The Essential Travel Guide to Indonesia


The art of hagglingBut for a few exceptions, haggling is the norm throughout Indonesia. It can be a little daunting for beginners and even those with experience so we’ve compiled a few haggling tips to help you out:

  • The aim of haggling is to reach a mutually satisfying price for both seller and a customer. Keep this in mind as it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of that in the heat of moment.
  • Always be ready to walk away if you don’t achieve the price you want. You’d be surprised how often the seller will come after you with a better offer.
  • Before you start haggling, have an idea about what you’re prepared to pay and covert this into rupiah so you know what the magic number is in the local currency.
  • Don’t haggle, reach an agreement on price then change your mind. This is considered the height of rudeness.
  • Very few items in Indonesia are unique. If you don’t get the deal you want, chances are someone, somewhere else, will be offering exactly the same item. This is particularly true in Bali where you’ll see the same items for sale time and time again.
  • If haggling stalls, try a different tact such as purchasing an additional item or accessory. Of course this only works if you actually want something else.
  • Don’t haggle when there are other customers around.
  • If the vendor doesn’t speak English and you don’t speak Indonesian, things get a little trickier. Use a calculator (theirs or yours – most phones have them) to display the price. This usually works a charm.
  • If the haggling is going too fast for you, don’t be afraid to slow it down.

But how much should I pay?

This is a really hard question to answer because there are quite a few variables at play. One of the first things you’ll learn is most things have a local price and a bule (foreigner) price, the latter being somewhat higher than the former. You might not like it, but that’s the way it is. The second issue is where you are. In places with high tourist numbers like Bali, some of the starting prices are frankly ridiculous. At the central market in Kuta, the starting price for a US$5 t-shirt can be 600.000Rp (US$60). The gap is so big it’s almost impossible to haggle down to a reasonable price. Thirdly, how hard a bargain do you want to drive? Sometimes it’s just not worth the effort to try and knock off another 50.000Rp (US$0.50) and honestly, that last 50 cents means lot more to a local than it does to most foreigners.

All that being said, you should be able to achieve a price somewhere between 30 to 50% of the starting price. For electronics and other imported items, you may not get much more than 20% off the original price

So what are those exceptions we mentioned above?

Some shops operate on a “fixed price” basis. For example, local 7eleven supermarkets, many western owned businesses, shopping centre department stores and shops that may be displaying a sign along the lines of “Fixed Price”. Generally speaking, if you go into a store and items have a price sticker, it’s probably fixed price. If you’re not sure just ask.