With all the colorful shops, it’s hard to return from Marrakech without buying at least one souvenir for yourself or your loved ones. The medina of Marrakech is one big shopping paradise. Leave a bit of space in your suitcase as you’ll find plenty of things to bring back home.
Shopping at the souks is fun, if there wasn’t the part of haggling. For many it’s intimidating and stressful, especially if they’re not used to. Haggling is part of the Moroccan culture and the salesmen in Marrakech are said to be one of the toughest negotiation partners in the world. But don’t worry, I got you with my ultimate tips. Take it easy and you’ll experience that haggling can be enjoyable.
By the way, these don’t only apply to souvenir shopping in Marrakech. From the souks of Dubai, the Grand Bazar in Istanbul to the little beach shacks in the Dominican Republic selling colorful paintings: you’ll be able to get the best bargain with these proven tips.
Determine the price
At the souks you won’t find any price tags, so how can you know the price? Ask yourself the following question: How much is it worth to you? This is my first and most important tip for haggling. No matter how good you’re at haggling, your purchase might still be overpriced. As a tourist you won’t get the same price a local would get. We heard that there are different prices levels: locals, tourists who speak French and all others. But if you know how much you are willing to pay, you’ll always get a price that you’re happy about.
Another question that helps you finding the right price is: How much would you have to pay for this product in your home country? If you manage to get your desired item for less, then congrats! You’ve just made a bargain and found a souvenir that will forever remind you about your vacation in Marrakech.
When we checked into our riad, the staff gave us a bunch of useful tips for our stay in Marrakech. They also told us to take pictures at the souks of items that we are interested in and they’ll tell us the price we should pay. So in case of doubt you could also consult your riad’s or hotel’s staff in that matter.
As a general rule you can always lower the price to at least a third of the initial asking price or even more. In one case we only paid a fifth of the first price for a little blue tajine.
The closer you are to the main square Jemaa el-Fna the higher the prices will be. Wander around a bit inside the souk. This way you can do research and you’ll get better offers at the stalls there.
Leave your valuables at home. Vendors will assess the potential price based on your appearance. If you step in their shop with your nicest jewelry, a designer bag and a huge camera around your neck, they’ll assume that you have the money to buy it at a higher price. This way you’ll lose your chance of getting better deals.
There it is, you’ve just found the perfect tajine, rug, straw bag, [insert any other souvenir here…]. This is exactly the one you’ve been looking for. Good, but don’t show it to the vendor or they’ll use it against you.
Let the negotiations begin
As soon as you express interest, the vendor states a price that is ridiculously high. In many internet forums or blogs you’ll read that you can expect to pay half or even a third of the first offer. However, souk vendors are not stupid. Now that this information is so widespread, they respond by increasing their first price. We experienced that it’s even possible to get down to a fifth of the offer. Don’t worry about exploiting the vendors. They’ll always agree as long as they’re making a profit.
Now back to the negotiations, it’s your turn. Try to bring the price down as much as possible without stating your price expectation. However, at some point the vendor asks you what’s a good price in your opinion. In that case always state a significantly lower value than what you want to pay in the end. During the negotiations you’ll go up with the price as the vendor goes down until you finally meet in the middle.
Be friendly and respectful
Learn essential Arabian words like how to greet and say thank you and don’t be shy to use them. The more likeable you are, the better you’ll get treated. In this case it means a better price at the souk.
Negotiation tactics for the win
– Good cop, bad cop
This one works if you are traveling with a friend or your partner. One will be the bad cop who works against making this purchase. Their job is to find something negative like “It’s too expensive” or “You already have enough of that at home”. While the good cop shows interest in the item and tries to please the bad cop too.
– Buy in bulk
Purchasing more than one item can often help negotiate a better deal. Let’s say one item is 10 Dirham, then offer to buy 2 for 18 Dirham or 3 for 24 Dirham. This tactic always works.
– Show your money
7 years ago I was in Marrakech for the first time with a friend. We found two cute pants for us and hoped that we could buy them with our spare cash. A few minutes later we had to meet our travel group, so there was no time for withdrawing more money. So we started the negotiations with this price limit until the point where the vendor resisted to go further down. We got so close to our desired price, the difference was only a few Dirham. When we told him that we didn’t have more money with us, he didn’t believe that. So we put our cards on the table as my friend opened her wallet and showed him our last coins and bills. Apparently he still wanted to make the deal and we made it back to the group on time with our purchases.
Long story cut short: if for whatever reason you have a certain budget that you have to stick to, keep a smaller amount of cash in a separate wallet.
– Walk away
If nothing else helps to get your desired price then the ultimate tactic is to walk away. Contrary to what you might expect, this doesn’t mean the end of the negotiation. The next round has just started. Even if you’re already a few steps away from the shop, you’ll hear the vendor running after you and asking you to return. Now they’ll have a better offer for you.
Practice Makes Perfect
Test and train your haggling skills with lower priced items first.
Haggling might be hard in the beginning but the more you negotiate and practice, the better you’ll get.
More impressions from the shops and alleys around the souks of Marrakech