In Tanzania I discovered a skill I didn’t know I had. I can negotiate. In Africa everything has a flexible price; the same pen can cost 15 cents in one place and the double in a shop two meters away. The same is for souvenirs, clothes, bus tickets, chapati. Of course it’s no surprise they try to get more money from foreigners, that normally earn ten times more than a local, but sometimes prices are really out of this world. I am not saying we should let them without a profit (sometimes I felt bad because I lowered the price too much), but if you are able to pay the right amount for something, you might save money that you can spend somewhere else.
Some simple rules can help you navigate in this activity that can be actually funny.
5 rules to remember to negotiate in Tanzania
- If possible try to know in advance how much something can cost. This is true in particular for bus tickets. For example in Arusha they wanted to sell me a ticket to Babati for 18.000 Tsh, but I knew the price was 5.000 (I had asked at the hotel) and after a brief search at the bus station I found a company that agreed to sell me a ticket at that price.
- If you are asked to pay 100, don’t feel bad to offer back 10. Most times this is the amount closer to the right price.
- Decide how much you are ready to pay for something. Even though you later find out that the price was actually lower, you have to accept the fact that you agreed to pay that price, that you thought was right (for the safari I paid 480 USD, while some of my companions paid 800; they agreed to pay that price, so they can’t complain about it just because I was better than them in negotiating, or luckier, because the agency needed a last person to fill the car).
- When the seller doesn’t accept your offer, go away, let them know you can live without that thing. Most times the seller will then accept your offer (even though not really smiling). If he doesn’t accept it means that the price was really higher, so in the next shop you know what you should pay.
- Never check further the price of something you have already purchased. It can be a big disappointment to find out that the price was even lower than what it took you so long and so much effort to negotiate.
Don’t be rude, just be aware that negotiating is the norm in Tanzania and in Africa, even among locals, so don’t feel bad if you do it.