How to bargain in Bali

Market shopping in Bali is an experience like no other. Here are our tips on how to haggle like a local

Motorcycles parked in front of a souvenir shop with a lot of colorful goodies on display
  • Stephanie Brookes
  • March 2018

There is no doubt Bali is a shopper’s paradise but how do you know if you are getting a good deal? Many people feel awkward bargaining with the locals, especially if they are not used to it, but in Bali bargaining is a way of life. It’s fun engaging with the seller and the more you can joke around the better!

Where can I bargain?

In the main markets of Kuta, Seminyak, Sanur and Ubud, and all the small side-street markets. Nothing has a price tag and, unlike department stores and supermarkets, you should haggle for your wares.

When to bargain?

For Indonesian vendors, haggling with customers (locals or visitors) is a way of life, so leave your guilt or feelings of discomfort at the door: market life is eccentric and vendors have sharpened skills on how to read a customer. For first-timers, it’s best to go shopping before noon when the bargains are at their best. If you go late in the afternoon around closing, the vendors are pretty tired and sometimes there’s little motivation to negotiate the best price for both parties.

Jars covered with colorful beads on a artistic pattern
Beaded goods in a market stall in Kuta, Bali

How much should I pay?

The asking price will always be overinflated, hence the need to haggle. Sellers will read buyers quickly and ascertain how well off they are, then establish the starting price. No matter what the price is, offer 50 per cent lower and work up from there. Throw in some humour, offer a laugh or two and try to get on well with the seller.

How can I make the experience fun for everyone?

Look at the haggling process as entertainment. Essentially, it’s a game of to and fro between a buyer and the seller. It’s about finding the middle ground between an outrageous price and a fair price. If both parties are happy, you have a deal.

How long does the process take?

How long is a piece of string? Haggling for an item takes as long as you want it to. If you’re lucky, it could take just five minutes to agree on a price, other times it could take 20 minutes of leaving and being encouraged back to the stall by the seller.

Bags, hats, baskets and more that is made from woven goods hanging on a market stall
Woven goods in a market stall in Ubud, Bali

What’s the etiquette?

Balinese people value politeness highly. If you are getting frustrated with the bargaining process, they will feel this. Walking away for a breather is fine; it’s very unusual for the sellers to become aggressive. Just be polite and say it’s more than you planned to spend. Always leave with a big smile and show respect.

How do I close the deal?

Closing a deal from the seller’s point of view means they have made a profit, and they try for around 30 per cent, which covers the running and staffing costs of the business.