Bargaining is a skill, and when in the DR it is a skill worth having. At any
time of the day you could be presented with an opportunity to bargain for an
item, and while your tendency might be to pay the marked price, be assured that
vendors are used to the bargaining game and expect you to negotiate, even to the
last peso. In some parts of the world bargaining is a foreign concept, but in
the DR having the proper bargaining tools could save you money and is a great
way to become more involved with some of the country’s cultural aspects. Below
are some great tips compiled by some of our very own DR1 message board members
on how to bargain your way effectively to a better price. Take the time to read
the tips and slowly go about practicing them. Go with a trusted friend to a
local market and pick out something you want and begin your journey towards
becoming a good bargainer. Remember that bargaining skills are not learned from
one day to another, so be patient, learn the ropes and always keep your eyes
1. Speak the language effectively.
This one should come to you as no surprise, but learning the language, if only
the key words, could save you from paying an exorbitant amount of money for
something you want. Terms like, “Cuanto cuesta, es muy caro, no me gusta, vengo
despues or alli es mas barato,” will surprise the vendor and will guarantee that
you are given a lower price. Granted, not everyone will be a fluent Spanish
speaker before they make it to the DR, but having a few words in your repertoire
could be a lifesaver.
2. Research the going prices.
Being a good bargainer requires knowing how much something actually costs as
opposed to what it’s being sold for. Before you buy something, look around at
different shops that sell the same thing. Get an average and then start your
bargaining from there. Also, watch the vendor’s attitude to see how much he is
willing to play the game with you.
3. Don't dress or talk like a "tourist" or otherwise wear expensive brand
name clothes and jewelry.
It’s difficult to avoid dressing like a tourist, because that’s what you are.
Additionally, vendors can spot a tourist from a mile away and that’s when they
start licking their chops. How can you counter this? Try to blend in as much as
possible, wearing subtle clothing and no jewelry. When you wear name brand,
flashy clothing or big “bling”, a vendor will think you have money to spend and
while that may not be the case, you are trying to bargain, not be played for a
4. Don't hesitate on holding off on the transaction if you are unsure whether
it’s a fair deal.
The biggest mistake travelers make is getting too anxious, thinking this is the
last “good” deal they are going to get. Wrong. There are plenty of good deals
ahead, so be patient and get a feel for what’s around you. If you rush into a
purchase, like anything else, you may regret it and end up passing up on
something you really want.
5. Offer half the amount they suggest.
This is bold, but could work to your advantage. Just offer half! And if the
vendor doesn’t budge, just walk away. That’s the hook right there. Even if you
know the product is worth more than what you’ve offered, being a bit cut- throat
is necessary when being a good bargainer. Knowing that he wants to sell, the
only way for him to make the sale is to up the price a bit, but it will still be
many pesos off the original price.
6. Say that you only have “X” amount of money, which is less than the asking
If the product costs RD$500 pesos, tell the guy you only have RD$400 and show it
to him. That way he will have no choice but to give you the product for that
price. This would require you to a) walk around with smaller bills; and b) have
an idea, more or less, of what the price of the product is. This is a tricky tip
and should only be reserved for veterans in the art of bargaining.
7. Be willing to walk away and keep walking.
Nothing scares a vendor more than not selling at all. They might be mad they
lost out on a few pesos, but are devastated if they make no sale at all. So use
it to your advantage and politely walk away. Don’t make a scene or a gesture,
just say ‘no thanks’ and walk away. Don’t turn around and don’t make eye
contact, simply walk away. And after a few steps you’ll hear the vendor
whispering at you so you can go back and purchase his goods at a reduced price.