A Complete Guide to Bargaining in Istanbul

Erin West
08 August, 2015

Bargaining. Reactions to this word vary dramatically. For some, a grin spreads across their face while thinking about the prospect of nailing a great deal. But for those who cringe and long for the huge price tags found in the west, fear no more! Follow these tips below and you’ll bargain like a pro.

Tip #1: Timing.

The people you’ll be buying goods from usually do not own the shops. That means that every day they work, they are expected to fill a quota. After filling this quota, the sellers are interested in their sales commission. What this means for you, as a buyer, is that you are more likely to get a better price when the salesperson just wants to get some goods out the door than later in the day when he is looking for a large commission. Rule of thumb, get to the shops before 1 pm and you can get a good deal.  


Tip #2: Disinterest.

You’ve got to use that poker face. If the seller knows how much you really want an item, he’ll assume you’re willing to pay an even higher price. When you talk to the seller about the item you want, act casual.


Tip #3: Don’t single out the one object you want to buy. 

This goes along with the “disinterested” act. When you browse the shop, pick up a few things and ask each one’s price.  


Tip #4: Don’t offer a price.

When you’re ready to dive into a bargain, make your first move carefully. When asking the price of the object, the salesperson may ask you what you are willing to pay for it. Don’t fall for this! Make sure the seller offers the first price. You could do this by asking, what do you normally sell it for?  


Tip #5: Countering.

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The original price they will offer you is anywhere from 30% to 50% inflated. Your counter offer to their price should be a bit above half of the original price.  


Tip #6: Turn away.

After your counter offer, the seller will probably act offended and flatly refuse. This is when you make him believe he will lose the sale if he doesn’t bargain with you. Shrug and turn away, when you start walking away he’ll usually shout after you a much better price.  


Tip #7: Fake expertise.

Say you’ve bought these kinds of lamps hundreds of times before and no one has ever offered you such a high price. If he thinks you’re calling his bluff, he’ll knock the price down a bit.  


Tip #8: Get a few!

Once you’ve gotten near an ideal price, see if you can bring it down a bit more by saying you want to buy two, but only at a lower price. You will almost always get discounts for buying multiple objects.  


Tip #9: It’s just a game- so treat it like one!

Go at it light-heartedly. When the seller acts offended or angry about a price, it’s almost always an act, so don’t let it throw you off guard. And don’t be afraid to be a bit dramatic yourself, he really has to believe you won’t accept his ridiculously high offers.  


Tip #10: How do you know you got a good price for something?

It’s difficult to compare to average prices for things or what others paid because the products and their quality vary widely. Instead, think to yourself, what is this item’s value to you? What are you actually willing to pay for it? If you think four Turkish towels are worth 40TL and you got them for that price, congratulations! Be happy with your purchase.  More important than all of these tips is, of course, to have fun with it! If bargaining was more difficult than you imagined, don’t beat yourself up. Of course it’s hard, these guys are professionals. If you really couldn’t get a price down to what you thought was reasonable, don’t be afraid to walk away. Try your luck at a different shop. If you haven’t heard, the Grand Bazaar is pretty big.   Best of luck and happy bargaining!  


Some information taken from these sources: 

Shopping Istanbul,Turkey’s Grand Bazaar: How to Negotiate with Merchants Who’ve Been Doing it for Centuries

How to Bargain Like a Pro in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and Elsewhere

Negotiating at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Young, Broke and Abroad: Five Steps to Negotiating in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Bargaining at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

The dying art of bargaining in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

How to Bargain in Turkish Shops

Shopping Bargaining Istanbul101
Erin West

Girls’ school graduate turned globe trotter, Erin is spending her gap year in Istanbul. She keeps busy learning Turkish and inhaling figs like nobody’s business. Check out some of her adventures on burghtobul.tumblr.com.

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