Tag - souvenirs

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.

Tina the Tout – the person behind a beach seller

Homemade necklaces in various colors sold by a beach seller
Have you ever gone to the beach and encountered beach sellers, trying out every trick in the book to make you buy things you may or may not want?

Everyday Tina walks up and down Benaulim Beach in Goa with a bundle of sarongs on her head and a large bag of homemade jewellery. After two days of politely rejecting to buy anything from her, I approached her. I asked if I could interview her about her life and share the story on “OK, but you also buy”, she said with a smile. I agreed.

Indian hindu woman with golden earrings and a red dot on her forehead

Interview: Tina, the Person Behind the Beach Seller

 A:  Tina

 Q:  Thank you for letting us talk to you Tina. Can you tell a little about yourself?
 A:  I am from Karnataka [a state in Southwest India]. I am 27 years old, and have three girls. They are all in school. My husband works with construction.

 Q:  I have seen young girls selling stuff on the beach like you. Are your girls helping you?
 A:  No. They are busy with school.

 Q:  That sounds like a good choice. When did you start selling necklaces and sarongs?
 A:  I started when I was 13 years old. I have been selling for 14 years now. I never went to school. I was helping my family.

 Q:  Can you tell us what a normal day for you looks like?
 A:  It’s hard work. I wake up at 6 in the morning. I start to make necklaces. Maybe at 9, I start to sell. I walk here and try to sell to people here. In the evening I make necklaces again. Everyday like this. I can make three necklaces in one day. I make most myself. I made these [pointing at a batch of necklaces laid out on the table in front of us].

 Q:  How many items do you sell in one day?
 A:  I normally sell 3 or 4 pieces. But now it’s low season, so sometimes less. Some days I have no luck. No sales.

 Q:  How much do the best customers buy? Have you ever tried a customer buying everything?
 A:  No. The best customers buy 4 or 5 pieces. On the best days, I can earn maybe 1,000 Rupees [15 USD].

 Q:  I can see that you are a good seller. Do you a special trick to make people buy?
 A:  I try to make chat first with people. I ask about country, kids, like that. I will smile, make friends first.

 Q:  There are more women selling here on the beach like you. Do you work with them in a group?
 A:  No. I work alone. I know them, but we all work alone. Everyone supports own family.

 Q:  Do you ever think about doing something else?
 A:  No. I don’t have education. I can’t find another job.

 Q:  Your English is very good. I think you could work many places.
 A:  I learned English from talking to tourists. It’s many years now. But I don’t know how to work like them [points to the restaurant staff].

We start to look at the items Tina has put on the table. My attention falls on her hand. It is beautifully decorated in henna. On her other hand she has a small tattoo. This is the sign for “Ohm” – good luck, she says. “I can make henna for you,” she says. I decline and we continue to look at the necklaces and bracelets in front of us. I find a beautiful blue necklace made from seashells. She made it. She would like to sell more to me, but I stick to one. She takes the Rupee notes in her hand, touches her left shoulder with the money, then the left. Then she brings the money to her forehead as she closes her eyes and makes a slight bow with the head. “Good luck”, she explains and smiles.

 Q:  Thank you Tina. It was very interesting to learn about you. Good luck  to you and your family.
 A:  Thank you. See you tomorrow.


Also known as touts, hawkers, and vendors, among the most common things they sell are snacks, beach towels, hats, sunglasses, souvenirs, handmade jewellery, and massage treatments right on the beach. On some occasions you might just need that souvenir to bring back home or those shades to protect from the sharp sun rays. But most probably you will be slightly annoyed by persistent hawkers, especially if a new one interrupts your beach relaxation session every other minute.

Seeing the beach touts walk up and down in the burning sun while carrying bundles of items for sales, some people get that awkward guilt-feeling of turning them down. Others simply ignore them completely. The balance is a tough one – you can be rude and not acknowledge their existence or you can be friendly but waste their time by chatting and not buying. Of course, the more you chat, the more items will be unwrapped, and quickly appear around your neck, on your hands, and around your head, quickly building up a sense of guilt-pressure to buy something. We usually consider the beach seller from our own point of view,  that of the beach tourist. We thought it would be interesting to inquire about the life of a beach seller and find out who the person behind is.