How to shop like a pro in Bali


I just returned from my first excursion beyond the realm of white-people land. My wife and I spent a week in Bali. Crowds of Aussies head there mostly for the surfing and cheap shopping. We came home with some good stories and I just couldn’t resist blogging about the shopping experience there.

There are a few things you learn quickly.

  • First of all, for one Australian dollar, you get about 9,100 Indonesian Rupiah. Prices will be in the hundreds of thousands, but mostly convert to between $2-$50.
  • Never, ever pay the asking price if you’re shopping on the street. I guarantee, if the shopkeeper asks for 445,000 rupiah, the guy across the street will sell the same handbag to you for 130,000.
  • You just have to be rude sometimes– just say no and walk away.
  • Every single price negotiation starts out with the seller going really high (ie, 875,000), you going low (150,000) then the seller rolling his eyes and exclaiming how impossible your price is. Ignore the drama and just keep your offer low.
  • If the seller won’t accept your offer, walk away. Once you get about 10 feet from his shop, he’ll chase after you shouting “ok, your price, your price!” Count on it 70% of the time.
  • Don’t buy at the first shop you visit; see a few first, because you’ll usually find the same item everywhere.

Mostly, because the exchange rate is so incredible for Aussies visiting Bali, you walk around feeling like a millionaire. A “taksi” ride across town will only cost you about $2.50. A really nice dinner may run you $30. It definitely gives you a weird sense that your wallet is bottomless. It’s the money equivalent of some kind of anti-gravity environment where a tiny jump sends you flying.

I suppose what I should bring home from that experience is the sense of spotting a good deal. Here in whitey-land I find it easy to just pay a price just because it’s on the pricetag. But is the item really worth that much? I wish we could do some bargaining here, but then I wonder if that would be helpful or hurtful to business owners. Probably the time spent negotiating small deals like for a fridge magnet, just wouldn’t be worth the time.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your third-world bargain hunting stories if you have any!

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