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How to Haggle in Egypt

Getting the best deals in Egypt all comes down to negotiating like a pro—here’s how.

Person looks at the products outside an Egyptian souk
Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

It’s easy to see dollar signs when your tour guide (or anyone else for that matter) says that “every price is negotiable” while in Egypt. Of course, haggling might well be expected—and even, to some extent, budgeted for in vendors’ pricing—when it comes to shopping in Egyptian souks, markets, and stores. But that doesn’t mean everyone takes to negotiation like a duck to water.

With that in mind, here are 9 top tips to help you haggle like a pro the next time you’re in Egypt—and snag yourself some souvenirs that’ll last a lifetime.

Everything is negotiable ...

Don’t be shy about what you try to haggle over.

It’s worth repeating: Not only is it possible to negotiate every price, but in Egypt pretty much everyone expects you to haggle on everything. That tour guide who told you everything was negotiable? Make them a counter-offer on their pricing and test the theory … you’re likely to have some success.

However, it’s essential to have the top price you’re willing to pay in mind before you begin the haggling process, and be sure to let the vendor name their price first. Showing your budget hand way too soon may leave you open to paying above the odds. And staying friendly and polite throughout never hurts either.

… but you should learn when *not* to haggle

Don't waste anyone's time.

However, there are a few instances when haggling is either not recommended or simply not worth it. The first is in chain stores (where prices are likely fixed) or over very low-priced items (for which haggling is, in short, pointless). You should also skip haggling in Egypt if you have no desire to purchase what they’re selling—put simply, don’t waste the merchant’s time.

Insider tip: It’s also worth remembering that not interacting with vendors isn’t rude. If you don’t want to buy anything, walk straight by. And wearing sunglasses helps, as even eye contact can be interpreted as expressing interest in Egypt.

Women in Egypt in colorful clothes haggle outside a shop.
Pretty much everything is negotiable in Egypt.Photo Credit: Jon Chica / Shutterstock

Be honest

Transparency is sometimes all it takes to get a great deal.

If you want to buy something that’s outside of your budget and feel embarrassed when prompted to make an offer, honesty helps. If you’re serious, tell the vendor that you know their product is worth more than what you can afford to pay and that’s why you can’t make a purchase at the moment. Something about utter transparency can have sellers willing to drop their prices. And if not? No harm, no foul.

Insider tip: If you do get a great price, don’t feel bad about it. Vendors won’t sell if they aren’t going to make at least a little profit.

Visit later in the day

And pay cash.

Visiting the souks and markets in the morning may seem like a tempting idea, but you’ll snag the best deals later in the day. Why? Because vendors want to close a few sales before shutting up shop. Plus, if you pay cash, you’ll likely be able to negotiate a better price for what you want to purchase than if you pay by card. Just keep your currency out of sight, so sellers can’t see exactly what you’re working with and bump up the price accordingly.

Bright wares for sale at Khan el-Khalili marketplace in Egypt.
The vast Khan el-Khalili marketplace is a treasure trove.Photo Credit: Merydolla / Shutterstock

Visit with a pro

You’ll find things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s enormous souk, could be considered near-impossible to navigate without a guide, but there are typically lots of them waiting outside for tourists to hire. As before, though, be sure to agree on the price of their guidance beforehand; remember that shisha (tips) are always expected; and factor in that your guide will almost certainly get a cut of whatever you buy as a “finder’s fee.”

Negotiate in grams

For pricey items, at least.

For products such as gold, saffron, and other pricey spices, negotiating over the price per gram, rather than the price per item, can really save you money. For example, spice vendors may say that you have to buy a full bag of saffron, but a little negotiation (and maybe a fake walk-out) can help get the amount you wanted in the first place, at the price the vendor’s asking.

Insider tip: If you’re traveling with friends or a group, buying your pieces together can help you secure a bulk discount from souk vendors too.

Spices and loose leaf tea for sale in wooden buckets at a market in Egypt.
Negotiate by the gram for things such as spices.Photo Credit: Sun_Shine / Shutterstock

Use basic Arabic phrases

Speaking the sellers’ language⁠—⁠literally—never hurts.

While many vendors speak at least basic English (as well as snatches of other languages), speaking the seller’s language never hurts, whether you’re in Egypt or Ecuador. A few basic Egyptian Arabic phrases to keep in mind are:

  • Salaam alaikum, or “hello”
  • Bikam dah?, or “how much is this?”
  • Hatha ghaliah ghidan, or “that’s too expensive”
  • Shukran, or “thank you”

Always get what you came for

Haggling sometimes isn’t worth it.

If you know you want something, haggle. However, if your goal is to leave with that gold bangle—whatever the price—then leave with that bangle. Egyptian souvenirs are so unique that they feel priceless and when you factor in the (often very favorable) exchange rate that US travelers in particular enjoy in Egypt, even paying a little more than you originally wanted to is probably not that budget-busting in the grand scheme of things.

Fruits for sale around a market vendor at an Egyptian bazaar.
Using basic Arabic can help with the negotiations.Photo Credit: aleks333 / Shutterstock

Be willing to walk away

Know when to call it a day.

This applies to any negotiation, anywhere. If people sense you’re not all-in, they get nervous the whole deal might fall through—and to be fair, it could fall through. That’s OK though, because you can always circle back after you’ve had time to think it over. Just don’t let the pressure of having to answer immediately squeeze you into spending on something you didn’t truly want.

Insider tip: Another great rule for haggling in Egypt is to let those uncomfortable pauses during negotiations extend as long as you can stand them. Most people hate that awkwardness, so the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that the conversation will swing in your favor.

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