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Bargaining in Bali…You Must Read This

Bali is full of exciting local products to buy and services on offer by the vendors. But, for most tourists who are coming to Bali for the first time, one thing they really need to know about is that it’s totally OK to bargain.

Yes, that’s right. I must admit that the practice has died off a bit with a lot of high-end retailers, boutique day spas and shops entering the Seminyak area and slowly creeping up into Berawa, Canggu & Pererenan.

But you will find that when looking for a local service like; massage, a driver for the day, taxi, motorbike rental, surfboard hire or buying any one of the multitudes of products ( sarongs, t-shirts, watches etc) the Balinese love to bargain and consider it as part of the normal business process.

So how do you bargain effectively? Most Balinese will spot a newbie a mile away and this is when they will try and hit you with the highest price. I know it’s hard but try not to look like this is your first time in Bali. I suggest holding off buying anything the first day until you get used to the banter and the way things work. After a couple of days when you are settled in give it a try. You will probably end up loving this and this is one reason why people keep returning to Bali time and time again. Once you master the art of bargaining, you can really pick up some great deals.

Enjoy bargaining in Bali…it can be fun!

I recommend going straight for a 50% discount and seeing how that works out.

You might be surprised by their reaction. If they say Rp 200 000 you tell them Rp 100 000. Be prepared to meet somewhere halfway. If not, walk away and they will in most cases follow you a bit down the street, call your name and agree on the price. It’s nothing but a bit of harmless fun and this is the way the Balinese do business. 

A point to note here is that they need the money. We have stronger currencies and have a better standard of living, so please don’t try to bargain too hard on price. Remember, it has to be a win-win.

There are some shops and services where you can’t bargain and these are usually found in the main tourist areas in Legian, Seminyak and the new shopping malls like Seminyak Village, Lippo Mall and the new Kuta Beachwalk. Having said that I have found that you can bargain for almost anything, even hotel room rates. Like with any business, it’s up to the owner if there are prepared to knock a bit off the asking price. All I can say is there is no harm in trying. The very worst they can say is a polite no.

But, if you approach this in a respectful manner, I’m sure that you will get the price you were looking for. Bargaining is fun and adds to the whole shopping experience in Bali so go about it with respect for the local vendors, get some great souvenirs and enjoy yourself.

A point to note here is that you really can’t bargain when buying food or in restaurants unless you are at the local markets where there is room to haggle. Most restaurants, bars and local food vendors ( Warungs) will have a set price so no point even trying.

A great tip when bargaining is to walk away if they do not agree with your price or counter offer. It’s all part of the fun and before you take even a few steps most Balinese will be saying: “ok, ok…come back”. This is all part of the drama but you have to be prepared to continue walking out of the shop and forgo the item if they don’t invite you back. For example, if they say 100 and you say last price 50 and start to leave the shop, if they make no attempt to counter the offer then you have gone in too low. All you need is an afternoon of shopping out in Seminyak, Legian or Ubud and you will easily get the hang of it.

Best places in Bali to shop for a bargain

There are loads of places where you can shop especially in the southern part of the island.

The main shopping strip is Jalan Legian and this stretches all the way from Kuta right through to the beginning of Seminyak. Here you will find hundreds of shops where you can do anything from clothing, jewellery, surfwear, sarongs, bikinis, homewares, souvenirs, food, to electrical goods, cameras etc. It will take a good day to walk from one end to the other and it’s best dome in the mid-morning or late afternoon till evening when it’s a little less hot.

Ideally, you should do this over 2 to 3 days where you can explore all the side streets and alleyways that veer off the main road. There are loads of places where you can stop for a coffee, lunch or dinner along the way in case you get hungry. make sure you also visit the Poppies Lane area in Kuta for those ‘kitch’ typical Balances souvenirs – check the video below to see what you can expect.

Golden rules for bargaining in Bali

You might have more but these are a great start!

  • Never ever accept the first price they tell you. Generally, this will be two or even three times more than what you should be paying
  • Spend some time looking around before you start buying. Get a feel for what the going rate is. Don’t buy from the first stall you come across! Have a look around practice your skills at bargaining and then go for it once you know what the ‘walk away’ price is. A ‘walk away’ price is a price far too low for the vendors to accept and they will let you walk away.
  • Make sure before you change any money from Aust dollars to Rupiah you do this at a credible money changer.
  • Don’t insult the vendors by bargaining too hard and playing games with them. If you both agree on a price don’t then try to go for more of a discount. This will only upset them.
  • If they give you a price, offer just a little under half in reply.
  • Shops are open from about 10 am till late ~ 9 pm
  • Don’t shop at midday as it’s too hot to walk the streets – wait till the afternoon or early evening. Shops stay open late in Bali.
  • If you buy wood carvings it may be hard to bring them back to Australia
  • Most vendors will gift wrap or bubble wrap fragile items if you ask them to.
  • Remember to have fun – you’re on holiday so don’t take this too seriously.

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About the author

Steven is a die-hard Bali island addict and committed surfie. When he's not writing or taking videos of the latest restaurants or cool places, he's at Echo Beach surfing or riding his scooter around Seminyak, Berawa or Canggu. Steve is part of the Bali Villa Escapes marketing team and has been living in and out of Bali for the last 15 years.