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The Principles of Haggling in Egypt

Unlike many countries across the world, the price of almost everything you see for sale in Egypt is open to negotiation. From markets to souvenir shops, camel boys around the pyramids and taxi drivers, learning the basic principals of haggling will save you money and probably lead to a few memorable and enjoyable encounters. 

Here are the basics so let us have fun!

1) Don’t start haggling in Egypt unless you are genuinely interested in an item or product

You should never haggle for practice or fun. Haggling is not an opportunity for either party to exploit the other. It is a negotiation that should lead to a mutually beneficial transaction in which both parties gain and neither parties have their time wasted.

2) Have a price in mind

When you see an item you like, work our beforehand what you think the item is worth and how much you would be happy to pay for it.

3) Always ask the vendor to offer a price before you do

Vendors will often ask ‘how much you want to pay?’ or ‘what do you think it is worth?’ If you offer a price first, you give them the upper hand and will never know for sure if you are paying over the odds. Your first price may be more than the item is worth and the vendor will then exploit this by acting as though the price is too low.

4) Offer about half what you would be prepared to pay for the item

Once the vendor has given a price, assuming that you think it is too much, offer about half what you would be prepared to pay. The vendor’s first offer will usually be about double what they would be prepared to accept. This gives both parties room for negotiation.

5) Take it in turns to adjust your price

Having made your first offer, do not make another offer or adjust your initial offer until the shopkeeper has reduced theirs. From then on take it in turns. If you start reducing your price to quickly it shows weakness and gives the shopkeeper the upper hand. It also reduces your room to negotiate.

6) Remember you can always walk away

Don’t feel under pressure and accept a price that you are not happy with. Remember you can always walk away. Saying that you will need to think about it and walking out of the shop can often lead to great price reductions. If it doesn’t, you can always come back later.

7) Show them the money

Actually getting the money out of your wallet and extending your arm to hand it over can be an effective way to show you’re serious and that you are making your final offer. This tactic is more effective if you have separated your money beforehand and can show that your wallet only has that amount in it.

8) Separate $ or GBP or Euro from local currency

When shopping for bargains, keep your own currency and credit cards out of sight, and separate from your LE. It is easier to haggle over a price if you can show that you have only a few Egyptian pounds in your possession. Plus, some traders may try and insist that they meant $ or £, instead of LE, if they see that you are carrying them.

9) Learn some Arabic

Learning expressions in Arabic will help build rapport and demonstrate that you are experienced in haggling in Egypt.

For example, the phrase “Fill Mesh Mesh” is the Arabic equivalent for “not in this lifetime” and makes a jovial response to a far too high quote. You can download a free list Arabic words and phrases here.

And finally…

10) Smile throughout

This interaction should be fun and not tense. Smile while you are haggling in Egypt, laugh at his offers as though they are a joke, be animated and never be too serious. You will get better prices if the vendor warms to you.