Haggling in Egypt
For the most part, Egyptians are honest, kind and hospitable people. Crime in Egypt is very low. If you lose your wallet in Cairo the chances of someone returning it to you with your money and credit cards intact is significantly greater than if the same event occurred in any major European city (Read more about safety in Egypt).
Egyptians would much rather separate you from your hard earned cash through the age old tradition of haggling or bartering.
The price of almost everything you see for sale in Egypt is open to negotiation. From markets to souvenir shops, travel agencies and taxi drivers, learning the basic principals of haggling will save you money and probably lead to a few memorable and enjoyable encounters.
The Principles of Haggling in Egypt
1) Don’t start haggling in Egypt unless you are genuinely interested in an item or product
You should never haggle for practice or fun. Haggling is not an opportunity for either party to exploit the other. It is a negotiation that should lead to a mutually beneficial transaction in which both parties gain and neither party has their time wasted.
2) Have a price in mind
When you see an item you like, work our beforehand what you think the item is worth and how much you would be happy to pay for it.
3) Always ask the vendor to offer a price before you do
Vendors will often ask ‘how much you want to pay?’ or ‘what do you think it is worth?’ If you offer a price first, you give them the upper hand and will never know for sure if you are paying over the odds. Your first price may be more than the item is worth and the vendor will then exploit this by acting as though the price is too low.
4) Offer about half what you would be prepared to pay for the item
Once the vendor has given a price, assuming that you think it is too much, offer about half what you would be prepared to pay. The vendor’s first offer will usually be about double what they would be prepared to accept. This gives both parties room for negotiation.
5) Take it in turns to adjust your price
Having made your first offer, do not make another offer or adjust you initial offer until the shop keeper has reduced theirs. From then on take it in turns. If you start reducing your price to quickly it shows weakness and gives the shop keeper the upper hand. It also reduces your room to negotiate.
6) Remember you can always walk away
Don’t feel under pressure and accept a price that you are not happy with. Remember you can always walk away. Saying that you will need to think about it and walking out of the shop can often lead to great price reductions. If it doesn’t, you can always come back later.
7) Show them the money
Actually getting the money out of your wallet and extending your arm to hand it over can be an effective way to show you’re serious and that you are making your final offer. This tactic is more effective if you have separated your money beforehand and can show that your wallet only has that amount in it.
8) Learn some Arabic
Learning expressions in Arabic will help build rapport and demonstrate that you are experienced in haggling in Egypt .
For example, the phrase “Fill mish mish” is the Arabic equivalent for “not in this lifetime” and makes a jovial response to a far too high quote. You can download a free list Arabic words and phrases here.
9) Smile throughout
This interaction should be fun and not tense. Smile while you are haggling in Egypt, laugh at his offers as though they are a joke, be animated and never be too serious. You will get better prices if the vendor warms to you.