The art of Bartering was something that was very new to me when I first visited Bali in 2006. It was during my University summer holidays that my friends and I decided to flee the unpredictable English summertime and board a jet plane to Indonesia.
Bali is not only a cheap destination but offers a tropical paradise packed to the rim with culture. With culture there comes new lessons to be learned and the art of bartering is one that you will experience hands on, literally as soon as you land and drag your bags outside the airport to hail your taxi.
Here, at the taxi rank in the sweltering humid heat of Denpasar Airport was where I put in place my bartering technique that I had learned from a fellow University friend who had travelled to these parts in previous summers.
Tip number 1: When the taxi driver asks you if you have been to Bali before-always answer YES, even if this is your first time in the tropical paradise. They use this as a technique to see if you are familiar with their tricks to determine how much they will say it costs.
Tip number 2: Once you have decided which taxi driver to go with out of the swarms that surround you ALWAYS divide what they say is the charge by at least 2 sometimes even 3. I knew from my friends that the typical cost of a taxi from Denpasar Airport to Kuta was at the time 35,000 Rupiah, now when my taxi driver said it would cost 120,000 Rupiah I knew I was being fleeced.
The general rule with bartering is that you can do it with almost anything, even hotel rooms! However this has become a little more difficult in recent years as Bali is becoming a more popular destination since it has recovered from the negative effects of the Bali bombings.
Menu items in restaurants are a set price but if you walk into street shops ( more like a market stall) you are welcomed to barter here. Arranging transport around the island is also a good opportunity to barter as there is much competition between varying establishments. If you walk into Billabong in Kuta there are set prices but if you fancy that shell bracelet that someone has shown you whilst you are sunbathing on the beach you can definitely barter there.
As a general rule it is a customary experience to barter with the locals, it is their culture- so get involved but also don’t let them take too much advantage. It is also easy to get too sucked into the whole experience. Try to remember what it is that you are bartering for and how much that extra 2,000 rupiah means to you (approximately 10 pence or US 20 cents).
Even after I was given advice by my friend I still made mistakes, after buying a bag from a stall I was sure I had bartered correctly and gotten a bargain. £6 for a bag in my opinion was cheap but when I spoke to some friends who had been in Bali a while, they let me know that I could have got it for a third of the price still!
Generally items are pretty cheap, think 20,000-35,000 Rupiah for a pair of sunglasses-even if they have an Oakley label on them. These are fake after all.
My words of wisdom- go with the flow and make mistakes so that you can learn from them but only ever pay what you are comfortable with. If you think it is too expensive then there are always other stalls selling exactly the same thing.
Yours, Ever The Wanderer