Here are a few tips before you begin your exploration:
Bargaining and haggling for a better deal is all part of the experience when shopping at markets in Bangkok. The first price offered is rarely the true price, especially in overly tourist areas like Khao San Road, Silom, Chatuchak Market, or the stalls around Nana BTS Station.
- Remember that while bargaining is common in markets, it is not accepted or possible in convenience stores like 7-Eleven or upscale shopping malls.
- Look around and check with your guide to have the idea of what you are going to buy. You can check the 8 tips for bargaining in Thailand for more detail
Freshen up on your calculator speak
Market shopping is all about the bartering. If you pay full price for something at one of Thailand’s many markets, you have become one of many tourists who overpay at one of these outdoor shopping arenas. If you do not know any Thai, brush up on your calculator skills. Be prepared to barter with a vendor or merchant, if not just for the banter.
Don’t be too proud
While bartering is a must, do be aware when you are taking the situation one baht too far. Do not fight with a vendor over an insignificant price, and do not make a scene if you do not get the price that you want. Be prepared to simply thank the shopkeeper and move on. There is nothing worse than watching a foreigner lose their cool over ฿10. Thais hate losing face, so if you are losing your temper and getting into theirs, things are bound to end badly.
The friendlier, the better
Thailand is not referred to as the Land of Smiles without reason. The people here are some of the friendliest in the world. That being said, if you enter a shop with all guns blazing, ready to fight to the death for the best deal you can muster out of a shopkeeper, think again. Thais are receptive to friendliness, and the more aggressive your attempt to receive a discount, the less likely you are to get one.
Know some Thai
While this is certainly useful for almost every country you visit, having the knowledge of a few numbers and phrases to help you barter will go a long way. For one, a merchant will appreciate your honest attempt at speaking their difficult language, and they might even give you a discount just for trying. Knowing how to say words like ‘expensive’ or ‘discount’ can help you in all aspects of your visit to Thailand, not just once you are lost in a maze of stalls at one of its markets. Knowing a few numbers is the best way to ensure you have a positive, and affordable, market experience.
Download a currency calculator
Figuring conversation rates from your home country’s currency to baht will certainly be a struggle. With fluctuating rates and figuring out money that is different from anything you have ever seen before, you are better off downloading an offline currency application to your phone before taking on one of Thailand’s markets. Things move quickly while you’re bartering, and you will want to know just as fast how much a price is before trying to go any lower. Who knows, you might already be getting an amazing price on something, and you just did not know it.
Browse a little
Do not purchase the very first thing you simply must have. Chances are, there will be an abundance of whatever it is you have your eye on just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Do make note of where something is before leaving it behind, however, just in case.
Pay what the locals are paying
If you are one customer behind a local and find they are paying a significant amount less than you are, you are getting a bad deal. Simply being a foreigner can make you susceptible to being ripped off. Make note of what Thais are paying and be sure to get the same price.
Do not barter for food
Although we are not sure if this is a custom or simply not done, but do not barter for food. Are you wanting to purchase elephant pants? Barter! Are you hoping to buy that hanging tapestry for your room at home? Barter away. But before chowing down on one of Thailand’s most coveted dishes, do not muster up your bartering skills in hopes of receiving a discount.
The more items, the better the discount
You are more likely the receive a discount the more items you have. If you are genuinely only wanting to purchase one thing from a vendor, convince a friend that they need that identical item or something else from that merchant, and chances are you will both receive a slight discount.
You have only so much space in your luggage. Unless you want to send some home over post, try to avoid heavy and massive items. Many stores offer free shipping service so check for your convenience.
Shopping in Thailand is a culture, a ritual and a lot of fun. It is rewarding for those who really take it more seriously than just getting some souvenirs off the shelf. Whatever reason you come to Thailand for, make sure shopping is one of the bullet points in your travel agenda.