Since I moved to Bangkok, Thailand eight years ago I’ve become a market fanatic. Not a day goes by I don’t shop at one of Bangkok’s markets and, when I do, I get dirt-cheap prices as I know all the local tips. For visitors or tourists to Bangkok, shopping at the city’s markets is already incredibly cheap. But…..if you learn some of the tips locals know, it is possible to buy just about anything at an even lower price.
Learn Thai Numbers – The first and, I think, most important tip to getting the lowest prices at Bangkok, Thailand’s markets is learn how to ask “How much is it?” and to understand Thai numbers when the answer is given to you. In Thailand, if you speak Thai you get a cheaper price – simple rule. That’s why any visitor to Thailand would be smart to at least learn the vocabulary for the Thai numbers from 1 to 10,000 (or million, if you’re a really big spender!).
To ask “How much is it?” is simple – “Tow rye ka?” if you’re a woman and “Tow rye kap?” if you’re a man. Then to understand the answer, go to LearningThai.com, where you can not only read them but here the audio files for how they’re supposed to sound.
Buy More Than One – In every market in Thailand, the more you buy the cheaper the price per piece is. Whenever I shop at any of Bangkok’s markets, I usually end up buying at least two items, often more, from the same stall. They don’t have to be the same item, (you can buy a vase and a carved wooden box) they just must be bought from the same seller and, that way, you have more room to bargain.
You’ll find if you buy more than one item, the price per piece might have been 100 baht ($3.25) but it suddenly goes down to 150 baht ($5) for two and, if you buy in bulk, the price will come down even more. If you do this all over every market, you’ll save a huge amount of money and get the lowest price per piece possible.
Smile a Lot Then Walk Away – Some sellers will try to get top price, particularly from tourists, and tourists often get angry about it. The rule of thumb in Thai culture though is, if you lose your temper you’ve lost. In fact, anyone who loses their temper with a stall owner in Bangkok will never get a low price. The minute your voice is raised, she’s done with you.
The best way to get the lowest price at a Bangkok market therefore is to smile a lot, laugh, look happy and, of course, interested in the product you want to buy. Then, when the seller hasn’t come down in price enough for you, thank her nicely and begin to walk away. Eight times out of ten, she’ll come after you with a slightly lower price and that’s the one you take.
Shop When It’s Raining – Although it might sound nasty, particularly in Bangkok’s rainy season, it’s not. Most Thai markets are covered so, when it rains, it might be wet on the outside but not under cover. However, Thais tend to stay indoors when it rains so, if you hit a Bangkok market then, there’s less people, meaning less customers for the stall owner and, consequently, lower prices for you.
Just make sure you’re not at a market that you need to get a taxi at when you’re done shopping as finding a taxi when it’s raining in Bangkok is more difficult than raising the dead.
Shop Late – Whether you’re shopping at a daily market in Bangkok or at somewhere like the massive Chatuchak Weekend Market, the same rule applies – shop late in the day.
Think about it. If you shop early, the seller has all day or all weekend to sell her items so doesn’t have to give you a particularly low price. Come 4pm though, with only a couple of hours of selling time left, or late on Sunday afternoon at the weekend market, and sellers are much more eager to sell so prices fall significantly.
I shop at Chatuchak Weekend Market almost every weekend but I don’t go until around 3pm. That gives me three hours to shop before sellers start to pack up for the week and three hours to get prices lowered at the stalls I want to buy from.
Getting the lowest price at any market in Bangkok, or anywhere else in Thailand for that matter, is often as easy as following these quick tips. Just remember, always bargain, always be friendly and polite and, even if you don’t get quite the low low price you wanted, you’ll still have a blast doing it.