Timbuktu Stories and Tips

Camel Riding, Crafts, and Haggling

Want a camel ride? Photo, Timbuktu, Mali

Just about anywhere you go in Mali, you'll find people who know people who have a camel or who are musicians or "silversmiths" or whatever. Basically, they're selling something, and you'll have no trouble finding a souvenir trinket or experience. In fact, the only trouble you'll have is figuring out how to haggle properly.

Malians have a "three stage" method of haggling. The first price you're given is never supposed to be the right one. You counter with your incredibly low price (figure about 25% of what you really want to pay). They'll scoff and tell you that they have a family to feed, etc., and then they'll start again.

You counter their second offer with about 50% to 75% of what you want to pay, and then they'll freak out, saying that there's no way they can sell it to you for that little.

Round three begins with their third price barely creeping much lower, but you offer 100% of what you're willing to pay. They'll complain that you're ripping them off and refuse to sell... until you get up to leave, then they'll gladly sell you the item/service. Once you figure, "Hey, I got a GREAT deal on this," you'll find that they now have lots more stuff to sell you, and that your "deal" ended up being more of a deal for THEM than it was for YOU. But that's the fun of haggling. You can afford paying a little more for the trinkets, and when you consider how much they actually make in a year, you don't feel all that bad about getting "ripped off" for an extra $2.

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