The Buffalo Tours’ team is full of seasoned travellers, destination experts and professed food fanatics – but no one knows travel and tours in Asia quite like our tour guides. That’s why, when it comes to Thailand travel advice, we go to our on-the-ground travel experts. Thankfully, we have a whole team of them!
This time around in our Tips from a Tour Guide series, we talked to our top Chiang Mai, Thailand tour guide Amy Somkran who helps visitors to her home city fall in love with its culture and people.
Amy gives her local tips on how to bargain like a true pro in Thailand – right down to the phrases, body language and jokes that will help you get the best price!
Tip #1: Assess Your Options
“If you are shopping for souvenirs in a big city like Chiang Mai or Bangkok, most souvenir shops will carry identical or similar stuff. Don’t feel like you can’t wander around and look for the best price – if you feel like you aren’t getting the price you want, move to another stall. But remember – most vendors know each other, so their prices will usually be about the same!”
Tip #2: Smile Big!
“Thai people are very outwardly friendly, and will be kinder on their prices if you bargain with a smile! Looking tough or mean when you are bargaining won’t get you far in Thailand. Smile, laugh and try to have a good time while bargaining – the locals will appreciate it a lot more!”
Tip #3: Don’t Forget to Say “Hello”
“Bargaining is starting a conversation, so it is rude to simply ask ‘how much’. Start your conversation with a smile, eye contact and a friendly ‘sawasdee ka’. This will immediately show that you respect local culture, and will make it easier for the vendor to give you a nice discount!”
Tip #4: Be Polite!
“There are lots of words in Thai to help you sound more polite. Just like in English when you might ask for a discount with a friendly ‘please’, we use the phrase “lod noi dai mai ka”, which translates to “please can you lower the price?” Using this phrase shows that you aren’t afraid to try to speak Thai, and might charm the vendor into giving you a ‘local’ discount!”
Tip#5: Move Along
“I learned this one from Chinese tourists that I would show around Chiang Mai. Rather than staying at one shop and bargaining, if you aren’t doing as well bargaining as you’d hoped, move away to another vendor. If they really want the sale, they will come after you and give you a discount! Make sure you do it with a smile!”
Tip #6: Have Fun!
“Thai people love having fun, and bargaining is no exception! Make bargaining a chance to play a game with a local vendor. If you make it stressful or mean, you will never get a discount. Don’t be afraid to make a joke or crack a sly smile while bargaining!”
Tip #7: Use Body Language
“Body language in Thai is almost as important as the words you are using. If you want to show your sincerity or kindness when you say ‘lod noi dai mai ka’, do it with a “wai” – which is when your hands are folded in front of your face in what Westerners sometimes call ‘prayer’ hands. This makes your request extra polite!”
Experience the art of bargaining in Thailand for yourself by creating a custom itinerary with us!