The gift of the gab: Getting a bargain overseas

Here at home I never bargain the price, but in China, at times, I found it very easy and did

Here at home I never bargain the price, but in China, at times, I found it very easy and did not accept a compromise easily. It’s also fun and gives an amazing sense of accomplishment. But as I saw, it is very easy to forget. My grandson, who has lived in China for over 10 years fell into the trap. He met me at the airport, all excited of course. A private taxi guy approached him and details were given. He was astonished when the guy charged him nearly four times the usual fare. He had forgotten to negotiate a price before he got into his car. He got into big trouble from his Chinese wife. He had talked to the driver in Chinese so I was unaware.

The fact that I don’t speak Chinese is not so important, it’s the numbers that count. I know the numbers and I know enough of the language to get by. But it always helped to know ahead of time how much the right fare is or have a general idea of how far I needed to go. It’s not only foreigners that bargain. My grandson lives outside the city so they always need a taxi. They often use a private taxi to go out, but from the city to home they use public taxis. I often watched my granddaughter-in-law argue the price. She told me that if they quoted a high price she dropped hers down to under the accepted price. They either drove off or agreed.

Some bargaining occasions were very funny. At the airport one young lad bargained hard with me, but I would not budge till he came close then I upped my price a bit. He settled. But this negotiating took about 10 minutes and involved much laughter and both of us walking off pretending we did not care. It was a 45 minute drive and all the way he huffed with a grin on his face and showed me how much he had to pay at each toll gate. I laughed – he knew I had won, but he also knew it was a fair price.

A man with a trolley helped my friend and I get our suitcases down a lot of stairs and out of the station. The station was new so the escalators had not been installed. He was quite happy with what I paid him even though it was less than his initial offer. His mate checked how much I paid and they both grinned at me. They seemed to admire my ability to bargain.

Many taxis will not use their meters, but at a railway station after refusing to accept many quotes one guy said “meter”. The magic words! He was not too popular with his mates. My most memorable experience was when I had to go quite a distance, but I had no idea how far or how much. I was picked up by a driver who took our suitcases and ran up and down stairs with them in a subway while we panted along behind him, trying to keep up. We were driving off (this situation was not helped by the fact we running late) when negotiating began. I would not agree so he stopped and unloaded our cases on the side of a busy road. Hmm. A taxi came by shortly afterwards and we came to an agreement. But we got free help with our cases J

At one bus station where I needed a taxi I was approached by a retired English teacher who was out earning drinking money. “Don’t get a taxi, too expensive. The local bus will take you to where you want to go. It’s their last stop so you won’t get lost”. He waited at the bus stop with us then loaded both our cases onto the bus and told the driver where we were going. Money well spent and good on him. But in these cases you just have to trust.


Do you bargain in Australia or abroad? What’s the best deal you’ve gotten?