Home Expat Blogs Price Haggling at the Tianguis in Mexico

Price Haggling at the Tianguis in Mexico

Tianguis buying and selling in Ajijic, Mexico
Credit: David Huff

Hola to all of you Expats In Mexico readers and bienvenidos to my new blog. After living in Ajijic along the northern shore of Lake Chapala for over a decade and thoroughly enjoying price haggling at the tiangis here, I would like to kick off my new blog with my perspective on how to bargain at the local markets in Mexico.

There is so much fun price haggling in Mexico. I don’t use these or my other successful techniques at big store retailers, but then we shop most often at the local tianguis, or street markets, here at lakeside. Each village has a tianguis on one day of each week. Experience has taught me there is, on average, 10 percent play in the price of most every product displayed. I find that a facial image of vague interest goes a long way. You must not look over-enthused, which is something you really must have. My conscience also tells me these smaller vendors are trying to make a living to support their families, so trying to get a discount greater than 10 percent is, in a way, offensive. I believe you must respect the time and labor sellers put into their products.

It’s an obvious fact, also, that vendors see “gringos” coming and suspect they have money to spend, so very likely there is a “Mexican price” and a “Gringo price” a bit higher. A little Spanish, rather than English, also goes a long way in haggling success at your local tianguis. A simple por favor with a wink of an eye often helps. If they persist in offering no discount, just raise your hands in a bit of frustration, say gracias and start to leave. It will most likely break their resistance as you begin to walk away. You most likely will hear them shout a discounted price or they will come after you to bring you back to their stall for a sale. Better to have a few less pesos in their pockets than to have to re-pack all of their goods and carry home unsold items.

There are vendors at the Monday tianguis in Chapala who also set up on Wednesday for the Ajijic tianguis. I have found that Monday prices from vendors in Chapala are often higher in Ajijic on Wednesday, mainly because Ajijic has more expat residents and shoppers. Shopping at the same vendor stalls each week also helps. You are recognized as a regular and, though price might not always be discounted, you will likely see a bit more in your bag. That’s one form of discount received by good, regular customers.

Most vendors in Mexico expect a bit of haggling over price…it’s a Mexican tradition! To see an expat haggle in Spanish at a local tianguis is a novel experience, but something you should be prepared to do if you want the best price at your local market. To Mexican market vendors, haggling a better price makes you seem like one their own because even if your Spanish vocabulary is a bit limited, you are trying to use their language. It tells them that you respect them and their country’s culture, but most importantly, it lets them know that you know how the game is played.