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Shopping in Bangkok's Markets - Bargaining Tips and How to Ask for A Discount in Thai

Updated on December 18, 2010
"Geez ladies you're haggling over 30 Baht?"
"Geez ladies you're haggling over 30 Baht?"

Haggling in Bangkok's Markets - Get Ready To Rumble

"It's us versus them", that's probably what most die hard shoppers who visit Bangkok think when they set foot into a shop that has caught their interest. Whether it be Thai antiques, wood carvings from Chiang Mai or t-shirts in Patpong with funny euphemisms, everyday is a battlefield in the markets and bazaars dotted throughout Bangkok.

And just like warfare there are a set of rules, kind of like the Geneva Convention. But of course wheeling and dealing in a shop in Bangkok should be more civilized of course or at least one would hope.

First off you have to realize that not all shops in malls or shopping centers will allow you to haggle. As a general rule of thumb all street markets, night markets, bazaars and flea markets do expect customers to bargain.

But there are certain rules to the the exception such as MBK Mall. Inside are a mix of shops you can and cannot ask for discounts. You can usually tell which places you can bargain with just by looking at the quality and set up of the shop.

Of course if you see any fake luxury brand named merchandise including movies and music you are allowed to bargain down the price. Just keep in mind though that most countries do not allow you to bring back said merchandise and will make you pay a penalty fine and confiscate your booty. So check with your country's governmental regulations about such matters before buying counterfeit goods.

Be Polite

I like referring to the Thai language as a language of politeness. As a male it's polite to add the word "krup" at the end of sentences. For ladies add "ka". Krup and Ka can also mean "yes" or an affirmation.

Bargaining in Thai

Thai
English Translation
Tao rai?
How much?
Lot noy dai mai?
Little discount please?
Paeng Mak
That's expensive
Mai Paeng
That's cheap
Jet sip baht dai mai?
70 baht can or cannot (this is basically suggesting a price)
Korp Khun
Thank you

Bargaining Tips

Smile and be cool. When asking for a discount do so in a low voice especially during the actual bargaining. And if the price is agreed upon don't go and ask for an even lower price. There are too many guidebooks out there stating that Thais are very low key and keep their emotions hidden.

It's bull. Thais are people too and don't like to be played around. As a frequent visitor to markets visited by tourists I see this happening all the time. So if the price you are asking for is accepted, please complete the transaction.

While shopping for clothes you will usually get a better price if you buy more than one piece. it doesn't have to be the same. Though sometimes it may be hard for foreigners to find the size they need.

For the early shoppers you'd be happy to know that most shopkeepers will most likely offer you a better discount if you are the first customer of the day. Once you hand over the Baht you will see the shopkeeper rub the bills all over their merchandise.

You will also get a better discount when the shop is about to close up.

Must visit shopping markets in Bangkok:

The places mentioned above a recommended for the best prices. You may have heard of some places like Patpong Night Market or Lumphini Night Bazaar. While they are good places to wander around it's not recommended to shop there as the prices there are overly inflated. Yes, you are able to bargain the price down but why go through more trouble than you have to.

Finally remember while bargaining that 30 baht to you may not be a lot of money. But to a Thai it is the price of a meal. So don't be too overly aggressive while haggling. Pay what you are comfortable with but be mindful that the other person is only trying to make a living.

You can visit my hub, guide to Shopping in Bangkok for comprehensive information about where to go and where to shop.

Learning Thai To Bargain Like A Pro

Though you may not necessarily have to speak a word of Thai in most markets in within central Bangkok it's always good to pick up a feel phrases. You will find that Thais are very accepting and may offer you a better discount considering you've made an effort to communicate in their native language.

You can check out my reviews of a few books I use extensively for learning to speak Thai for beginners.

Thai Numbers

Thai
English Translation
1
neung
2
song
3
sahm
4
say
5
hah
6
hok
7
jit
8
bpait
9
gao
10
sip
20
yee-sip
30
sahm-sip
40
say-sip
50
hah-sip
60
hok-sip
70
jit-sip
80
bpait-sip
90
gao-sip
100
neung-roi
200
song-roi
300
sahm-roi
400
say-roi
500
hah-roi
Wandering through Chatuchak Market
Wandering through Chatuchak Market

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    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      5 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Hi Adeline,

      I don't ride the water taxis because it's not the cheapest way to get to Wat Arun. Instead take a River Ferry Express Boat (has an orange flag) to Tha Chang Pier (that's where Grand Palace and Wat Pho are located).

      At Tha Chang Pier, there is an entry way to take a ferry boat that will take you across the river to Wat Arun. When I was there last year the ride across the river cost only 3THB.

    • profile image

      Adeline 

      5 years ago

      So informative! I like to find out what r attractive at Thong lo n chong nonsi it seems there r some interesting food stalls in the evening. If I

      ll to visit Wat Arun how much is the water taxi?

    • profile image

      zen uy 

      6 years ago

      very informative...thanks!

    • profile image

      Sammy C. 

      7 years ago

      Am really glad I came across your article. Will be going to Bangkok next week.

      Thanks for these useful information. :)

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Thank you joyce!

    • profile image

      joyce 

      7 years ago

      nice information

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Dazzling Image, yes Pratunam is a wholesale market, however tourists are much welcome to buy individual pieces. And yes they will sell large quantities to you at cheaper prices.

      If you are planning to resell the clothes in your country there are plenty of shipping companies around Pratunam. Finally yes, they do speak basic English.

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Wonderful insight Long Term Resident, thank you for sharing!

    • profile image

      Long Term Resident 

      7 years ago

      When I realised how little the average Thai earned, I stopped haggling. Also ordinary Thais haggle very little- its a conflict averse society.

      In the really touristy areas things might be different. Perhaps traders have learnt to inflate prices to cope with bargain hungry (and not at all conflict averse) Westerners.

    • profile image

      Dazzling Image 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the information. Have always been wanting to visit Bangkok. Understand that Pratunam is a wholesale clothing market. Any idea if they sell in large quantities and if the people there can speak and understand English?

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Good to know you're doing well tuan. By the way I believe it's spelled 'scrooge'. Happy New Years and thank you for visiting.

    • profile image

      tuan 

      7 years ago

      I make more money in 1 day than these street vendors make in a week. I would never ask for a discount. I don't have the greedy heart in me. Haggling from corporations is one thing, but haggling from borderline homeless people is another. I suppose some people are content with being Scrouge.

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Thanks for visiting porcupine73!

    • porcupine73 profile image

      porcupine73 

      7 years ago from New York

      Unique interesting information. It reminds me of when Brian was trying to buy something in the markets and the shop keeper wouldn't accept full price for it and told him he had to haggle with him.

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Thank you Peggy, you are very kind!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting information for most of us who will probably never shop in Bangkok's markets and very useful for those that might or do shop there. Enjoyable hub! Thanks!

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Peter you are always welcome!

      And to Shalini you are always welcomed here!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      7 years ago from India

      Thanks - that will be useful if I visit Bangkok again. I just love the life and the colour in their street markets - they pulsate with life! And yes, I've found I've paid a lot more than I needed to!

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 

      7 years ago from South East Asia

      Great advice. Thank you.

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Thank you trevzooms!

    • trevzooms profile image

      trevzooms 

      7 years ago from Honest within myself

      Hi, really interesting hub with much information.

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