Even though prices are already reasonable throughout Thailand, there are a few ways to make your trip even cheaper. Negotiating prices for products and services can help you lower the overall cost of your travels through Thailand. Here are a few tips that I learnt help with bargaining for the best price while shopping through the markets in Thailand. Even though a lot of products and services are bargain-able, just remember that there are some costs that are non-negotiable.
Some General Haggle Advice
Haggling is a way of life, and some might even say a skill. Here are a few tips to become haggle savvy.
Have a price you are willing to pay in your mind
Before starting to haggle, have an approximate idea of what you would want to pay for the goods or service you are about to purchase. To help you get a better understanding of general prices, shop around first before you start negotiating with a market vendor so that you know the general price the item is going for and which vendor has the cheapest option.
Bargain for things you want
Don't negotiate prices for products or services that you are not truly interested in. While it's okay to ask for a price of an item out of curiosity, it is bad form to haggle the item with a market vendor and ultimately turn down the item when you both reach an agreed price. Locals in Thailand are also trying to make a living, and we as tourists need to respect that as best we can.
While we do want you to be interested in the item you are negotiating, try avoid showing the seller that you are overly interested in what he/she has to offer. If a seller sees your interest, it might become harder to haggle a better price.
Allow the market vendor to offer you the first price and start negotiating down from that. If you suggest the first price you are willing to pay, you will miss the opportunity to see how low the seller is willing to drop their price. And if your price is higher than that of the sellers, they will happily accept your offer.
Start your haggle game at a price lower than you are willing to pay. This allows you to slowly increase the amount until you reach an agreement with the market vendor.
Buy in Bulk
Buy more items from the same vendor to get a bigger discount on your items.
Speak the Lingo
There is a rumour that Thais are likely to offer you a lower price if you can speak some of their language. Download a translator on your phone and use it as a tool to communicate when haggling.
Haggling in Thailand Markets
Generally speaking, there are 2 types of market sin Thailand: local markets, and tourist markets. It is in bad form to haggle at a local market - these prices are generally cheaper than tourist markets but they aim to supply locals. Local stores are locals that are trying to earn a living away from the tourist environment.
Tourist markets often inflate their prices, so if you are in the mood to haggle, here is the best place to do so. Tourist market prices are higher purely because vendors know that tourist will want to negotiate there prices - and if they don't the vendor makes a decent profit. The first price that a seller offers is rarely the true prices so use the above mentioned tips to get the best out of your haggle game in Thailand's markets.
Where Can I Haggle?
Pre-booked accommodation is a no-go, unless you are adding an extra night. You cannot negotiate a price that you have already agreed to, but if you are walking around and trying to find somewhere to spend the night then it's acceptable to ask for lower, walk-in rates. The more commercial and established the accommodation, the less likely you are going to be able to haggle prices easily.
Trains, public buses and forms of private transport have set prices and there is rarely room for negotiation. You may be able to negotiate group rates but that's as far as your haggling should go.
Taxi's will always run on a meter, a fixed fare for distance travelled. But if you are planning on travelling in the city for the day, or a long distance, taxi's will often have a set price for using their services for the day. If you are planning on using the taxi for the day the fare is often open to a little game of haggling.
If you love to haggle, then the best form of inner city transport would be my old favourite... the Tuk-Tuk. Tuk-Tuk drivers don't run on a meter and often take advantage of tourists by charging the highest price they can. If you are not happy with the price offered by a Tuk-Tuk driver, find yourself another.
Scooters are another favourite of mine. Rental scooters often have a set daily rental cost that is not negotiable, but if you are renting it for longer than a day or two, try negotiate a lower rental fee. Also, if your are hiring a few scooters as a group, see if you can haggle the price down for a better group rate.
Easy access to travel/tour agencies in Thailand is what makes exploring it so easy. But with such a diluted market, how do you know you are paying the best price for a tour? Well you don't really. But by applying some of the above mentioned tips you will get the best bang for your buck.
Like with transport, tour agencies take advantage of tourists, and often offer an inflated price for tours. While it is difficult to negotiate the price of a single tour, tour agencies may be willing to offer discounts on group bookings or if you are booking multiple tours with them. If you find a tour agency that has multiple tours that spark your interest, take several tours with them and ask for a lower price on the combined total. Bare in mind that they might say no.
You may come across the term "western" while travelling through Thailand. Anything with the term Western in its name is often a place, service or product that's price is NON-negotiable. Shopping centres are a 'Western' luxury and have set prices that are not open to a haggle.