How to haggle like a pro in India

Shops in India

India is a different country, a different culture. It functions differently. This applies to every aspect of social activity, including how commerce is done. To someone who is visiting India for the first, one of the most striking features of an Indian bazaar, if they are not bedazzled by the immense crowds, is the constant negotiation over price. Rarely a deal is done in India that does not involve bargaining. It is not merely a cultural trait; there are some practical reasons too.

India is a developing country. Laws concerning how business is done are often poorly enforced. Absence of an authentic retail price on most items is an example of this. This often leaves the customer helpless. They have virtually no way of knowing the retail price of a product. So they often resort to negotiating the seller’s first price as a protective measure, to ensure they are not cheated. Some customers are really good at it. They aren’t necessarily MBAs who have read several dozen books on the art of trading in India. They are ordinary people who use some basic techniques to get a just price for a product.

Shops in India
Shops in India

Here are 7 such techniques that will help you during your shopping in India’s bazaars.

(1) Visit several stores

The best way to know the retail price of an item is to visit several stores selling it. That will give you a good estimate of what the thing is really worth and help you in your negotiations.

(2) Never pay the seller’s price

Unless you have a lot of money to spare, never pay the price the seller asks for the first time; even when you see something like “Fixed Price Shop.” India is different, and haggling is permitted even at shops flaunting “No Bargaining” sign.

(3) Start bargaining as soon as possible

Don’t let the seller fall into the comfort zone that they can trick you. The moment they tell you price, ask them indifferently if this is the best they can offer. It is going to have a powerful effect on them.

(4) Remain indifferent

Don’t let the salesperson know you are interested in an item; that will put you in a disadvantageous position. It will be more difficult to budge the seller who already knows you want a particular item.

(5) Make the seller do some work

Even if you have liked an item at first glance, ask the seller to show more items. Show interest and ask for more. An advantage of doing this is that after all this work; the seller would badly want a reward in form for a sale. Thus they will be more willing to offer you a good deal.

(6) Buy more than one items

If possible, go for more than items. This will significantly reduce your average cost.

(7) Walk away

If you think the price is still too high, just walk out. More than often, this results in drastic drop in price so you can have the best bargain.

I have included some basic Hindi words here for use when shopping. Here are they are again.

Any discount = daam kum kijiye
How much or what is the cost = kitnay ka hai
This is expensive = yeh bahut mehanga hai
Bill please = bill de dijiye
What happened = kya hua
I want a ticket = mujhe ek ticket chahiye
How much is this = ye kitne ka hai

You can actually here me speaking these words.

Hello world, Shalu here!


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35 thoughts on “How to haggle like a pro in India

  1. Hi Shalu,

    Interesting topic of discussion 🙂

    Oh yes…there is no end to the way we all have to haggle, and in any or every small thing. I guess that’s the reason even shop keepers have now started hiking their rates because they know we are going to haggle.

    I liked your tips mentioned, which will help anyone visiting here for the first time, or even those who hardly shop or don’t know how to haggle. Nice hearing you too – that was a good idea to convert it to Hindi for their convenience.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend 🙂
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    • Its amazing what we have to do. Indian housewives are like heroes, not only do they have to all the kitchen work, they have to engage in intense bargaining.
      Thanks for your comment as always.
      Twitter:

    • I always concern for the point 4, “Remain indifferent”
      Don’t let the salesperson know you are interested in an item; that will put you in a disadvantageous position. It will be more difficult to budge the seller who already knows you want a particular item.

      You are right, sometimes if the salesperson knowing about our position that we are really interested with their product, it will be more difficult to bargain

  2. Michael,
    I suppose in the USA bargaining is restricted to car-boot sales and open markets. But in India, its an every day thing. It can be good fun specially if you can get the price to a huge low and get yourself a bargain.
    Thanks for your comment.
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  3. Hello,
    I m glad to have found your blog. You are right about these tactics for bargaining. If you visit India but ainig skills, then you will suerly fell prey to muggers.

    • Dipra, I have been to Calcutta but not to the Gariahat or Dharmatala. I will make it a point to go there when I am there next. Thanks for the tip.
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  4. To be honest, I am so hopeless at haggling so I guess I would get ripped off all the time in India. However, after reading your tips (especially the one with walking away and starting to bargain asap) I feel more confident ) Thanks!

  5. I tried to explain the concept of bargaining to some of my colleagues from US visiting India, but they were like oh but it is only X dollars. I will not even get this is states. I am sending this post to them to understand that it is a cultural thing and why to pay extra when you know you are being over charged.
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  6. Being an Indian,still i can’t bargain really the toughest task is to bargain,the best method is first visit the market and ask the price of what you want to buy then start bargaining….

  7. Awesome post! One thing that has helped me win a lot better deals is by having the amount in cash in my hand before I ask. Then I hand the money to them(the amount I want to pay) and as they grab it, I ask “Would you take X amount instead?” Since it’s already in their hands, they are more likely to take my offer than to give money back 🙂
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  8. Hi Shalu,
    Yes, bargaining has been one of the most common practices while shopping in India. I have seen people doing this at shops with fixed price label. I have always been very weak with this aspect. These days the trend of bargaining is reducing because even the shop owners are aware of the ways to deal with customers.
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  9. Hi Shalu,
    Bargaining is in my opinion the most essential part of our shopping spree. The markets are quite large, but still have the scope of the bargaining and negotiation over the price. But, bargaining is not a child’s play, you get the essence of it with time. In childhood I used to go for shopping with my mother, and there I learned the basics of the bargaining, and now I am quite adept in this skill. Thanks for the share.

  10. I’m a terrible haggler probably because I easily get intimidated when negotiating with the seller. I worry that he/she might get offended by my price. This often results in me getting the item for a very little ‘discount’ from the seller’s original price.
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  11. awesome post and I would agree because I have actually dealt with Indian shopkeepers and Shalu is surely right. You have to bargain and negotiate until you get your price. Thanks for the share, Shalu.

  12. Now this is interesting. Most of the things listed here are also applicable in China. Been haggling with Chinese people for almost 6 years, I think I can handle haggling with the Indians 🙂

  13. Shalu, these are great tips to keep in mind when haggling. It is hard to know what is the real price when the vendor inflates the price because he expects haggling.

    The problem with that is some people will haggle and some people will not.

    I love haggling because it is fun to me and I feel part of the culture. I never expect to pay full price unless I am in a store store or mall.

  14. Wonderful topic! Article written very well and present a helpful information for the tourists. it’s really amazing and impressive. every one will likes this post.
    Brilliant article Shalu.

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  16. wonderful submit and I would recognize because I have actually dealt with Indian native shopkeepers and Shalu is definitely right. You have to discount and negotiate till you buy your cost. I appreciate you the discuss, Shalu.

  17. Very interesting article. My husband is going soon to Hyderabad. All my friends tell me he should shop for sapphires. Do you know where to get the best bargains for genuine sapphires?

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