An Idiot’s Guide to Bartering

Guide to bartering bali ubud art market
Ubud Art Market, Bali, where I honed my craft

When you are walking around a flea market something will inevitably catch your eye. You walk over, pick it up to examine it and ask how much it is. Bartering is an art, and one which I like to think I am relatively good at – even if I do say so myself. I love the mind games and the predator/preyness of it all, but I promise I am not a psychopath, I am just thrifty.

I do not pay rock bottom prices because I think everyone deserves a fair price. But when people can tell that you are a tourist, then they will unsurprisingly give you a higher price for things because they see your naivety as an opportunity to make themselves a bit of extra cash. I thought I would write a beginner’s guide for anyone who will be travelling to a market in a foreign country and would like to know how to grab themselves a bargain. So, read and learn young grasshopper.

Once the seller has clocked your interest and you have asked how much something is, the seller will do one of two things: either he/she will tell you outright the price that they want for it, or they will ask what you want to give them for it.

Tip: As Brits we hate silence, but do not feel pressured into blurting out the first price you can think of, because most likely you might be confused by the currency conversion, or you will blurt out the highest price you want to pay and then it’s game over. Take your time, get out your phone’s calculator if you need to and make the conversion so you can give an accurate answer

If they tell you the price that they want for it, never take this first price and say it is too expensive. Then they will ask what you want to pay. Bear in mind that you will basically need to meet more or less in the middle between the seller’s first price and the first price you say you want to pay. With this in mind, go in low with a price below what you actually want to pay because they will never accept this price. After the initial pricing, this is when the real war begins. You will take steps towards each other with the price that you are suggesting until one of you will reach the maximum price you will pay/sell for and won’t budge. Once this happens then you may concede a few more pennies and go into annoying numbers and small denominations (and the exchange might look like this: “I will give you 15”, “No, 20”, “I will give you 16”, “No 20”, “I will give you 16.50”, “19, and final offer”) and if you do not want to meet each other’s price then give up and say no thank you and walk away.

This is the moment of truth, the time when all the cards are suddenly laid on the table. They might pursue you and say “alright, alright 16.50”, in which case, YOU WIN! And if they don’t? Well, better luck next time, loser.  

It might seem intimidating at first but after a while it actually becomes quite fun!

Just remember, people need to make a living, so don’t be an arse and try and insist on buying a gold ring for £1. Gold and silver jewellery is cheaper than you would pay in the UK but would you want to sell a gold ring for £1? Go figure.

ubud art market bali guide to bartering
Ubud Art Market, Bali
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple girl

Remember, if I can do it then you can too! Let me know how you get on in the comment below!



  1. Ian
    July 1, 2019 / 9:18 am

    Very good Holly. I’m just not sure whether it’s the writer or the reader that’s the idiot. 🙂

    • Holly
      July 9, 2019 / 2:08 pm

      How dare you haha

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