Guide to buying from local markets

How to haggle like a pro……

buying from local african markets

Take the time to greet traders

Buying from local markets in Africa, for example can be a little tricky and even daunting for the uninitiated. Read these tips and above all relax, be friendly and don’t forget to have a little fun!

Traders exist to make a living and that is their No. 1 aim; not to deliberately ‘cheat’ you. Help them out, pay a realistic price that reflects their labour and costs and everybody wins. Arguing over the last few pennies or stomping off in a huff is no fun for anyone.

  1. Observe local niceties, greetings are very important. Learn them and use them.
  2. Find out what’s an average days wage is. This enables you to evaluate items and put prices into context (adding up the labour and materials involved).
  3. Try to find out what a particular item should cost from a local friend before going shopping, especially in the market, this will give you a bit of help when bargaining or haggling over prices.
  4. Be sensible with prices, don’t batter the guy down mercilessly to save a couple of pennies. Expect to pay a little more than the locals, make a joke about it, have a bit of fun. People in markets the world over are known for their unique view of the world and sense of humour. A little gentle ‘teasing’ about paying ‘white’ prices is often a great way to break the ice, feign shock at suggested prices etc. Use a little common sense and shopping in the market will become the highlight of your week!
  5. Try incentives. Offer to come back next time or even every week if it is regular food shopping etc. Traders are very aware of how many others are selling the same products.
  6. Once you get to know a few traders and are known yourself around the market you could even try bartering! I used to swap bits and bobs of materials that were left over from jobs for stuff in the market, weigh the deal heavily in the traders favour and he may just bite!
  7. Everybody is flattered when asked for help, ask a trader (that you have formed a relationship with) if he knows anyone who can supply XYZ (whatever you are looking for). Often they may have a ‘cousin’ who can help.

Work on this one. Buying from my local African market was one of the highlights of my week and when I took my parents to my local market they were really welcomed. It was marvelous, the traders were so proud that I had brought visitors to their little rural market.

Sure, you will get the odd trader from time to time that thinks that you will pay the earth. Take it for what it is, a naive attempt to make a few bucks from someone who they think has more money than sense. Get over it. Ask someone else what the real price is and then laugh with the trader about his ‘joke’ and make him a realistic offer.

If it gets too difficult with someone, thank them and politely walk away. There is usually several people selling the same items scattered around the average market.

As usual, over to you! Any tips?


Look, it is completely normal to get all offended when a trader ‘tries it on’ price wise. After all you may have the attitude that you are there to help, why are ‘they’ trying to rip you off.

Unfortunately life just isn’t that simple in the developing world. Life for local people can be tough, often unfair and possibly filled with all manner of personal tragedies. Life is uncertain and the future incalculable.

The trader does not know you and to be honest your problems are not his concern, his only concern is to make enough to feed his family and pay for school fees etc. You look prosperous, you look like you won’t know the exact price, you look like you can afford to pay. So the price goes up a little. It happens, everywhere and always has. Don’t take it personally, go back up there, read the tips and put them into practice. Oh, and don’t forget to smile while you are at it 🙂

I'd love to know what you think...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.