Bến Thành Market is one of the more exciting places to visit in Hồ Chí Minh City. It’s a chance to truly get stuck in with the locals and test your bargaining skills. It’s a very different experience if you’ve lived in the UK and are so used to fixed priced items that the idea of bargaining never comes to mind but after visiting a few markets (e.g. The Souks in Marrakesh) you almost start to limber up at the prospect of haggling your way through amazing bargains. Here are some tips to help you negotiate your way through the market and make the most of your experience visiting Bến Thành Market.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Bến Thành Market is located at Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam and is situated fairly central in Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam. The exact directions to the market depend of course on where you’re staying but as long as you’re fairly central in Hồ Chí Minh City, you can easily walk to the market place. It is definitely within walking distance of most of the tourist attractions in Hồ Chí Minh City so once you start to do some sightseeing, make a note to visit the market.
THE 7 TIPS:
1.) Do not buy the first thing you see. The market is full of a lot of people selling fairly similar thing so get a sense of the price in a few places before finally deciding on what you want. If you find a place that particularly catches your attention – make a note of where it is. The market is not the ‘biggest market’ but it’s fairly easy to get lost here – which is probably not a bad thing as you’ll most likely end up finding another bargain elsewhere but try to keep an eye out for marker to help you negotiate back to where you need to be.
2.) Do not pre-determine a fixed price in your head before you start to bargain. Your price will typically end up either being too high or too low. After checking out a few places, you’ll get a sense of what their starting prices are. You can typically go lower than that starting price and pay between 1/3 or 1/4 of the starting price. I’m sure you can go even lower than this but by this point, I figure I’m only saving myself pennies (which would mean more to them than it would to me) so I just let it go.
3.) Smile, laugh and generally be nice. People always respond to positivity here and it makes for a more pleasant experience for both of you. It’s a market after all and there’s no need to take things so seriously especially if you’re just visiting as a tourist.
4.) Think about your luggage restrictions. It’s so easy to get carried away with items that you ‘just had to have’ only to get back to your hotel and find out that it doesn’t even fit into your luggage or is too heavy to take with you. You’ll just end up disappointing yourself when you have to leave it at the hotel/hostel/airport.
5.) Be prepared to walk away from a deal. This actually gives you more power and in most cases, will get you called back by the seller with an acceptance of your ‘lowest offer price’. Don’t be afraid to walk away – if you get too attached to the item, you lose the power whereas you could just walk a few stalls down and find the exact same item at a much cheaper price. Only walk away when you know that you’re happy with the price you’ve asked for as when they call you back, it’s typically to accept that price.
6.) Ask questions. Even if they can’t answer them (perhaps out of not knowing the answer of out of language barriers), the sellers can recruit help from other people to answer your questions. In any case, this keeps the conversation flowing and helps create a better rapport which can help you get the prices you want to pay.
7.) When you’re initially told the first price – be prepared to look slight shocked. Haggling is sometimes like a game or some kind of dance so this surprised look you will wear is all part of it. Subliminally, it sets the tone and lets the seller know their price isn’t quite right for you. You don’t even need to think about what price it is – it’s always going to be higher that what you should pay so practice your ‘surprised look’ at home before you venture out bargain hunting! 🙂