The Art of bargaining in Vietnam

Bargain may sound weird and unpopular in some countries, but in Vietnam it is a crucial part of local people’s daily life. Nowhere in the world like Vietnam, bargaining is more worthwhile. With the passage of time, bargaining becomes culture, an irreplaceable part of people here.

Indeed, some people bargain all the time because they are fond of price negotiating. Almost all foreigners struggle in bargaining despite the fact that they are already aware of the real price or that they know the price prevents them from bargaining successfully. Except for some places that they offer products labeled with fixed prices, you can feel free to make a bargain, no matter when and where - it’s really normal in Vietnam.

Another reason why you should make bargain is because of a disappointing fact that in Vietnam, greedier people create inflation, destroying the market and the livelihood of honest sellers. Accepting to buy things at a higher price does not prove anything like your generosity; on the other hand, it just creates a chance for greedy people to make benefit from you. So in a practical point of view, learning to bargain is contributing to a fairer market, where products cost the price they deserve.

(Photo: Frankie Shutterbug/ Unsplash)

To get a better deal in Vietnam, you are advised to take into consideration some bargaining tips as follows:

1. Learn to read numbers in Vietnamese

One of the most essential things when you visit a country is to learn to speak the local language. Before trying to gain any bargain, learn how to say numbers in Vietnamese. This may surprise the vendors, making delighted to hear a foreigner trying to bargain in Vietnamese. This, consequently, can facilitate your deal. Just apply some simple phrases such as “Bao nhieu?” (How much?), “Dat qua!” (It’s too expensive!), “Ben kia ban re hon!” (The previous shopkeeper sells cheaper than you!).

2. A price tag means the price is unnegotiable (most of the time)

If something has a price tag on it, this would mean you will most probably not be able to negotiate the price down further. The same situation applies for fixed prices listed on menus or signs at restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. In these cases, do not try to push a deal or else you may appear rude and receive hostility back.

(Photo: Van Thanh/ Unsplash)

3. For a sart, offer the merchants half of the initial price

At some markets for foreigners, offer the merchants 1/2 of the initial price (particularly, you should deal from 1/3 at Ben Thanh market) can work. If they don’t agree, gradually start to raise the price up until you reach the limit point. And if they still don’t agree, pretend to walk away. Before that, do not express any kind of interest in the stuff you want to buy, it could make your bargaining job more difficult.

4. Gain certain knowledge about the local market price

Before you decide to buy something, go for a round to see whether its price is different among similar shops. This way, you can compare the selling price of each store and select the most suitable one. Besides, it would help you to offer a reasonable price to the product line, making your deal more acceptable to the sellers.

5. Learn from the local buyers

Try to observe the local buyers: How much they pay and how they bargain with the sellers. If a big gap exists between the selling price to foreigners and locals, do not be afraid to point it out. Sellers may realize how unfair this is and agree to sell at the lower price. It would also help you keep an appropriate manner when making your deal - when in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese do!

(Photo: Hiep Nguyen/ Unsplash)

6. Only take your wallet out when you have successfully finished your deal with the buyers

The price may increase if merchants see you pull out a lot of money. So remember, only take out your wallet once you bargain successfully with the merchants in case they want to raise the price. Do not hesitate to walk away because it is likely that the sellers will not let you go empty handed (for both sides) then offer a better deal for you.

7. Seek for the young when you need help

Young people are usually more open-minded than their elders and can speak some basic English. They will not hesitate to give you a hand - friendliness is a Vietnamese signature. If lucky, you can even make new friends here.

8. Only ride with well-known taxi brands, especially in long journey.

Whenever you want to take a long ride, it’s better to use well-known taxi brands, such as Grab, Be, Vinasun, and Mai Linh. Remember to ask the drivers to turn on the meter before they start your trip in case you meet dishonest ones and they will try to take advantage of you. Grab and Be are available on the Appstore with a valid local number, and one plus point of these is that you will know your fare before you decide to take the ride.

9. You should not be shy to act as a broke traveller

Acting doesn’t impose any harm. Carry a little money and hide your remaining bills everywhere except your pockets/wallets (you may lose them if not paying close attention). Acting poor will gain compassion and trust, and it can give you an advantage edge in dealing the price. However, faking is not good in many ways, so it is advised that you use this way only in case of compulsion.

11. Mind your attitude carefully

Whatever you do, wherever you go, remember to be careful with your attitude: be pleasant, friendly, confident, and patient (humourous too, if possible). By having a positive vibe, you can easily make a good impression on the sellers, hence being more convincing in making your bargain.

In a nutshell, bargaining should be fun if you do it right. Just bear in mind: create a win-win situation. you get what you want with an appropriate price and the seller should be happy to sell it. This way, you both leave the bargaining process with the feeling that you have achieved something. For Vietnamese people, bargaining is so usual an activity, yet so distinct that it becomes a part of culture.

And bargaining is also a very special things that we "teach" in our cooking class. At Lang Lieu cooking class, we are committed to bringing the experience that is not merely interaction with local retailers but immersion into their life as well. By playing the same role as local people, you will get a true insight into the timeless Vietnamese cuisine.

Get to know our cooking class here: