Bargaining is part of life when shopping in souqs and markets. It may seem an annoyance, but it pays to see it as a game. Just follow the basic rules:

  • Shop around to get an idea of prices.
  • Decide how much you want to pay, and then offer a lower price than that.
  • Don't show any excitement.
  • Walk away if you can't agree, and the vendor will follow you if your price was right.

The Art of Bargaining

Haggling is part of everyday life. It’s essentially a kind of scaled pricing: it can be a discount for people who have more time than money, but if your time is too valuable to discuss a transaction over tea, then you’re expected to pay more. Your relative affluence of course factors into the calculations as well.

Shopping this way can seem like a hassle, but it can be fun (as long as it's considered a game, not a fight). The basic procedure:

  • Shop around and check fixed-price stores to get an idea of the upper limit.
  • Decide how much you would be happy to pay.
  • Express a casual interest and ask the vendor the price.

From here, it’s up to your own style. The steeliest hagglers start with well below half the starting price, pointing out flaws or quoting a competitor’s price. A properly theatrical salesman will respond with indignant shouting or a wounded cry, but it’s all bluster. We know one shopper who closed deals in less than five minutes by citing her intense gastrointestinal distress – although unfortunately this was not bluster on her part.

A gentler tactic is to start out just a bit lower than the price you had in mind, or suggest other items in the shop that might be thrown in to sweeten the deal. Resist the vendor’s attempts to provoke guilt – he will never sell below cost. If you reach an impasse, relax and drink the tea that’s perpetually on offer – or simply walk out, which might close the deal in your favour.

You’re never under any obligation to buy – but you should never initiate bargaining on an item you don’t actually want, and you shouldn’t back out of an agreed-upon price. The ‘best’ price isn’t necessarily the cheapest – it’s the one that both you and the seller are happy with. Remember that LE5 or LE10 makes virtually no difference in your budget, and years from now, you won’t remember what you paid – but you will have your souvenir of Egypt, and a good story of how you got it.