walk away. She was so positive that the lady would stop her, we kept walking but the problem was, she never did. We ended up leaving the market empty handed. The next day Kashlee still wanted the silk dress. To save face I went back the next day alone and got her the dress. Keep in mind this was all over $5.00. Sometimes our pride, more than the price gets in the way.
4. Be nice
How often are you willing to give a great deal to someone who is being a jerk? Never. It's alright to have a poker face on but being rude and grumpy will definitely not get you anywhere. Remember this is their home and we are the visitors. Treat the locals with respect and kindness and you will get the same in return. Learning a few Vietnamese words to can be a great ice breaker and pave the way for great bartering. Don't ever lose your cool as it's just business and is never personal.
5. Be grateful for what you have
Remember you likely earn more more than the person you are haggling with. The average monthly salary for a Vietnamese worker is $150. While the few dollars savings may seem like a big deal to you, I can assure you it's a much bigger deal to the locals. Be grateful for what you have and don't be cheap. If you had a good experience with the seller and they were very kind, don't hesitate to offer a little tip on top of the agreed upon price. It will make there day and make you feel good too.
These basics will help you get started on how to haggle in Hoi An! Negotiating for price may seem uncomfortable at first but you'll get the hang of it quickly. Have any other great tips on bartering or haggling? We would love to hear them below!