Tag - Markets

How to Bargain in Thailand

Charming tourist shop in Thailand displaying Thai products such as fisherman's pants, hats, and t-shirts.

The exotic act of bargaining

“Traveling to Thailand? You better polish those bargaining skills”. Isn’t that what we read or hear before our first trip to the East? First time travelers to Thailand come with the mind-set of being ready to put on their tough bargaining face, ready to seem unimpressed and walk away from any seller who doesn’t give a discount on the initial price.

Tourist t-shirts in Thailand from Khao San Road showing a tuk-tuk and an I love Bangkok print.

Be prepared to bargain for these t-shirts on Khao San Road in Bangkok

Although it may be a big part of the dominant discourse on traveling in Thailand, the idea that everything must be bargained for is exaggerated. In fact, the hard bargaining in Thailand is mostly confined to the most touristy areas.  You may think that this is about sellers trying to take advantage of tourists with no idea about price levels and the currency value of the Thai Bath. This is often the case with tuk-tuk drivers offering “good prices for you my friend”, but otherwise we argue that this is more about tourists insisting that a price not bargained for is not a good price. In turn sellers have had to start a little higher on their prices to satisfy the exotic hunger of the tourists to get the honour and personal travel story of a successful bargain.

If you walk around a market, there is much less bargaining going on between Thais compared to what you might expect. This is because the parties have a pretty clear understanding of what a mango, a bottle of water, and a pair of socks should cost, so there is not a lot of room for bargaining. The lack of price tags in these places may have led foreigners to think that bargaining is necessary, and therefore tourists may insist on lower prices regardless of what the initial price given by the seller.

Thai street vendor selling chicken and beef satay.

You would not get much out of bargaining with this Thai street vendor

Discount clothing in a Thai shopping mall with customers looking for good bargains.

You are not expected to bargain here either

I used to think bargaining was mandatory at every market and that every transaction was an opportunity to slice the price and flex some bargaining muscles. However, I slowly started to realize that in the vast majority of cases the prices given to me were the same as those given to Thais. Often I would even walk away with a price a few Bath lower than my Thai counterparts due to my insistence on a lower price.

At the same time, there has been a noticeable change in the way shops and market stalls deal with bargaining in Thailand over the last 10-15 years. Price tags have become a lot more common, and increasingly the sellers insist on fixed prices. This could both be a way of not wasting too much time haggling over prices with tourists, and it could be a trend towards shops and marketers professionalizing their operations. For travelers who don’t like to argue about prices and feel insecure about the price level of products, this is a welcome change. For travelers who have looked forward to the exotic act of bargaining, they may walk away disappointed that the sellers don’t move an inch. If you really want a successful bargaining experience, you have the best chances if you buy several items. This method works nearly every time.

A quick summary on how to bargain in Thailand

The idea that you have to bargain for everything in Thailand is exaggerated and based on exotic imagery.

Bargaining is most important in touristy areas since sellers have become used to the insistence on price haggling from tourists.

In less touristy areas of Thailand, taxi drivers, shop owners, and market sellers give you reasonable prices identical to the ones given to local residents.

The absence of price tags doesn’t necessarily mean that bargaining is expected . It could mean that the common buyer and seller know the price level already.

It has become harder to bargain in Thailand and more items are now with price tags.

Bargaining is much easier if you buy more than one item. 

Two small tips on bargaining in Thailand

Before you start bargaining, make up your mind on what you think is a fair price for the item of interest. If you don’t know the price level, have a look around and ask a few different shops about their prices on similar items. You will quickly find out whether you can agree on a price.

Teach yourself how to properly say hello in Thai. If your pronunciation is good, the seller will instantly know that you are not new to Thailand and thus know what things cost. Sawadee kha/khrap is the formal way of saying hello in Thai if you are a woman or a man, respectively. Even better, skip the ‘sa‘ and go for the more casual wadee kha/khrap.

More on bargaining in Thailand and Southeast Asia

We will not walk through the other bargaining do’s and don’ts such as smiling, having fun, walking away etc. but leave you with a list of tips from other websites.

Should I bargain for everything I want to buy in Thailand?
by Travelfish.

Bargaining in Thailand
by The Farang.

Our top 10 hot tips on how to barter your way to the best price in Thailand
by Travelling King.

Bargaining in Bangkok
by I Am Wannee.

How to Haggle
by One Eyebrow Raised.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Haggling in South East Asia
by South East Asia Backpacker Magazine.

5 Offbeat Adventures in Phuket

Mangrove River with lush green jungle surroundings in Takua Pa (ตะกั่วป่า) in Phang Nga Province.
Sure, you go to Phuket for the beaches, the relaxation, and the pampering

But you also want to see something different on your holiday right? A great feature of Phuket is that you are in the middle of an experience hub, so no matter what you want to see and do, Phuket is a good starting point.

5 offbeat adventures in Phuket Island

Phuket Province consists of Thailand’s largest island, Phuket and 32 small islands along the island’s coastline. Phuket’s main attraction is undoubtedly the popular beaches. Especially the west coast beaches are adorned and daily trodden by thousands of happy beach goers. But Phuket Province has lots of other experiences to offer. Here are 5 experiences around Phuket beyond beaches.

1) The Mangroves of Takua Pa

Takua Pa (ตะกั่วป่า) is a district in Phang Nga Province. It takes 2-3 hours by car to get there from Phuket, and on the way you will follow the beautiful coast as you go north. You will soon find yourself surrounded by lush green mangrove forests teeming with wildlife. The best way to experience the area is from a boat or a kayak. You quietly float along the mangrove rivers to the smells and the sounds of the jungle. It’s not always easy to spot, but there are exotic animals all around you. Luckily, the nature guides have a magical ability to point at certain spots in the trees, and PUFF! suddenly you can see a mangrove snake.

You can find day tours that take you to the Mangroves of Takua Pa in many tour agencies and hotel tour desks around Phuket.

2) Old Phuket Town

Old Phuket Town, Phuket’s historic district has gone thorough a renovation of the old Sino-Portuguese buildings. The focal point of Old Phuket Town are Thalang Road and Soi Romanee. Here, they have retained most of the old Sino-Portuguese houses and mansions. It is a good idea to walk down along the small side streets, where you will find many small charming buildings.

Old Phuket Town was built on the riches harvested from the area’s thriving tin trade that began in the 16th century. Since then, there was a significant trade with tin that attracted Chinese, Indians, Malaysians and Europeans to Phuket. The big tin magnates built the beautiful mansions about 100 years ago. Today, many of the old houses are now converted into restaurants, cafes, hotels, and museums.

Photo credits: Simon Ostheimer/CNNGO

If you like to know more about Old Phuket Town, see this interesting article and gallery by Simon Ostheimer: Old Town Phuket: Finally, a reason to leave the beach.

3) Phuket’s Colorful Markets

Markets in Thailand mean much more than grocery shopping. It is a very important part of social life. This is also the case for Phuket, and the area has a handful of good markets where you can find unique food and exotic fruits, souvenirs, clothing, small restaurants, entertainment, and more.

Phuket Weekend Market

This market is Phuket’s largest. It takes place in the south of Phuket Town, and it is only open on Saturday and Sunday between 16-21. The range of products is vast and includes clothing, fashion products, make-up, glasses, shoes, crafts, fishing equipment, toys and pirate DVDs. You can also find a lot of delicious snacks and food made on the spot. The market has many names. It is also sometimes called Talad Tai Rot, Chaofa Market, Talad Jatujak Phuket, and Talad Naka.

Banzaan Market

In Patong City, behind the large Jungceylon shopping mall, you will find Banzaan Market. This market is primarily selling fresh produce such as meat, fish, seafood and vegetables. If you want to cook yourself, this is the place to go hunt for ingredients. A small part of the market is dedicated to clothes, shoes, and toys. The market is clean and modern – and even escalators!

Indy Market

This market opened in 2010 and has quickly become a popular venue for Phuket’s youth. The market is located in Phuket Town in a side street (soi) of New Dibuk Road. Among the items sold at the market are snacks and dishes made on the spot, jeans, t-shirts, and sandals. Indy Market also features live music and street performances, so visiting here is a fun experience.

Photo credits (first and last image): Jamie Monk

If you like to do know more about the markets of Phuket, we suggest Jamie Monk’s Phuket Markets. It has good descriptions and great images.

4) Baan Teelanka – Upside Down House

Upside Down House is Phuket’s most quirky attraction, and it plays tricks with your brain. As the name suggests, this is an ordinary town house that is flipped over, thus turning upside down. You enter the house through the roof and come directly into the attic. From the attic you go up (or down if you will) the stairs to the living room. Once you are here, you start to get dizzy. You feel like you should be falling, but gravity has you firmly planted on the living room ceiling. In the room, you are the only object in the “wrong” position in the house. Everything else is in a correct position according to the direction of the house. Even the live fish in the aquarium swim upside down. Hmmm… The experience is fun and challenging, and there is ample opportunity to take trippy photos.

Photo credits: Baan Teelanka

Here, you can check out more details and photos of  the Upside Down House.

5) Biking in the interiors of Phuket Island

Biking is a great way to explore an area. You hear the sounds, you smell the surroundings, and you go at a pace that allows you time to take in your experiences. Most of the biking tours offered on Phuket take you through many of Phuket’s beautiful landscapes and natural attractions. The route takes you through idyllic rubber plantations, beautiful valleys and coconut groves. This is a great opportunity to get close to village life in Phuket. It is a relatively easy bike ride for all ages, however, a little bit of experience will help, since you often follow toutes along village roads and local trails. There are hills on these tours, but they will likely include the option of taking stretches of the trip from the convenience a van.

Photo credits: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Phuket – more than beaches

We hope you were inspired by these offbeat adventures in Phuket. There are many, many more than we have showed here. The small tour agencies and tour desks around Phuket Island have a good selection of tours for everyone, so if you have not booked in advance, it should not be a problem for you to find excursions that match your wishes.