Saturday, July 9, 2011

How to Bargain In Beijing

Tips of bargaining here is in context of shopping in marketplace, not shopping mall. It's pretty clear you can't bargain in shopping mall right?

For those who had been to Beijing know where are the markets to shop but nevertheless I'll share some info of marketplaces that I went to.

Pearl Market

Situated opposite of Temple of Heaven North Gate, it is best visited after you're done with visiting Temple of Heaven. I just afraid you would not leave Pearl Market for Temple of Heaven if you ever choose the other way around :D

How to get here:
Subway Tiantan Dongmen (Line 5) Station, turn left and across the road you'll see the building

Operating hours: 9.00am - 7.00pm

What to look for: Pearl, watch, electronics, scarf, luggage etc

Pearl Market from front

Pearl Market from side

Yashow Market

I went here twice due to its proximity to my host's house and it's close to other shopping mall. The market is located in Sanlitun, a popular bar street in Beijing. So, you'll expect a lot of expats nearby the area and bargaining can be a little tougher. 

How to get here:
Subway Tuanjiehu (Line 10) Station, turn right and walk straight for about 7 minutes until you'll see shopping mall with Uniqlo and Adidas stores. Walk past it and Yashow Market is on the next building. 

Operating hours: 9.30am - 9.00pm

What to look for:
Shoe, luggage, handbag, adult's and children's clothing, silk and tailor shop, jewellery, watch

Walk pass these buildings

Yashow Market

More marketplace, check here.

Shopping in Beijing famous marketplaces is totally different experience to me when to compare with Bangkok, Indonesia or Vietnam. So, I'm sharing the little experience I had with the hope it might be useful to you when you shop in Beijing.


1. Shopping List

Whenever travelling I always prepare my shopping list to cut time wandering in the marketplace clueless what to look for. Clueless traveler always be a target of desperate vendors.

I prepare how many souvenirs I wanted to buy and to whom, the budget (extremely important) and what other things to buy.

On what other things to buy, you might need some research beforehand to know what the marketplace is offering and what's the best deal you could get. Above description could help you a little but generally all marketplaces sell almost the same as each other. Almost.

Entering the marketplace, look for floor where your desired items are located at and straight go towards that direction. Temptation to other item is always there. Keep to your shopping list first.

2. Less is good

Me and Sayra both had our big camera with us everywhere we went when in Beijing. Before entering the main door, we kept them away and all other possessions that might give perception 'we have a lot money' to the vendor in our bag.

Appear like an average traveller/tourist.
It does affect your bargain later.

Remember my previous post on my eating/drinking in Beijing? I bought hot chocolate at Starbucks next to Yashow Market before the shopping and as I didn't finish it all, I held it along my shopping process. And Sayra also had her coffee with her.

When we were at final stage of bargaining at first shop for fridge magnet, the lady vendor refused to agree with our price just because we had expensive coffee. Grrrr.... So, ditch all that might made you look rich/have much money to assure you'll get the cheapest price for your things. Well, since we applied other tips already, eventually we got our fridge magnets at price we bargained for. 

Keep reading, I personally find the tips afterwards worth apply for :D


Shops in marketplace are grouped at one level according to their goods. One level for clothing, another level for handbags, another level for shoes etc. It made your shopping easier, if you already have the shopping list as above right.
Well, advising which shop to buy from is the toughest part ever. Since every shop in the same floor sells about the same thing, you have to make a random try and visit. Sometimes it depends on your luck but you could always apply below series of tips which I find very useful and effective as your guideline.

This is a trial and error approach.
Common sense should also be applied.

3. Smile, someone might love looking at you

At the alleyway when deciding which shop to enter, always carry your beautiful and sincere smile around. Try to smile at vendors waiting outside of shops selling items in your list and make some eye contact with them. Whoever smiles back at you and invite you in, it might be the best place to buy.

4. Be Polite

As much as you don't like arrogant and rude people, so do the vendors.
Be in your most polite manner asking for items you like and its price. Remember to still keep your smile with you at this time.
First impressive is crucial.

Greet them in Chinese "Ni Hao"
Ask price in Chinese "Do shao chen?"

Whenever you think the item you like is overpriced, ask for discount. Usually they will ask what is your best price. Well, this is when your budget you prepared earlier will be used as basis and your bargain skills are put to test. Confidently state your price and smile again.

If they agree, it's your lucky day!

If not, there might be a case they will yell at you telling your price is crazy, you are mean, you are killing them, they make no money from selling it to you and other nasty stuff unpleasant to your ear. Don't get offended by them as that are the common dialog EVERY VENDOR are telling to their customers when asking for discount.

Turn deaf on that! Keep your politeness intact, ask few times more for discount. And tell exactly the same thing back to them that their price is crazy, you have no money etc in a friendlier tone. Joke a little if you can.

Remember to firmly stick to the price you're willing to pay. Usually I will ask for discount of 50% - 80% depending of item.

If that doesn't work and you still want the thing, the next step might help. It will take some time and some people might not want to go until this extend.

5. Built Rapport

So, you hardly want this thing from this particular shop but the price given is not making sense at all? Build a rapport and this works all the time for us. Seriously!

Linger a little longer in the shop looking for other item, put the bargaining business aside for a while.

Ask their name. And introduce yours too.
Don't we like when people calling us by name? I do!

Try creating a casual conversation with them so they feel comfortable with you and regards you as their friends. Some of my favourite are:

"Miss X, where do you learn to speak english? Your english is good unlike other person I met"

"Do you know how to go to (name place)? I'm planning to go there tomorrow. What's good about that place?"

"All your stuffs in your shop are more quality/beautiful/unique than others. You have a very good taste"

"Miss, your cloth/hair/skin/eyes is beautiful. Where do you buy/product you use?"

"Is your boyfriend also works here?"

"How do speak (whatever) in Chinese?"

"I have biscuit/chocolate, do you want some?"

That's just to get the conversation started. You should be able to continue with whatever topic after that. Have few laugh in between. Be more creative.

After you notice they've change their tone from stranger to friend, ask again for your price. This time, it's more difficult for them to say no. You have become their friends :D

A little and gentle touching/pat (at hand and shoulder) would also helps in bargaining. Do not overdo it as some people don't like to be touch. Know your limit. 

6. Find Similarities

After few trials, me and Sayra concluded dealing with a young girl/student alike and old lady were much hassle free and ended with lesser time negotiating. 

It is again about them being comfortable with you. If you and the vendor have common things to discuss/talk about, you clicked well. And bargaining is easy from there.  

And do not enter a shop with other foreigner (non Asian) in it. You may return later after they left. Vendors will prefer to entertain them than you. No offence as non Asian can give more money than Asian do. 

7. When it's Time To Leave, Leave

If it doesn't work, say politely you couldn't afford their price and leave the shop. Don't be surprise when they call you back agreeing to your price!

The key word for all the above is Psychology!

And as I said this is a trial and error approach. If any of these doesn't work, move to the other shops. Apply the same tips.


On average, me and Sayra spent half an hour or more at shop we think worth the time spending. What's the good thing about it?

At fridge magnet shop, we bargained for too much until we and the lady had to sit on a floor selecting the fridge magnet together, she gave all designs at the same price. We asked for free gift and she gave each of us earring and when we noticed she had few flag pins (of different country) on her scarf, we even asked if we could have that and she gave! LOL. That was after she shared her selling experience in the marketplace. 

Buying scarf in Beijing is cheap. The cheapest I got was from Pearl Market. Looking for old lady vendor worked :D

At Pearl Market, both me and Sayra bought same design but different colour winter clothing for a price we didn't expect she would give. Tips? We had conversation with some of the examples above and bargained until it was time for her to close the shop. And we also acted like a students with not much money :) Eventually when all the lights had turned off, she either had to choose to make some money or none at all and losing two customers. We left the shop with big smile.

My new Made-in-China winter clothing

I was so in love with this one particular jacket, it looked so stylish and warm enough for winter but I wasn't willing to spend extra money for that. So, after failed to get the price I was willing to pay, I left the shop to make the girl vendor feel sorry for losing me as her customer. Did she call me back? NO! I must had put a price with a slim profit margin to her. Tired of negotiating, I decided not to buy the jacket, even at other shop. So, we stop looking for jacket shops and went to look for Sayra's shoe for Great Wall climbing the next day. The girl vendor in jacket shop must had hard time selling her goods that day, I didn't know how but she managed to find us at other shop! We were surprised when we heard our name being called from afar in Yashow Market by the girl vendor and begging us to go back to her shop! I clearly put a condition to her that I only will buy if she could sell the jacket at my price. At the end of the day, she called me 'tough girl' for I was so firm with my price. It worth it!

When Sayra bought her shoe in Yashow, it was nearly closing time already. In between negotiating for cheapest price, we had many good conversation and laughing. After we left the shop as the last customer, she invited us to have dinner at her house! Wow, but we declined politely as it was our final night in Beijing and we had made other plan.

Sayra with new shoe in Great Wall

Goods in Beijing (or China) is generally very cheap if you know the right way to bargain for that. And you'll only encounter this situation at marketplaces that aim tourists as customer. Shopping in non tourist area is easy and simple - no bargain, no haggling, no yelling but CHEAP PRICE! Well, everything is MADE IN CHINA right?!

Overall, I enjoyed the shopping experience in Beijing although it took a lot of time and my patience. I hope the tips benefit you who has made plan to shop in Beijing. This topic couldn't leave my head these few days, so i'm just sharing it while it lasts. Now, I should resume to my draft of last part in Dieng Plateau entry. See you in a bit!


Zoey said...

Hi Byya, you're one of my blogger's list. Great info!...awesome photos!

Lily Riani said...

i agree with you on all of the above, my experience will be post later... heheh perhaps hyperlink to yours (nih case malas type ahhahah). i do have one advantage, i speak fluent mandarin.... but i always nego in english first and dgr dia rang nak tipu ke dak, which happens before. then keluar mandarin i cam air.... lepas tuh, price turun mendadak. hahahahhah.... thanks to my arawah dad for sending us to chinese school. amin.

kemang~ said...

huyooo byya, can't wait going there this dec. nak pegi ice festival kat harbin hihi :D btw winter coat murah kat mane eh? yashow eh?

Chibi Maruko said...

i'm suck dalam hal bargain ni... so selalu subcontrakkan hal bargain membargain ni kat laki..

bdk2 said...

byya!!! i love to bargain in beijing. such a great experience. but yes, need to be polite, funny and know how to persuade them. know a little bit of their language is advantage. such a memorable moment.

by.ya @ Traveller's Anatomy said...

That's so sweet of u :)
Glad u like it. Im adding yours too! Im impressed with a female in aero engineering.

by.ya @ Traveller's Anatomy said...

Missing u already la :)
Know how to speak Mandarin fluently is definitely a big bonus! kalau i pegi dgn u agaknya balike kene beli extra luggage. I just relied on the phrase book n tu pun kadang2 sebut diorang tak paham hehe...

by.ya @ Traveller's Anatomy said...

Harbin tu mmg super sejuk la tp seriously cantik with all the ice sculpture and all. Ade gak plan haritu nak pegi tapi i suke ild city mcm Beijing.

If u pegi time winter, kat semua market ade jual n design lebih kurang je kat semua kedai. Jangan terkejut if first harga yg diorang bg kat u mcm harga authentic designer clothing, u have to bargain gile2. I prefer Yashow cz dekat town tp i dpt winter clothing kat Pearl Market murah gile gak. Tp if nak cari silk, kat Yashow tu ade few kedai je, maybe market lain lg byk kot.

by.ya @ Traveller's Anatomy said...

it's ok coz u have very very good eyes, all your photos are beautiful. I suke tgk n can spend minutes at one photo :D

yup, great experience kan even kdg2 geram yg teramat kat diorang ni. Harga tak logik langsung, lainlah if mmg betul ori kan. Slalu mcm tu la if shopping kat 3rd world country.

kemang~ said...

ohhhh.okay :) btw kite boleh ke nak stay kat hotel backpackers @ guest house kat sane? sbb my fren kate malaysian kena stay hotel 3* ke atas tuk safety...haiyaa bajet lari la nnti

by.ya @ Traveller's Anatomy said...

uish, i xpernah lg dengar cerita mcm tu pulak cz i pon dok hostel je, alhamdulillah ok. I stay kat hostel dlm lorong2 kecik lg (diorang panggil hutong). Check post I yg ni on tmpt I stay masa kat Beijing

But dekat Harbin tu i xsure pulak cz almost dh sempadan Russia dh.

Ms. Littlewing said...

Good trip and good travelling tips.

David Jr said...

Now Beijing is one of the places I have to check out. Looks like you had an amazing time there!