How To: Barter in Asia

In a Western society this is not something one has to learn how to master and therefore can be a bit daunting when arriving in Asia for the first time. However with a bit of practice and confidence you can achieve very low prices in Asia and avoid being ripped off once you learn two things: how to negotiate to a reasonable price with the seller, and learning what the reasonable prices are for each respective country.

Bartering skills are only really necessary where market stalls, open air establishments and ‘hawkers’ (sellers often found scouting the beach selling jewellery and souvenirs) are concerned. If buying something in a shop, or if you see a price tag, the price is almost always fixed and non-negotiable.

Generally speaking, Asian prices are low by Western standards. In many parts of countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, tourism is one of, if not, the biggest economy, so they do aim to make as much as possible out of you when you visit. The average wages in many parts of Asia are very low and they get very little support from their government if business is not going so well. For this reason, touts and the market people will naturally talk to you, sometimes walk after you, to try and make a sale.

For some travelers, while an exciting part of the experience, this can become tiring. Some days you want to be left alone and other days it can feel nice to stop and chat and have a bit of banter with the locals, maybe even practice some of the language. If the seller is confident and you seem to be getting nowhere with your negotiating skills, the etiquette is usually to thank them for their offer, walk away and advise that you know of a cheaper deal elsewhere. Most of the time they will call after you with a ‘final offer’, which can often be a reasonable price. If you are not so lucky, there are usually plenty of other sellers to compare prices with.

In order to be sure of whether or not you are being ripped off, well, it comes as a learning curve, and we all get stung at first. But one of the most magical things about travelling is that we get to meet other experienced travelers who can share information on deals that they have found, and people often sit together in hostels and run prices by each other to compare who has paid what.

Many locals that I have met have personally told me that it is very difficult for them to travel outside of their own country, mainly due to financial reasons. They have said that they see Western tourists as “very rich”. This idea can feel strange at first when you are backpacking and you can be feeling pretty poor or on a very tight budget at the time. This can also make you feel quite pressured at times when you are in a local village with people who may have never met a foreigner before and it can make you start to think about the cultural differences and your perspective of money.



Traveler of the Week: Coming Soon

Every day we are all meeting inspiring travelers from all paths around the world. If you would like to nominate somebody for Traveler of the Week, please email

First Interview will be published this week! Watch this space…Image

East Coast Road Trip Finale


Final leg of the journey: Townsville to Cairns (via Tully and Mission Beach)

I jumped in with Sarah, who I had met in Byron Bay just before she had entered the bikini contest in Cheeky Monkeys. We had kept bumping into each other along the East Coast and had spent a few nights at the same hostels along the way.

Facing Fears



I have been on the road continuously for eight months now, and currently write from Agnes Water, Queensland, Australia. Having escaped the cold winter in Sydney, I have been traveling north up the east coast. I aim to reach Cape Tribulation, one of the worlds oldest rain forests, and the Great Barrier Reef, where I plan to scuba dive.

Only recently had I completed my first two dives in Koh Tao, Thailand, with the support of a couple of fantastic Dive Master students there at Asia Divers. Despite being a perfectly good swimmer, I had been afraid of open water almost all my life. Shaking in my wetsuit and fins, and trying to support the weight of my tank, I practically fell off the back of the boat into the water. My breathing rate shot up as I kicked and thrashed around, terrified of what might be beneath me ready to attack. But this was a short lived terror – once I could see the contents of the water through my mask it really wasn’t half as scary as all the other times I had tried to swim with my head above the water. The two dives turned out to be magical.

As a big fan of wildlife, this was a fear I had always wanted to face as I knew I would soon be hooked on this new underwater world. And as a traveler on a tight budget I knew this was not a hobby I would be able to sustain on a regular basis, so I went and found an old snorkel and mask and embraced every opportunity to get in the water at no cost at all.

Having spent the last few months snorkeling in the south of Indonesia where the marine life is truly fantastic, I had arrived in Australia all psyched up to dive these famous waters. However, the constant whispers on the backpacker trail I hear are of compulsory stinger suits, shark sightings and prohibited swimming, which has got my knees shaking again.

It’s time to be brave.

Welcome to the World

Love traveling? About to embark on your first backpacking trip? Going alone or to completely new territory?

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