Young, Broke and Abroad: Five Steps to Negotiating in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Young, Broke and Abroad: Five Steps to Negotiating in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

When I travel to any bazaar I try to dress like a local. This means no tennis shoes with big white socks, no hikers khakis or camera around my neck. When you dress normally, browse quietly,  and learn how to say “how much” in the native tongue, prices come down.

James and I were in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar a few months ago and were able to score a Turkish glass lighting fixture that started out with 120euro asking price – we got it for 35Euros, plus a mosaic votive holder for our trouble.

The best deals occur during low season, do not expect great deals with hundreds of tourists are ready to splurge around you. Go in October, November or March for the best deals. Also, get a thick skin – these vendors deal with hundreds of people everyday and just by looking at you they can see if your tough, or not. Go in knowing you will buy what you want for about 60-70% of the asking price. Confidence, low season and a native look are your most important assets.

The lamp I negotiated to get for 35 euros, down from 120 euro initial price

I walk around the bazaar first, and see what everyone has to offer and decide what I really want. When I browse, I don’t say anything, I don’t interact with any merchants – I look incredibly uninterested, bored and touch nothing. When we decide what we’d like, we walk back and ask “how much” to the exact thing I want to about three different vendors. For our lighting fixture, in rose colored glass with a bunch of metal work on it, the price ranged from about 120euros to 100euros at first. At this point you can determine a respectable price is around 35-45 euros – if you can be tough enough. I then divide my cash and stick the 35 euros in my wallet and transfer the rest of my cash to pockets or other compartments. So if I have too, I can say “Look, its all the cash I have left, and I don’t feel like finding an atm – take it or leave it.”

STEP ONE: Demand a Second or Third Price

These vendors are too close to the opening gates, go deeper

The vendors deeper in the market have more locals buying and see less tourists, so they tend to have better prices. I asked “how much,” and after the price, I say “no, give me another price.” This is your most important move. When you demand another price, and act as if the first price is  insulting, you start your negotiations at a lower starting point. They come back with “If you don’t like this price, you need to tell me what you want to pay” and I respond with “you’re the one with the shop, you’re the one selling it to me, so give me another price…” they will insist to know what you want to pay. At this point I say “If you’re not interesting in selling it, I can go to another shop,” they normally bend and lower the 100 euro start price to 85 euros. I still act insulted at this price, and ask for another.

STEP 2: Claim Insider Knowledge (which I do have)

I explain that I know a Moroccan store near my house (which I do) and I can buy it at home for that price (which I can), and say “Abdul would laugh at me if I came home with this lamp, when I could have bought it from him, cheaper and right near my house,” Then I say “come on, give me a real price.” And, typically they bring down the price to about 70 euros.

STEP 3: Pretend you’re at the end of your trip (which I normally am, I schedule shopping for last)

The alleys ways of shops go deep, keep going in for better prices

At this point I claim we’re at the end of our trip and financially drained. I also explain “this trip has cost more then we thought, and we are low on cash.” Each time I shopping in the bazaars, this was true, and I think worked to my advantage. I also say we have limited time, like our tour is going to start soon and we need to get going (which was also true, but worked to my advantage). During step three is when I state my price. I say “I have been to a lot of markets and I know a fair price is 30 Euros.” At this point, they will act angry and deeply insulted – its just a game – do not fall for it. They will start arguing with each other in different language.  Then you say “well, I guess its not meant to be, I don’t really need it – I will spend this money on dinner then instead” and/or you can say “I will just buy it from the importer near my house at home,” and start to wander off. They should say “hey, hey hey… ” and then you know you’ve got them.

Continue with phrases like “I cannot come home paying what I can near my own house, I am supposed to get a deal…right?” The vendor should now offer you a price at about half the starting price.

When prices are near 50%, say "That price would work, if it's for two lamps"

STEP 4: Two for one

Now that the price is around 50%-60% of the asking price, about 50 euros in this case say “You have a deal, if its for two lamps for 50 euros,” this will again anger the group.  Basically you have lowered your 30 euro offer to 25 euros per lamp. And, again  start to wander off, they will counter offer with “Okay, 40-45 euros for the light”. And you then remind them that you are running out of time, look at your watch and say “I don’t have this much time, we have a tour starting in a little bit… do you want to sell me the lamp or not?” Then they will ask, “how much will you pay for it” and you say, “30 Euros” and they will get very frustrated again. Look displeased at their games, and cross your arms and look impatient, not sorry.

STEP 5: The final showdown

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

I finish with the remark “I have done this before, I know what it’s worth, I am going to leave for good now if you don’t want to sell it” and then they say “okay, $35 euros” and you say “sold, if you throw in that votive” and they say “Okay”.  DONE!

If at any time, they allow you to walk off, you know your final price was a bit too low, and move it up 5 or 10 euros each time you start the negotiations. The items are sold over-and-over again in the market, so don’t think angering one vendor will have anything to do with how much you pay in the end.

And instead of feeling bad over negotiations like this, remember its okay haggling is a way of life in the markets, find the fun in conquering the sale!

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Young, Broke and Abroad: Fasching In Germany

Fasching, known to Americans as “Fat Tuesday” is celebrated a bit differently in Germany. When I was traveling through Germany in February and March I kept noticing Halloween stores open. I didn’t think much of it.

Drinks at Fasching

I saw big posters in train station, on the subway and in coffee shops for a Tuesday event. On the posters there were “costume contests” with great prizes everywhere.  Again, I did not think much of it.

Before I left to Germany I was hooked up with a friend, of a friend’s phone number – in case something happened to me – because I was traveling alone. I called these new friends and they came and met me out in Munich for Fasching. This celebration was unlike anything i’d ever seen.

Fasching in Germany

Fasching was half Halloween and half Oktoberfest! Everyone was dressed up in costumes, drinking at bars in the middle of the street like Kiosks. They were trailers people dropped off – serving hot drinks of rum and god knows what else. Live music was around ever corner and in the middle of the day it was so packed, that people were touching me on all sides. I have never been in a group that size – ever!

We celebrated like locals, trying hot drink concoctions I couldn’t even pronounce, enjoyed music in the freezing cold Germany winter – with snow all around us. I learned about my new friends, the woman (was from America) was on Holiday in the Dominican Republic, when she met a Scottish man and fell in love. They are now married living in Ulm, Germany. The interesting part is that she used the money she was saving for a wedding to go on that trip – she thought she should enjoy it – and ended up meeting her husband.

Young, Broke and Abroad: Rafting in Costa Rica

Chandra and Friends rafting in Costa Rica

RAFTING IN COSTA RICA

First, let me say that I normally bypass all things “outdoorsy”. However, when traveling I like to try whatever that area is famous for. In Costa Rica they are famous for many things like: coffee, nature, and beaches. So on our 8 day trip, my two girl friends and I did all of the above.

On day three we did a rafting trip with the company Exploradores Outdoors for a half day journey down the Rio Pacuare.   This company picked us up at our Hotel, fed us breakfast, took us rafting and supplied all the gear, fed us lunch and dropped us at the door of our next hotel in a different town for only $99. A GREAT DEAL!

Rafting in Costa Rica

Heading out with my friends on the River

I was very nervous – this was my the first “adult” rafting trip. I only remember sitting on the bottom of a boat as a four(ish) year old, with water crashing over me and my dad yelling “turn, turn, rocks, WATCH OUT”. Not good memories.

The crew was very nice and professional. They had kayaks around each rafting boat for safety. The river was a class III-IV and ran for 18 miles with 52 rapids ahead of us. There was a woman in the rear of the boat that was shaking in fear before we even pushed off the shore. Of course, she had to be on our boat. Everything was going great for the first 40 minutes. We came onto some pretty vicious rapids, with high rocks and fast moving water, in a pretty shallow area.

Rafting in Costa Rica

We were coming down and quickly noticed we were in trouble. A fellow raft was pinned on a large rock the size of a van. I saw the face of the other guide and knew we were in trouble as we came at them very fast. The edge of our raft lifted up over the other one, and in about 20 second everyone on the right side of the raft was up in the air. Our raft flipped over, and the people on the right side, crashed down on the people on the left.  My friend came crashing down on me, her foot bashing me in the face. I was pinned, probably everyone on the left side of the raft shared my fate. I did not panic. I thought “Well… she will get off of me as soon as she can.”

The Lunch Spot

The problem was, the boat was on top of us all, pinned between rocks. People started thrashing their limbs in panic. I just laid on the bedrock, thinking “they will figure it out in a minute.” After a few seconds, my friend cleared off me and I rose. I was trapped under the raft. My head popped up in a small pocket with air. The middle of the raft had wide inflatable benches so I could not see the length of the boat, just the small pocket I was in. The boat was not moving. It was pinned between rocks at this point. I decided to take a big breath and head out. I went right, and ran into a big rock, the raft moved slightly, so I had to find another “pocket” of air. I did, and I was not scared. I again took a breath and tried going left, as I went under I felt the boat start to move down the rapids and I emerged. No one was around. Everyone else had been swept down the river and another boat was coming down behind me. Thankfully the current carried me the same pace as the boat behind me.

Getting to swim while rafting in Costa Rica

I only started to worry when the current started moving me very fast, and I was surrounded by rocks. I was hurled forward by the current and my face led the way.  Finally, a kayak came up to me and I held on. He drifted me to safety. From there I got on a different raft, with new people who saw our ordeal.

When I got back to my original boat we all compared war wounds. People had bad scrapes, raspberries and the terrified woman – who was scared before we even left, hurt her wrist/arm pretty bad – but nothing was broken. She looked traumatized. She was non-responsive, shaking, and mumbling “No, no, no.. I want to go home now… No, no, no.” Little did she know the hardest rapids were still ahead of us.

The River in Costs Rica

The safety kayaker, who led me to safety was the owner. At lunch he approached me and said “I really liked your attitude and how you were able to bounce back after what happened to you.” I thought, “Was it that serious?”  Of course, ours was the only raft out of about eight to have any problems that day.

Even a nasty spill could not dampen my impression of the river. Yes, there were a lot of rapids – two or three were especially violent. But, the opportunity to see the natural land, the birds, and the terrain out weighted any negative aspect of the adventure.

Young, Broke and Abroad: Night #4 in Belize

Departing on the Raggamuffins Sailing Trip

The Story of Night #4 in Belize on the Island of Rendezvous Caye

Starved, Insulted, Stocked, Harassed, Confronted, Baked, Breakdown, Stranded, and Misery

On day #4 in Belize my two friends and I departed on a 50-foot sailboat with 14 other strangers and three crewmen to sail, drink, fish, snorkel and camp. We traveled down the second biggest barrier reef in the world heading to our first stop, an uninhabited island called Rendezvous Caye. The entire sailing voyage was for three days and two nights with the Raggamuffins company; we left from Caye Caulker in the north of Belize and finished in Placencia – southern Belize. It was hot; the sun was beaming down while we set sail for our first snorkeling point. The water was blue, the fishing lines were out, and the music was on and the captain was cranky. A dolphin swam by our boat and all 17 tourists, from all over the globe were in awe. We quickly made friends with two 21-year-old Swedish girls on a four-month holiday, Hannah and Sarah. Our circle also grew with Kent, a 25-year-old, wise beyond his years Microsoft guy; and Jacob, the youngest crewman.

Rendezvous Caye in Belize

After sailing and stopping to snorkel with the exotic aquatic life of Belize, we kept noticing the distaste the captain had for all travelers on board. He became a popular item to talk about between the passengers. When we approached the tiny island of Rendezvous Cay everyone was very excited. The island is very small and had only about 9 palm trees on it. It looked serene – a picture perfect postcard. We all set up our tents, sleeping mats and sheets. Right away two men who lived on the small island in the middle of the sea greeted us. Their room was almost a closet and they stayed there for about months at a time. The young one was funny and exaggerative in his story telling – the other one was older, Jamaican, and creepy.

STARVED
After explaining my food allergies before I got on the ship, I was told it was not going to be a problem. I am just allergic to spices and some fruit and I can eat any fish/meat plain. Something got lost in translation (even though they speak English in Belize) because at dinner I was served a jerky, ten-day-old looking piece of chicken – while everyone else got fresh fish from the sea. I did not eat it. I did not eat the spiced meat for lunch and had only cheese and bread. The captain made the comment before we left “why come on a trip like this with your allergies,” which I should have taken as a sign.

INSULTED
The crankiness of the captain was getting noticeably worst by everyone. In the evening when dinner was served, the Captain collected the plates when people were finished. The Dutch girl, who was traveling solo, handed her finished plate to the captain and said “Thank you friend” and the captain replied, “I am not your friend…” and everyone was silent; he then said, “I am your captain.” My friend and I exchanged glances of our disapproval. After dinner was over everyone went back to drinking.

Belize Raggamuffins Dinner/Drinks

The picnic table at the end of the dock, where dinner was served became our bar and the boat’s sound system and pilothouse became our dance club. Kent, attempted to “warm up” the Captain and said “I want to drink what the captain is drinking.” The Captain took his cup, poured in Campari and then emptied it out into his own cup and handed Kent back an empty glass and said, “No one drinks, what the captain drinks.”

STOCKED
Remember the creepy Jamaican that lives on the island? This entire time he has been stocking every woman on the island. He asked us “Can I join you guys in your party” and we said, “well, you live here,” not really knowing how to respond. There are only nine palm trees on this tiny island – its not like you cant be at our party. He started drinking heavily with everyone else, who was on vacation. After the Jamaican was good and toasted his liquid courage, or insanity lead his up to every woman with lines like, “Hmmmmm baby girl, you looked so good coming out of that water earlier…. I know you said you are married, by hmmm mmmmm hhhmmmmmm you wanna get together?” After an hour of dancing, people moved from the end of the dock to the island for a bonfire. In this transition the Jamaican had time to approach us all separately. To me he said, “Hey, hey, wanna come see where I sleep?” and “girl, your curves are looking so good, I want to see them in action.” Yuck!

HARASSED
It went from stocking to harassing very quickly. The Jamaican rolled up behind me, at my tent while I was trying to get something. It was dark out and he was almost invisible. He was in my personal space and started to say something. I cut him off and said “I am on F*cking vacation, I do not want to be harassed – I am married back the f*ck off me and I don’t want to have to tell you again.” He slowly backed away, but I knew he would be back. I went to the fire moments later and found my friends. The Jamaican was also there. So drunk, he probably didn’t remember what I said ten minutes earlier. My friend was sitting next to me and the Jamaican was behind her. Out of nowhere, she shot up fast and yelled “OH HELL NO!!!” and the Jamaican got up and walked off. I had no idea what was going on. She came back to me, after he left and told me she was just violated by him. He stuck his foot, literally under her butt and wiggled his foot to get his toes – well you can guess where. Later we found out from Jacob that the crew had never even seen this guy before. For all we knew he could have killed us all in our sleep.

CONFRONTED
After talking with everyone, all day, and all night we really loved all the unique people on this sailing trip. People were from all walks of life, and from all points on the globe; from London, to Brazil and everywhere in between. And in getting to know everyone, we started to hear all the other stories of how the Captain has insulted or been rude to everyone.  My friend, who has the biggest balls of anyone I know, decided to confront the Captain. Keep in mind he is the classic stereotype: two gold teeth, gold hoop earring, scraggly beard, no smiling – ever and a demeanor that would scare children. She took him aside and said, “Everyone on this island is talking about you and has a problem with you.” She confronted him on all his bad behavior, intimidation tactics and said it wasn’t acceptable. She stressed that people have limited funds, and limited vacation time and if he has a problem, don’t take it out on tourists. Her heart was racing and she, herself, couldn’t believe she did it. It was a great moment. But, we were on a deserted island, and we didn’t know how this stranger was going to handle it.

BAKED
After night fell, and the campfire was over, the wind died and the temperature rose. White crabs were rolling up on the beach and pinched anything they came in contact with. So you could not leave your tent open. But, inside you baked – sweat dripped from our faces – it was hell. At this point we didn’t know what the Jamaican could do to us during the night, one of the girls from our group of three was gone, and god knows what the captain was thinking after a 29 girl told him off – the truth must be hard to hear from a female American. No one could sleep, and with the wind dead you could hear everyone’s conversations.

BREAKDOWN/STRANDED

All of a sudden, after I was done feeling sorry for myself, in a sweat box of a tent – covered in sun burns and starving from no dinner or lunch, with a crazy person who was violating guest, we heard what sounded like….. crying? Yes, it was the sound of a grown man having a “Come-to-Jesus” moment with Mac, the oldest guy on the boat (he was traveling alone and bonded with the Captain). Apparently the Captain finished a second bottle of booze, vodka with Mac, and pulled the 50-foot boat off the dock. Maybe this was the Captains way of threatening us that he was going to leave us, or that he could – ultimately that he was in control of us. He ended up dropping anchor about 70 feet off the dock. This enraged me because in our arrangements all 17 of us are supposed to have 24-hour toilet access to the marine bathroom. And, of course, I had to use the bathroom and at this point the creepy Jamaican was lurking around the island with NO PANTS ON!

But, back to the crying…. The Captain was pouring his heart out to Mac. From the shore we heard only tidbits from the Captain like “I try so hard…” and “They don’t understand how hard my job is….” And Mac, drunk as a skunk himself was responding like “I know man, I know.” At this point we didn’t know what the result would be. Would the captain become meaner and torture everyone for the rest of the trip? Would we be served food that was contaminated? Would our trip become drastically worse then this? Is this just the tip of the iceberg?

MISERY
Our minds were running wild, because we were all in the middle of the sea on island as small as a basketball court – stranded, with no cell phone reception. I know because I tried to get a signal to get a chopper to come pick me up.  The worst part of the night was yet to come… it started to rain. People hustled to get their rain tarps on, but then the winds came back with a vengeance. Rain tarps were ripped off, water came down our friends tent like a small river and soaked their mats, clothes and souls.

This was the end of Day #4.

And, I didn’t even mention the hookups, flirting, or broken hearts!

Young, Broke and Abroad: Getting to the Cruise Ship in Civitavecchia

Part of being Young and Broke is finding your way around towns that other people bypass with paying $130 per person transfers. If you are going on a cruise ship that leaves from Civitavecchia, Italy -DO NOT PAY FOR A TRANSFER FROM ROME. The transfer from Rome Termini could not be easier!

Turn Right out of the Train Station, walk 300 Meters

We took the high-speed train, for about 11 Euros from Termini in Rome. In 40 minutes we arrived in Civitavecchia. The train station is tiny. Walk directly out the front doors and turn to the RIGHT. You will see taxi and a parking lot and a sign (to your right) that says McDonalds 300 meters. The McDonalds is literally across the street from the Port entrance. Plus there is a huge castle/fort to the left, that you cannot miss.

So, to summarize – it you walk out of the train station take a right, walk 300 Meters to the McDonalds (the street actually curves to the right at this point). Enter the Port through a pass-way/gate. And about twenty feet from there, the port shuttle pick you up and takes you to the door step of your cruise ship.

Cruise Ship Port Gates

Young, Broke and Aboard: Texas Hold’em in Munich, Germany

Young, Broke and AbroadMunich, Germany – Sometimes after a few to many days in Germany, among all the German sites, German people and the German language you need an English break. Germany is glorious, amazing and strapping, but after weeks and weeks, English can be a sound for sore ears. The great thing about going to English pubs in countries other than the England  is the ease in which friendships are created. You enter into a very friendly environment where you quickly make friends in minutes instead of hours. I think the struggle of traveling or living in a country with another language, bonds people of the same tongue together almost instantly. If you are lucky enough, you can be entertained by stories of immigration, work visas, thoughts of the culture they now live in, their own, and the endless banter of United States popular culture and politics.

After meeting an Israeli woman, who speaks five languages, and Scottish man, who could barely speak English *wink* I knew this pub -in the middle of the trendy schwabing district of Munich- was going to be fruitful.  Here I got introduced to an English speaking network. In the course of the night, my Texas Hold’em addiction popped its head out and was met with the best news possible. I hadn’t played since I landed in Europe and this network organized small Texas Hold’em games! I met the right people who introduced me to the next game’s host over email and after they “vouched” for me – I was in.

Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany

After a journey on the subway and connecting tram ride (deep into a neighborhood I knew nothing about) I took a nerve racking walking in the dark, all alone. I arrived at an English businessman’s flat: whom I never met. It was a great night of conversation with interesting 20-something people from all over the world (England, Australia, Germany, Texas,  etc) that all now live in Munich. I went all-in with pocket Jack’s off a weak flop, in which I had top pair, but ended up loosing on the river card to two-pair. You win some, you loose some – it was the best money I spent in a month long trip to Germany.

“Never hold to an agenda and abandon adventure.”