Haggling is alien to many of us. Frankly, it used to make Thomas W. Hodgkinson curl up with embarrshow assment.
But when he haggled his way around five major cities, he learned you can negotiate over almost anything, from taxi rides to accommodation.
A fixed price is rare and there’s nothing like reaching a compromise to satisfy both parties. It’s one big market out there: get haggling!
Bargain: Thomas Hodgkinson saved £1.25 on an orange juice by haggling with a vendor at Jaffa Flea Market
We think of haggling as a traditionally Arabic practice, but the Jews are good at it, too. That’s what a waitress tells me in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
TAXI: Airport to the city centre. Prices are fixed, so no haggling is allowed.
Original price: £34.46
Agreed price: £34.46
MARKET: Flea market, Jaffa Old City. One vendor told me that the market was closing, so I had to buy now. He was lying — an hour later, I bought a chessboard for my son after a good haggle.
Original price: £52
Agreed price: £35.40
SNACK: Orange juice. A stallholder said his cheapest drink was 10 shekels (£2.08). I asked what four (83p) would get me. He obliged.
Original price: £2.08
Agreed price: 83p
‘We think of haggling as a traditionally Arabic practice, but the Jews are good at it, too. That’s what a waitress tells me in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv,’ write Thomas
LOCAL EXPERIENCE: Falafel. The basic cost was 15 shekels (£3.12). I asked if I could pay ten (£2.08). Success — and it was delicious.
Original price: £3.12
Agreed price: £2.08
RESTAURANT: Raisa, in Jaffa. Haggling in restaurants is tough, but not impossible. I wrung some free olives and a beer out of the charming waiter.
Original price: £29.15
Agreed price: £22.07
Accommodation: Cityinn. A fool’s errand. I tramped the streets and was turned away from place after place. Eventually, I got my hard-earned reduction.
Original price: £75.30
Agreed price: £60.24
TOTAL SPEND: £155.08
TOTAL SAVING: £41.03
Mamma mia: Pictured is the Spanish Quarter in Naples with its narrow streets and street vendors
Under Naples’ old town lurk the remains of the even older city of Neapolis. So Naples is an Italian market built upon a market.
TAXI: Airport to Shoe Alley. My pre-journey haggling was at first met by anger. But, as I walked away, the driver soon caved in.
Original price: £17.15
Agreed price: £12.86
MARKET: Shoe Alley. The market was closing so, in a rush, my haggle over a pair of Adidas trainers was half-hearted. I could have done even better.
Original price: £38.59
Agreed price: £30.01
SNACK: Pizza slice. I got it half-price at a stall after only a few seconds of negotiation.
Original price: £1.72
Agreed price: 86p
Local experience: Subterranean remains of Neapolis. ‘Why?’ said the ticket office lady when I asked for a discount. I told her I had only 20 minutes. She checked with her boss, who shrugged and agreed.
Original price: £15.44
Agreed price: £12.01
Restaurant: Di Matteo. Disaster. But I eventually learned that I could save by ordering a takeaway from what is reportedly the best pizza place in Naples.
Original price: £8.69 (eating in)
Agreed price: £5.15 (takeaway)
Accommodation: Airbnb. I failed to haggle in a series of hotels, so ended up booking a rooftop flat on accommodation rental website Airbnb for the asking price.
Original price: £34.31
Agreed price: £34.31
TOTAL SPEND: £95.20
TOTAL SAVING: £20.70
Hard sell: Thomas failed to strike a deal for money off entry to the Acropolis Museum in Athens
The Greek capital is more regulated than in the past, so there are fewer opportunities for haggling nowadays.
TAXI: Airport to Abyssinia Square. Fixed price. After we buddied up on the journey, my driver tried to take an extra £4.29 as a gesture of goodwill. I refused.
Original price: £32.59
Agreed price: £32.59
Powers of persuasion: Thomas (above) haggled fiercely for an umbrella with a vendor at the flea market in Abyssinia Square
MARKET: Flea market, Abyssinia Square. I haggled fiercely over an umbrella. A vendor chirpily complained: ‘You’ll ruin me.’
Original price: £11.15
Agreed price: £5.06
SNACK: Nuts. A vendor near the Acropolis accepted my request for a discount without a smile.
Original price: £2.14
Agreed price: £1.72
LOCAL EXPERIENCE: Acropolis Museum. An Englishman asking for a discount at the Acropolis Museum? I was braced for failure — or abuse. I got the former.
Original price: £4.29
Agreed price: £4.29
RESTAURANT: Vyzantino Taverna. At the first place I tried, the waiter refused a discount, but kindly directed me here instead, where I successfully haggled over a moussaka, a Greek salad and a beer.
Original price: £16.04
Agreed price: £8.58
ACCOMMODATION: Airbnb. You can always try to haggle over the price, since each property owner is their own stall-keeper.
Original price: £66
Agreed price: £46
TOTAL SPEND: £98.24
TOTAL SAVING: £33.97
Marrakesh is a ‘haggler’s paradise’, writes Thomas. He saved money off everything from a camel ride to a lemon juice
Bargaining is so ingrained in the culture in this Moroccan city that it is a haggler’s paradise.
TAXI: Airport to Jemaa el Fna. I found out the fair price at the information desk. Thus armed, I was proof against the lies of the flock of drivers who subsequently gathered around me.
Original price: £15.78
Agreed price: £7.89
MARKET: A ceramic bowl. ‘Au revoir, monsieur’ came the reply of one vendor when I offered him around a quarter of his asking price. But he did me proud.
Original price: £23.67
Agreed price: £7.89
SNACK: Lemon juice. Waiting for a quiet moment, I offered half the normal price. The man was taken aback, but complied.
Original price: 79p
Agreed price: 39p
LOCAL EXPERIENCE: Camel ride by Menara Gardens. The Berber camel driver was astonished. He refused to believe I was English. Only a German, he said, could be so intransigent.
Original price: £15.78
Agreed price: £3.95
RESTAURANT: Cafe Montassir. The head waiter was surprised when I asked for a free juice, but gave it the green light.
Original price: £7.50
Agreed price: £6.31
ACCOMMODATION: A two-bedroom Airbnb. I sent out five requests for discounts while still in the airport. Invariably, owners would agree within minutes.
Original price: £46
Agreed price: £30
TOTAL SPEND: £56.43
TOTAL SAVING: £53.09
Haggling in Glasgow (above) proved to be fairly fruitful. Thomas couldn’t resist the chance to haggle over haggis
‘Haggling in Glasgow’ might sound like shorthand for a doomed venture, but ditch your prejudices and go for it.
TAXI: Airport to St Enoch Square. Taxis from the airport operate on a meter, so haggling is a no-go.
Original price: £22
Agreed price: £22
MARKET: Polmadie car boot sale. I haggled over a print of Rabbie Burns with a central-casting huckster. ‘You’ll be back!’ he crowed, as I left with my prize.
Original price: £10
Agreed price: £7
SNACK: Coffee. ‘I’m not the boss,’ explained the woman when I tried (unsuccesfully) to haggle.
Original price: £1
Agreed price: £1
LOCAL EXPERIENCE: Haircut. When the barber shop was quiet, I pointed out that I didn’t have much hair to cut.
Original price: £12
Agreed price: £5
What could be more satisfying than haggling over a haggis?
RESTAURANT: Ubiquitous Chip. What could be more satisfying than haggling over a haggis? The waitress had to consult with the chef, but they came up trumps.
Original price: £7.95
Agreed price: £5
ACCOMMODATION: Airbnb. ‘How could I refuse such a polite request!’ replied my host, before agreeing to my discount.
Original price: £64
Agreed price: £45
TOTAL SPEND: £85
TOTAL SAVING: £31.95