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How to Bargain in Vietnam

Posted on January 27, 2014 by blog1 in Vietnam Travel Tips tagged

Whether shopping for souvenirs, a street side snack or accommodation, Vietnam is all about bargaining. Locals love it, vendors thrive off it, and tourists, well, often get left in the dust. But if you know how and when to bargain, you can save some serious coin during your travels through Vietnam.

 

First things first, bargaining should be fun. If you take on the wrong attitude towards bargaining and feel as if everyone is taking advantage of you, your shopping, eating and accommodation experiences will not be enjoyable. But if you use bargaining as a tool to get what you want and to be friendly, then it can be a very pleasurable part of your travels. Keep in mind that in Vietnam, almost everything can be bargained for (even when there’s a “fixed price” on it).

 

Before you accept anything (whether it’s a scarf, spring roll on the street, or a hired car for the day), make sure you ask the price first. If you don’t ask the price and you’ve taken the goods, then you are at the mercy of the person selling it to you. But if you ask how much something is beforehand, then it’s open season for bargaining.

 

Before you start bargaining, you should think about how much you would like to pay for something (within reason). You may pay 20 dollars for fresh spring rolls in a New York City café, but when the ingredients cost a total of 50 cents in Vietnam, you should probably lower your price expectancy. For a plate of fried or fresh spring rolls, 1-3 USD would be OK to pay. If you’re buying something directly off the street (from a vendor), prices should definitely be on the lower side.

 

A common method in bargaining is splitting the asked price in half. Though this can work in certain instances, at other times the price is way too low. Buying a t-shirt for 50 cents? That’s ridiculous. But if the vendor is selling a thin, screen-printed, mass-produced t-shirt for 15 dollars? You’re spot on in thinking it’s too high. If you’re ready to bargain something down, it’s always better to go a bit lower than what you want to pay. So if you want to pay 3 dollars (60.000 VND) for something, maybe ask for 40.000 VND first. When the vendor returns your request with shock and outrage, slowly move up to 50 and then 60. Always remember that you don’t have to buy anything, so if you feel like someone is taking advantage of you, smile, say Cảm ơn (thank you) and walk away.

Sometimes walking away can be one of the best bargaining moves there is. Say your final price, and if the vendor says no, then go to shop somewhere else. If they really want to sell something to you, you will hear a “wait!” or “OK!” yelled behind you. Jackpot.

 

While most things are free game, some things are never open for bargaining. Entry tickets, items priced on a menu in a nice restaurant, fixed prices in convenience stores and metered taxi fares are a few that come to mind. Almost everything else (from socks to renting a house for a year) can be bargained down. So find that perfect balance between firm and friendly, pick prices that will keep you, the buyer, and them, the vendor, happy, and always remember: you are on vacation, and they are trying to make a living. Happy shopping!




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