For many people, “bargaining” is an alien concept. You see a price tag, you pay it. For South-east Asians, bargaining is a way of life. While we are experts in bargaining back home in India, on our first trip to Bali, we didn’t bargain much, to be honest. One of our biggest mistakes. By the time we had our bargaining game figured out, it was time to leave! Bali in Indonesia runs on Indonesian Rupiah, which is not one of the most powerful currencies in the world. Tourism makes up 80% of its economy and therefore most of the locals of Bali are looking to make their money in the tourist industry. While the locals are friendly and helpful, they’re always looking to make the extra buck, and definitely overcharge, especially when they know you aren’t from around the area. Especially in tourist ridden areas like Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Canggu, Uluwatu, and others you’re bound to be overcharged and even scammed. So here is our quick guide to bargaining in Bali
Don’t convert to your currency
The reason we say this, is that every time you convert to your currency, you’re comparing it to prices back home, and you’re going “Oh man, that’s super cheap!”, without realizing you may actually be paying a lot more than what it actually costs locally. You tend to feel less bad about paying a higher price when you know that you pay double or three times more in your country, that prevents you from bargaining.
Understand local costs
Visit supermarkets, local markets, night markets and the such to understand how much stuff actually costs, so that you can understand if you’re being ripped off or getting a deal. Sometimes things will be cheaper at a supermarket, sometimes they’ll be cheaper locally made. This requires a bit of research and understanding on your part. For example, it’s cheaper to just buy a box of tea bags and make your own tea at the hotel, instead of ordering a cup of tea, since most hotels serve Sariwangi teabags anyway and charge you much higher than what you would pay if you bought them at a store.
Save your shopping for the end of the trip
Unless you see something very exclusive that you’re a 100% sure you can’t get ANYWHERE else, try and shop towards the end of your trip. This gives you time to see and compare prices in different areas Don’t buy at the first place you see
Buying in the first shop you see means you don’t have something else to compare it with. When at a market, make sure you inquire prices and bargain in several different shops before you commit to one.
Start at half the price.
For most commercial vendors that don’t have a pre-set price (this includes street markets, small hotels and taxis), start at half the rate they quote you, or less than that if the price sounds ridiculous. They will often ask you how much discount you want, so before you give them your figure, ask them for the best price. Say what they quoted is too much, and ask them what is the best price they can give you, then go for half in that. Vendors will try and be charming and say they are giving you the best price, but don’t fall for that. If a vendor approaches you to buy their goods/services, you can bargain with them a lot. A little less if you approach the shop or vendor. The more desperate a vendor is to sell, the more their competition is, the more you can haggle with the prices.
The greatest trick of them all is to walk away. This may not work ALL the time, but where there is high competition, walking away means the vendor will call you back and offer you a better price. Once again, gauge your odds by enquiring prices here and there so you know when to walk away.
Don’t be afraid to show off your knowledge. Make sure you let the vendor know that you are aware of the prices around town and they can’t take you for granted. Exuding confidence means the vendors know you know your stuff and they can’t fool you, because most tourists are clueless and the locals are aware they can take advantage of that. Don’t let the vendors think this is your first time in Bali, or that you are unaware of the costs. First-timers usually end up getting taken for a ride. Locals tend to be over zealous to find out whether it’s your first trip to Bali, and it’s okay to lie about this so you don’t get cheated
Learn local phrases
Brush up on some Bahasa/ Balinese phrases before you go that will give people the impression that you have been there long enough, or that you have visited multiple times before. This not only makes your act of being “local” more authentic, it makes the locals smile and happy that you’re taking the effort to speak their language!
Always ask for a deal
Sometimes we shy away from asking for a discount because we feel they won’t give us one. You’d be surprised that local hotels, vendors, and restaurants often give great discounts if you just ask. If they say no, you don’t lose anything, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! This works especially when you are renting a scooter to get around. Read our guide to transport in Bali here to get an idea of the most effective way to get around the island and nearby.
Aaaand that’s mostly it! If you have these in mind when bargaining you should mostly get some amazing deals in Bali!