Haggling in Egypt and Morocco is an essential part of any trip to the countries and a big culture shock for Westerners who visit them.
Haggling is a foreign concept to a lot of Westerners, but it’s a must if you’re shopping in North Africa! This is my super easy how-to for haggling in Egypt and Morocco.
How to Haggle in Egypt and Morocco
I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the better part of a year now so I’ve gotten used to not being able to get souvenirs – but if there’s one place I really felt like I was missing out, it would be North Africa.
I’ve already promised myself that one day if I ever settle down I’m going to come back and buy everything for my home (yes, the shopping really is that good). It can also be a bargain IF you know how to haggle.
I was with a friend one night in the souks of Marrakech who was about to go home and was filling up her suitcase with souvenirs first. She spotted some glittery kaftans and asked the shopkeeper how much, he said 500 Moroccan Dirhams! ($50!).
$50 for a kaftan is a LOT in Morocco but was even wilder was this place was clearly selling “Moroccan-themed’ kaftans that looked like they had come straight from AliExpress.
After going back and forth with the shopkeeper she only got him down to 300 DH, or around $30, which was probably about 3X too much still.
At the next stall, we stopped at I asked my friend to let me haggle for her. She was buying a little trinket and the shopkeeper wanted 150 DH, I said 50. He said he couldn’t do more than 125. I said okay, thank you, and then walked away.
That’s it. That’s the trick. That’s all you have to do.
I’ve seen people be ripped off in the souks paying 100x for what something is worth or wasting 45 minutes haggling away their vacation.
The best way to haggle is to just be very polite, and say how much you’d like to pay for something. If they say no, then move on.
All of the stores sell pretty much the same thing, and it’s the best way to get a rough estimate of how much things should cost.
After you walk away, if they follow you and give it to you for the price you stated then you know you named a good price.
If they let you go, then the price you named was too low, and you could either go back and agree to their price or just make a mental note going forward.
Tip: The “correct” price in the souks is almost always at least less than half of the price originally named.
Note: This is only for the markets, restaurants usually will have prices posted and aren’t places for haggling.
5 Tips for Haggling in Egypt and Morocco
1. Don’t Make Insultingly Low Offers
I’ve seen some people be quoted $100 for an item and start off the bidding at $5 🤦♀️ A dollar goes a long way in North Africa, but not that far!
2. Not Every Country is a Bartering Country
In Peru, for example, I would see things at the market go for wildly different prices. The exact same items that were clearly from the same factories would be priced wildly differently depending on the market stall.
The same hat could be $5, or it could be $25, but there wasn’t really any room for haggling the price. It just depended on how much that shop charged for the item.
3. Don’t Get Wrapped Up in the Excitement of Haggling
Or do! If that’s your thing. It can kinda feel like gambling, going back and forth on a price and seeing how much you can get it for.
I’ve definitely seen some people be more into the fun of trying to “get a sale” than the item itself.
4. Not Every Price is Negotiable
Even in Egypt and Morocco, if something has a sticker price on it you probably shouldn’t try to haggle unless the shop seller starts off it off by offering you a lower price.
5. Just Pay What You Want to Pay
When you’re shopping in the markets there are usually lots of the same (or very similar) items.
On my first trip to North Africa, I was trying to shop and the sellers kept telling me something was worth hundreds of dollars because it was an antique that belonged to a Berber princess (🙄).
It’s not worth it to argue with these guys. There are a ton of similar items at the stall next door, so don’t be pressured into spending tons of cash on a “rare” or antique item.
Why You Should Never Shop With a Guide
Sigh. Just don’t. I took a lot more organized tours in Egypt than I usually do because I was with my friends, and it always grinds my gears the wrong way when you pay for a private tour to a certain historical site and they take you to various gift shops selling way overpriced goods.
You’d think that if you’re paying a guide to help you do the haggling, you’d get a good deal but it’s almost always the opposite.
Instead, your guide is taking you somewhere they’ll get a fat commission for everything you buy, all the while the guide is saying “That’s a great price!”.
If you like your guide, tip them! But don’t encourage this! Shopping alone and bartering, unless you’re going with a close friend, will almost always get you a better deal and help you get higher-quality stuff.
Market and Souk Tours I Would Recommend
While I would never recommend buying things with a guide, in some locations like the souks of Marrakech, it’s a lot easier to get around the markets with a guide.
This is because there’s a lot of harassment in the markets and if you have a guide with you, the vendors leave you alone (for the most part).
If you’d like to do some relaxing window shopping or get taken to all the best market stalls I would highly recommend touring the souks with a guide first, and then coming back and doing your shopping later.
The markets are an experience all in themselves I would recommend to any tourist – even if you don’t have room in your bag to buy something!
Here are some fantastic guided tours of the markets:
👉 Click here to book a private guided tour of the souks in Marrakech.
👉 If you’re visiting Cairo, I recommend this guided tour of Khan el Khalili Bazaar.
A Story About the Fake “Museum” Scam We Fell for In Egypt
We were looking at the little carved Pharaohs and scarab beetles when the stall owner took us to the back of his store and opened up a hidden panel – he proudly proclaimed “This is my museum!” and took out a bunch of very very very dirty trinkets.
I think the idea was the dirt would make them look more ancient, and it kinda did: there were Roman coins, carved lapis lazuli pendants, and Egyptian-looking statuettes.
I wish I had photos of this but my SIM card became corrupted and I lost a lot of footage from that day. The items did look old, just not as old as he was saying they were.
He was taking each item out of the back and saying “Very rare – Roman coin, a statue of Horus, and this – this is the Egyptian goddess Isis” as he held up a wrought metal statuette.
He was presenting all of these things as genuine and our guide was just sitting there and letting him do it, but the “Roman coins” in no way looked 2,000 years old so I asked him if these were genuine items.
Abashedly, he said no – they were replica Roman coins, and then he acted like I was the goofy one for thinking they could ever be genuine.
He said something like “The real thing??? That would be in a museum! Do you think I’m a thief? a tomb raider? No! These are genuine replicas.” *eye roll*.
The one thing he did have that was pretty cool was the statuette of Isis, which looked older than the other items, and was (allegedly) from the 1800s. It was still a replica of an ancient Egyptian artifact but at least it was an antique.
My friends know how I feel about shopping with guides, and I didn’t want to be a buzzkill if they really liked something, so I just told them I thought this guy was a scammer and left it at that.
One of my friends was roped into a sale of a Lapis Lazuli Eye of Horus pendant. The shopkeeper was saying over and over again how Lapis Lazuli was a precious stone, and valuable like gold. My friend wound up paying something like $20 for the little charm.
As we were getting in the car she was admiring the stone and said something like “It’s real, I could sell this! He said it was like gold”.
I said earlier I didn’t want to be a buzzkill – but I’m a bit over-traveled and jaded at this point so I broke it to her that Lapis Lazuli is like $1 per carat, while gold is worth 60x that amount (!!!) so the shopkeeper was just lying through his teeth.
I had googled it while I waited for them to finish shopping. She said she didn’t care and that she liked it anyway.
This is definitely the attitude you should take when shopping for items, especially in Egypt because there are a lot of scammers like the one who sold her the charm!
Short Packing list for Morocco & Egypt
- Sunglasses (so you don’t make eye contact with touts on the street!)
- Water Purifier so you can drink the tap water anywhere
- Travel Pillow for all of those long bus and train rides
- Portable Charger so you’re never without Google Maps!
- Face Wrap/Headband for keeping your hair back and covering your mouth if you’re stuck in a sandstorm
- A Travel Adaptor: I originally bought this exact adaptor for my first trip to Morocco in 2019 and it’s still going strong with 3 years of nearly daily use.
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