Most people don’t consider that they might get ripped off doing simple day to day things. When you don’t know the normal prices and are actively converting Soles to Dollars or Euros during every transaction, things can get out of control quickly. Locals are quick to take advantage, and if you’re not careful, you can end up paying way more than necessary.
Besides common sense and doing research on how much things should cost in Peru, the most surefire way to get the best deal is to haggle (or barter, or negotiate). When it comes to haggling there is a time and a place, and it’s important to know when and where to start these low-stakes price fights, not just how to win them.
When to Haggle
Negotiating prices is a sensitive subject. You wouldn’t try to negotiate down your meal check, but you SHOULD try to negotiate in a Taxi. The easiest way to know whether its bartering time is to decide whether the business is formal or informal. Formal businesses are not the right environment for negotiating. Restaurants are, for example, not an appropriate place to complain that something is too expensive. The same applies to bars, and retail stores where clothing items are marked. Open markets, souvenir shops, and street vendors, though… they are all fair game.
How to Find a Price
If you don’t have a Spanish phrasebook, the most important thing you’ll need to know in Peru (other than “No, Gracias”) is how to say “How much?”. In Spanish, the phrase is ¿Cuanto Cuesta? Be careful though. The second you show interest, the salesperson will be on you like a hungry falcon.
Negotiating a Better Price
Important words and phrases:
(muy) caro: (very) expensive
(mas) barato: cheap (er)
solo tengo ___: I only have ___
hagame un trato: make me a deal
precio final: final price
donde fue hecho?: where was it made?
no estoy seguro: I´m not sure
yo vuelvo/Volvimos: I´ll be back/We´ll be back
Once you know the price, you can then try to negotiate a better one. If you´re looking for something specific, go to a few different stores and inquire about the price. This will give you an idea of what something is worth. Once you know the most you will pay for something, you can walk into the transaction confident and ready to do battle.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate, keep calm and casual while you are talking to a vendor. Show interest in the item, but also show a willingness to walk away. If the price is too high, tell them that it’s too expensive. They will probably come with a fast counter offer, but it won’t be what you want. Ask them if they can do better. Cheaper. Say you can get it for cheaper from someone else. Suggest a price that you’re comfortable with. Definitely low-ball them (cheaper than the cheapest you’ve seen). They will counter. Counter again, closer to your actual price. Repeat this process until you reach the precio final. If they won’t budge on the price, it’s up to you to make a decision.
Know When To Walk Away
Remember, there are hundreds of people in Cusco selling the same thing. You can find it somewhere else, with someone who may be more flexible. Often the threat of walking away from the sale will be enough to seal the deal in your favor, but don’t come out with this tactic too soon. You want to wait until the sale is close, like the salesman feels that he has you. Then, say “Ok, gracias” and move to leave. They will likely come around on the price at this point, and if they don’t, move on. Take what you learned into your next negotiation. Soon enough, you’ll be just like a local.