Thailand, it’s pretty easy to get lost in its many shopping malls, street side bazaar and even bargain sois. The number of shopping places are simply dizzying as do their offerings. Here are a few tips to help you make your shopping less stressful and more pleasant. First, keep your shopping close to your hotel so you avoid being caught in a traffic jam. And go only to shops located in clusters so you don’t have to go too far.
Before going, keep a pen handy to mark the places you want to visit. If you have a particular item in mind, it’s best to ask around first where you can get it. The concierge at your hotel and staff at some tourist information booths will usually know where you can get a good deal. If it costs less in a certain area, but you risk getting stuck for hours in traffic, re-evaluate if it’s worth the time and trouble. Rule of thumb in “saving” on shopping: If it costs a significant amount of time and money just to get there, it may actually be costing you more. Unless you’re a long-staying tourist, time, of course, is of the essence. Though, most shops are open until 9 p.m., or much later, you may think there plenty of time to browse, haggle, and and compare, but you’ll be surprised how fast time flies when you’re trying to find that “perfect bargain”.
Try to spend no more than ten minutes comparing and haggling for each item. Do remember also those small shops, even in large shopping centers, usually close on Sundays, while large department stores are open seven days a week. Markets offer great deals from jeans to souvenirs to great food. If you’re shopping in markets, plan your itinerary with a map. Be advised that shopping in markets is fantastic for bargains, but unlike air-conditioned malls, you could be dehydrated, and in extreme cases, suffer heat strokes. Keep a bottle of water handy, or relax and enjoy refreshments at restaurants or cafes in these markets. You’re not here to give a new meaning to “shop till you drop.” Haggling is the norm here and practically all shops will bargain, except the big department stores.
Some of the more tourist-oriented shop will display notices saying their prices are fixed, but even they are willing to bargain. Always bargain with a smile, play it like a game and you’ll be surprised with the results. Many Thais work long hours, but they always appreciate a smile and good humor. You’ll be amazed at how far a smile can take you when haggling in Thailand. If you can, shop around a little first to get a general idea of what the prices are. After the vendor gives you a quote, offer less than what you would expect to pay with (with a smile, of course) and see the reaction. Never, never, lose your temper or be nasty. As locals would say “Chai yen yen” – or keep it cool and you’ll be surprised at the result.