If you haven’t booked transportation ahead of time, your first financial may be with a taxi driver at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Some cabbies will use their meter; others will want a flat rate without using the meter. This will be the first time you will get to use your bargaining skills.
The taxi driver may ask for 500 baht. You counter with 300. He comes back with 400 Baht. You agree providing he pays the tolls and the 50 baht surcharge. If you don’t want to go through this, insist he use the meter. I prefer to bargain as it gets me in the mood for the rest of the trip.
Some things can be bargained and others cannot. You will just have to feel your way around. I will try to offer some pointers.
You may be able to bargain a bit for your hotel room if you are planning on an extended stay. A meal in a restaurant cannot be argued.
If you plan to buy some goodies for yourself and your friends the best thing to do is spend a day or two walking around and making mental notes of prices on the streets.
Knowing ballpark prices is the only way to negotiate prices. You have to know the approximate prices on the streets. Otherwise you will be ripped of.
What you want to do is select an item, get the best price possible, and then go in for the kill. Tell the vendor to lower the price and you will buy 10 of them. The price should drop.
Another tactic is the “walk away”. You can argue and argue, go back and forth, and when you don’t get you price, just walk away. The price should drop or the vendor will hurl some cuss words at you. Either way, no big deal. There are many vendors with the same items.
Being the first customer is always a good deal. The Thai’s believe that making a sale to the first customer of the day is good luck. Not making a sale is a disaster. So, hit the vendors when they open and you should get some really good prices.
One other way to get a good deal is to have a Thai girlfriend that you trust. Take her out with you when you are shopping for yourself. Identify items that you want and then send her out a day or two later to buy them. She will get the Thai price as opposed to the foreigner, or farang, price.
Speaking the language helps lower the prices. You don’t have to go through all of the back and forth bartering. If you are a foreigner and can speak Thai, you will knock time and prices down quickly.
Last tip is to go to the Thai markets. There are markets in every city in Thailand. Some are weekend markets, some are night markets, and some are daily. These are mainly geared toward the local Thai’s but we foreigners can get great deals there too.
Have fun, smile a lot, and shop until you drop.