10 Tips For Market Shopping In Thailand

Street chaos. Bangkok. Courtesy of Bernard Spragg. NZ
Street chaos. Bangkok. Courtesy of Bernard Spragg. NZ
Photo of Kelly Iverson
22 October 2016

Retail therapy should be fun, right? Splurging at a market in Thailand can be both therapeutic and exciting, as you weave in and out of crowded stalls and colorful vendors. Your shopping spree can come to a jerking stop, however, if you are unaware of how to maneuver in one of Thailand’s many notorious markets. Because of their sheer popularity, you might find yourself entangled in a sticky tourist trap, such as paying too much for cheap goods or purchasing counterfeit items. That being said, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind to make your shopping experience a memorable one (in a good way). Here, 10 tips for market shopping in Thailand.

Freshen Up On Your Calculator Speak

Market shopping is all about the bartering. If you pay full price for something at one of Thailand’s many markets, you have become one of many tourists who overpay at one of these outdoor shopping arenas. If you do not know any Thai, brush up on your calculator skills. Be prepared to barter with a vendor or merchant, if not just for the banter.

JJ Green Night Market | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Don’t Be Too Proud

While bartering is a must, do be aware when you are taking the situation one baht too far. Do not fight with a vendor over an insignificant price, and do not make a scene if you do not get the price that you want. Be prepared to simply thank the shopkeeper and move on. There is nothing worse than watching a foreigner lose their cool over ฿10. Thais hate losing face, so if you are losing your temper and getting into theirs, things are bound to end badly.

JJ Green Night Market | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

The Friendlier, The Better

Thailand is not referred to as the Land of Smiles without reason. The people here are some of the friendliest in the world. That being said, if you enter a shop with all guns blazing, ready to fight to the death for the best deal you can muster out of a shopkeeper, think again. Thais are receptive to friendliness, and the more aggressive your attempt to receive a discount, the less likely you are to get one.

Talad Rod Fai Train Market | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Know Some Thai

While this is certainly useful for almost every country you visit, having the knowledge of a few numbers and phrases to help you barter will go a long way. For one, a merchant will appreciate your honest attempt at speaking their difficult language, and they might even give you a discount just for trying. Knowing how to say words like ‘expensive’ or ‘discount’ can help you in all aspects of your visit to Thailand, not just once you are lost in a maze of stalls at one of its markets. Knowing a few numbers is the best way to ensure you have a positive, and affordable, market experience.

Download A Currency Calculator

Figuring conversation rates from your home country’s currency to baht will certainly be a struggle. With fluctuating rates and figuring out money that is different from anything you have ever seen before, you are better off downloading an offline currency application to your phone before taking on one of Thailand’s markets. Things move quickly while you’re bartering, and you will want to know just as fast how much a price is before trying to go any lower. Who knows, you might already be getting an amazing price on something, and you just did not know it.

Asiatique | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Browse A Little

Do not purchase the very first thing you simply must have. Chances are, there will be an abundance of whatever it is you have your eye on just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Do make note of where something is before leaving it behind, however, just in case.

Chatuchak Weekend Market | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Pay What Are The Locals Paying

If you are one customer behind a local and find they are paying a significant amount less than you are, you are getting a bad deal. Simply being a foreigner can make you susceptible to being ripped off. Make note of what Thais are paying, and be sure to get the same price.

Do Not Barter For Food

Although we are not sure if this is a custom or simply not done, but do not barter for food. Are you wanting to purchase elephant pants? Barter! Are you hoping to buy that hanging tapestry for your room at home? Barter away. But before chowing down on one of Thailand’s most coveted dishes, do not muster up your bartering skills in hopes of receiving a discount.

Food Stall in Chinatown, Bangkok | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

The More Items, The Better The Discount

You are more likely the receive a discount the more items you have. If you are genuinely only wanting to purchase one thing from a vendor, convince a friend that they need that identical item or something else from that merchant, and chances are you will both receive a slight discount.

Chatuchak Weekend Market | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Be Prepared

Thailand’s weather can be unforgiving, and you will be hard-pressed to find a market that is indoors or air-conditioned. Be sure to bring along plenty of water for your venture, and wear your best pair of walking shoes. You should also bring a backpack of sorts, as pushing your way through crowded walkways with a handful of plastic bags swinging at your side will be anything but pleasant.

Chatuchak Weekend Market | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

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