Haggling isn't just a money-saving strategy -- it's a way of life in many countries. Score a deal with these haggling how-to tips
Whether you're cruising the flea market in a local town or visiting a bustling market in a far-flung destination, here are some tips to get the best price.
Be prepared to do a little research if you want the best deals. If you can, try to find out:
- What to expect. How business is conducted and what is generally expected of buyers and sellers? What are the local customs? For instance, making a counter offer that's half the asking price is the norm in some countries, but would be insulting to a flea market vendor here at home.
- What to look for. What does the store, market or area specialize in? Is there a certain craft or specialty item the area is famous for? What items are cheaper there than at home?
- How to spot quality. Beware that vendors often try to take advantage of tourists or other people who aren't "in the know". Can you spot shoddy goods from good quality, or a imitation versus the genuine article? The more you know, the better you can talk price.
In addition, if you're shopping abroad make sure you're familiar with the local currency and aim to learn some of the local language before your trip -- especially vocabulary related to sales and numbers.
Where can you find this information? Try government travel advice and consult a good travel guide for a start.
Make sure it's safe -- and legal
Sure, it's unique -- but will it be more hassle than its worth? Even the garage sale down the street could be offering unsafe or illegal items. Different countries have different rules about what can be made and sold, and some items simply aren't allowed into Canada and the U.S.
Before you get too attached, consider the following questions:
- Is it safe? Safety and quality standards aren't universal, and some items could risk your health and well being. For instance, ceramics from other countries -- such as mugs, plates and bowls -- could be made with glazes that contain lead. When in doubt, buy for decorative purposes only. Many items that have hit the recall list can unknowingly show up for sale. (See How safe is second-hand stuff? for details.)
- Is it allowed? Many items like food, plants and animals can't cross the border for good reason -- they can introduce dangerous elements into our environment. Also, items that exploit the environment and endangered species may be illegal to transport, as are historical or cultural artefacts.
How can you tell if you're headed for trouble? Check out travel advice from your country, like the Canadian Government's Beware and Declare! and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's Prohibited and Restricted Items. When in doubt, check with your embassy first or talk to an official when you arrive at the airport. (If you take the initiative, it's considered a "penalty-free confiscation" -- meaning you won't be penalized and the item can be properly disposed of.)
- Is it contaminated? Pests like bed bugs have become a major problem around the world, and it's easy for a traveller or second-hand shopper to unknowingly bring them home. Be sure to carefully inspect goods, and ask the vendor if it has been checked. If you aren't sure, don't risk the hassle of ridding yourself of an infestation. (For more information, see Don't let the bed bugs bite.)
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