This post shows you how to save money on markets, additionally you find some background information on how the “tourist market” is organized. First of all, this isn’t rocket science, it’s mostly about doing some small steps right and being persistent.
If you want to buy something on a local market or shopping area, try to do the following:

1) Reconnaisance – Gather Intel
Walk around and get an impression on what different shops sell. Ask for prices about various items (even those that don’t interest you) just to get an understanding about the prices, also the people will know you. Sometimes there is the same stuff just 50 % off a few steps away. Some people just drop the price after you wait for a few seconds, hence when you walk away some offer you a large bargain off – remember it and come back later.

2) Bargaining & Closing the Deal

When you decided what to buy, I would recommend the following method:

  • Select your item(s), then propose what you want to pay and show them the money, if they say no. No problem, say calmy ‘ok’ and put away the money and put the item back. Usually the give in immediately. If they don’t, just walk away.
  • You can try again later and talk for a longer while.
  • Also you can try to team up with some other tourists. Maybe you can get the stuff for your price when buying more items together or someone is a better bargainer.
  • Just find another shop/market – Remember: I have seen very few unique items.

3) Example
I usually bought most of the stuff at least two times in different variations, e.g., a blue and a black scarf. So I proposed 50 for both instead of the 70 (each was 35) ‘ambos por cincuenta’ (both for fifty), when the say ‘no’, I put back one and say ‘entonces solo esto’ (then only this one). Usually I got my deal for both items right away.

Remember you can buy most stuff somewhere else – at the same market, a different market, a different city, even a different country! So you can easily walk away. Just in case you think it is unique, you can always come back and propose another offer or take the suggested price.

A little background information on the tourist market
I have seen a lot of markets in South America, I can tell you that most stuff isn’t exclusive to one region or even country. While travelling with some french women, one told me how the tourist markets are overregional organize in Africa. In one country where labor is extremely cheap all the souveniours are produced. These products are shipped from there to all the local markets. I assume this system also exists in South America.
What does this mean for you? You can decide when and where to buy more easily, in the beginning I bought a lot of stuff, just to carry it with me for a few months and see it everywhere again.

Happy bargaining, mail us your experiences and questions!

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