5 Tips You Need to Know Before Visiting Markets in Southeast Asia
1. Try if Possible to Arrive Early
This is the bestest tip when it comes to visiting markets I can offer if you don’t like big crowds. Find out the opening time of your desired market and arrive early when the stalls and vendors are just setting up. This way you will avoid the large tourist crowds and you will have the opportunity to walk around much more freely, taking your time and wander around to all of the stalls at great easy. The next point still stands even if you arrive early!
2. Always Be Aware of Where You Are
Don’t let your guard down while being distracted by pretty things. Always stay alert when within busy market areas and always try keep your money, phone, camera on the front of your body (wear your back-pack to the front). Try to keep small notes in your pocket for any purchases so you don’t need to take out your wallet/purse. Try not to bring a lot of money with you and keep any expensive jewellery to a minimum if possible. I am speaking from experience, it almost happened to me in Bangkok, I now wear my bag to the front.
3. Master How to Say “No Thanks” Without Eye Contact Assertively
This is the one thing every tourist needs to know, if you want stall sellers to stop bothering you, the best thing that you can do is to assertively say No Thank You but without making any eye contact (eye contact means you may be interested). Walking around any market in any part of the world, the street vendors/sellers are going to be calling you from every directions imaginable just because tourist. They will try so hard to get your attention so that you may be enticed to buy from their stall. It can be a little annoying or totally overwhelming at first it just all depends on what your patience levels are like, but we need to understand, that this is their job and they need to make a living too.
4. Get Your Haggle On
In nearly all markets (some in Ho Chi Minh City you had to leave your haggle at the door) the price of everything is open to negotiation. Please don’t pay the first price that the seller gives you, they are testing the waters to see if you have any market experience, again because tourist. Suggest a price half of what they are asking and go from there. Be firm, but please always be friendly. If the seller won’t budge, try walking away, they nearly always call you back to negotiate more. It is always good to know what the local currency is worth to your own home currency, that way if you think about paying that amount in either euro/dollars it gives you a better understanding if you think the item is worth it or not. The best tip I can give you, pick something random on a market stall that you really don’t want, and haggle to see what is the best price you can get it for, it will give you an idea of the mark up and you will be more than willing to walk away from something you really didn‘t want in the first place than an item you do want!
5. Do Try the Food
One of the best parts of market is the amazing local foods. The majority of markets will have a designated food court area with a selection of street food vendors and several tables and chairs to sit and eat. Shopping isn’t the only thing that should be done in markets, if you are brave enough, take a break from all the souvenir shopping and enjoy the street food! Best tip for choosing market food - ALWAYS watch out for a street food vendor that is very busy, is packed with locals or a vendor that cooks your food fresh to order, this just means you are not getting yesterday’s food or that is hasn’t been sitting out in the heat for a long time. You really don’t want your holiday ruined by giving a day or two bathroom bound talking to the toilet.
Have you ever been shopping at a market in Southeast Asia?
Share your travel stories with me in the comments.