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Souks you Sir! How to haggle on holiday in Tunisia

So you’re on your holiday to Tunisia and you’ve made it to the simmering souks. It’s an unmissable experience, with aromatic spices wafting across the air and all manner of colourful rugs, trinkets, pots and shiny goblets, begging to be snagged by budding grail hunters.

But how can you make the most of your visit and ensure you get more bang for your buck than the average sitting duck? Follow our tips to haggle above the rabble and make your bags sag with hard-earned swag!

1.     Have a figure in mind and stick to it

As in any negotiation, your starting position is crucial. Some guides recommend starting as low as a quarter of the vendor’s asking price, but there are no hard and fast rules, so aim low and keep a cool head as you go.

2.     Mind your body language

Tunisian traders have generations of experience behind them and they’ll doubtless be finely attuned to the subtlest clues that demonstrate your attitude to a particular item. There is bound to be a degree of charm involved too, so play nice and but pay heed to any obvious buying signs you may be unconsciously showing. Be prepared to nonchalantly walk away if the transaction is not gravitating to your budget – traders will often call you back with a miraculously better deal!

3.     Go with a local

If you’re a first time haggler and you’re serious about your day’s shopping, a little ‘insider dealing’ might go a long way. Ask the tourist board if they have a local guide who could accompany you, or maybe even consider recruiting your own trusted advisor from one of many local travel guiding sites, such as Tripbod or Tripoto.

4.     Shop with purpose

Sellers can be persuasive and you’re bound to spy a dizzying array of exotic goods you would never normally buy back home, so resist the urge to splurge on an item on a whim and instead decide what you’re after before you get there, maybe even scanning the internet beforehand to give you an idea of the going price for your trinket of choice.

5.     Get clued up on scams

We don’t want to scaremonger or scare you away from the souks – after all, it’s an essential part of any holiday to Tunisia! This said, scams do happen, so it pays to be aware of some of the more prevalent ones. Be wary of young guides leading you on a merry dance through labyrinthine alleyways and make sure you familiarise yourself with the geography of the souk before you go. Go with you’re a family member or friend if you can, trust your gut and if in doubt just say a firm, polite ‘no’.

6.     Play fair

It stands to reason that you’ve come to bag a few bargains, but remember that these traders make their livelihood from the souk, so by all means haggle, but haggle responsibly.

Merchants will inevitably try a little judicious emotional blackmail as part of their negotiating schtick, but know where to draw the line between a bargain and a steal. Besides, sometimes spending a few extra dinar is worth it so you can say you’ve truly immersed yourself in an authentic cultural experience!

Ready to make some room in your suitcase for a few holiday bargains? Check out Tunisian resorts like Hammamet for some serious shopping between the sunbathing sessions!

Images by Maxine Sheppard and Leonora Enking, used under Creative Comms licence.