I love haggling for souvenirs when on vacation to touristy places. Whether it’s in the Bahamas, in Mexican border towns along the southern edge of the United States, or (in this case) in Playa del Carmen in the Cancún area of Mexico, I enjoy the back-and-forth of negotiating for something that isn’t really a big deal.

It turns out, haggling on this trip to Playa del Carmen was very similar to those other places. Since the shops have many of the same items to sell, the shopkeeper knows you’re a lost cause if you keep walking, so they’ll haggle to keep you there and interested.

A tip: unless you’re very comfortable with the exchange rate, negotiate in dollars. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, the friendly banter of the sales people, and the excitement of shopping on vacation… If you’re not careful, you’ll end up paying a lot more than you need to for things. Stick to prices quotes in dollars so you’ll intuitively know whether a price makes you wary.

In general, assume that if you’re paying more than about 2/3 of the first price he asks for, you should walk. For my purchases I did the same dance each time: ask how much, think about it for a minute while holding whatever you’re considering buying, then hem and haw and say that’s more than you want to pay. Put it down, thank them politely with a small, and start to walk away.

You’ll probably get no more than two steps before he stops you, asking how much you’ll give him. I was eyeing a heavy wooden carved mask, and walked at a price of $65 (nevermind that it was “normally” $80) He asked how much I would pay, and I shrugged and said maybe as much as $40 but it wasn’t sure. He asked for $45. I said I’d think about it and wanted to see what else was out there, but might come back.

He was glad to take my forty bucks (though I paid in pesos because that’s what we had on us) and I love my mask. And yes, I know it probably only cost five or ten bucks to make, and I undoubtedly could’ve gotten it cheaper from him or someone else. Shut up, I’m happy with it.

Please make sure you “ooo” and “ahh” over it the next time you’re visiting, just so I continue to feel good about it.


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