May 2, 2024 9 min read

Shopping in Egypt. What's it like to negotiate?

Negotiating the price of a product or service in Egypt, or anywhere else in the world, can bring a certain discomfort to most of us.

egypt camels, shopping, pyramids
Table of Contents

You probably have no idea how to initiate and complete a negotiation process, and this can make you feel awkward. Especially in places where prices are not displayed and you do not know what the starting threshold for bargaining should be.

What's shopping like in Egypt? But especially, what's it like to negotiate?

It's not at all shameful to be inexperienced in negotiating, and I will reveal some tips that will help you get the best price when you want to buy souvenirs, or other products/services in places where bargaining is common.

In some parts of the world, negotiating is absolutely normal. If you travel to countries like Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, China, Indonesia, etc., you should expect to negotiate for what you want to buy. Or at least you should not pay the first price asked.

Rules and Etiquette When Traveling in Egypt
As we well know, the majority of Egyptians are extremely religious people (about 90% of them are Muslims), and most women cover themselves from head to toe.

In other parts of the world, negotiating is no longer a common practice. Therefore, some tips, which I have also acquired over the years, would be useful. And after reading this article, you will surely feel more comfortable and less stressed about bargaining when shopping.

It's been a month since I've been in Egypt for the 11th time, a period during which I've been shopping of all kinds. I'm not always a skilled negotiator, but most of the time I get the desired price.

So, what's it like shopping in Egypt and how do we negotiate for it?

When you go shopping in Egypt or any other parts of the world where bargaining is widely practiced and prices are not displayed, you should first arm yourself with a lot of patience.

Patience is indeed a virtue that not many possess, especially in these times when everything happens at the speed of light. And I admit, most of the time, I completely lack patience.

When is the best time to visit Egypt
Lately, I’ve been receiving more and more questions about traveling to Egypt. And I’m really happy about that because it means people are reading my articles 🙂 On this note, thank you!

In those areas, where commercial practices are not (yet) regulated or are partially regulated, through laws that are also put into practice, the setting of a product/service price remains a matter of mutual agreement. This is actually what negotiation is, that verbal agreement between the seller and the buyer, after which both parties should be satisfied.

Remember!!! In Egypt, almost everything is negotiable!

I'm referring to the market, in the bazaar, in shops where prices are not displayed, with taxis, in many travel agencies (local or not), and even in some hotels or apartment complexes. If you go to a hotel reception and want to rent a room or even several rooms for several nights, you can ask for a discount and most of the time, you will get it.

Both last year and this year, I rented an apartment for almost 3 months. It's located in an apartment complex where both foreign tourists and Egyptians, as well as locals, or people who have settled here for an indefinite period live. And of course, I negotiated the rent price. I thus obtained a total discount of 1300 EGP (about 30$).

Walking Through Alexandria - the Bride of the Mediterranean
These days, all my paths lead to Alexandria. My thoughts are constantly there. The book I’m reading now about Cleopatra – the last queen of Egypt, captivates me with memories of Alexandria.

Remember, before any purchase, make sure you have established a price and do not venture to lower it once you have set it!

Below, I will present a few situations where bargaining is not appropriate:

  • in stores where prices are displayed; also in restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, bargaining is not always appropriate. I've also encountered situations where, at the end, I was offered a modest discount on the bill, but this generally happened where I was a frequent customer. Or in the souvenir shop, if I made a significant purchase, to receive a discount or a product as a gift. But these are special cases and do not involve bargaining.

  • where an offer is displayed, or a service is included, it is not advisable to negotiate further. If you notice that with a bottle of wine ordered, you will get a bonus mineral water, then do not try to negotiate! Or in the case of an optional excursion: if the price includes entry to a particular site or includes lunch, it's clear that there's not much room for bargaining; I've obtained discounts on excursions often, but there were several of us.

  • also, where prices are very low, it's not worth the effort and the waste of time to haggle. Let's take an example: you meet a street vendor selling bread. The price is very low anyway, about 4 EGP (less than 0.10$). Here it really isn't necessary to negotiate. You will see vendors everywhere selling fruits. Their prices are quite low, although I wouldn't swear (excuse the cacophony) that the seller won't try to ask for a price 2-3 times higher. It's a very common practice everywhere: to ask for a higher price in order to have room to drop.

  • in situations where you have no intention of buying anything. Do not venture into bargaining just for fun! It will only be a waste of time and a lot of unnecessary frustration.

When should you venture into a negotiation and how to do it?

Let’s say you want to buy souvenirs for people back home. A good starting point would be to get some idea of the costs of the products. You can do this by checking them in a store, maybe two, with fixed prices (in Hurghada, I can recommend the Cleopatra stores). Or go through several stores, ask around, get an idea, make an average of the prices, to know roughly how things stand.

When shopping in Egypt, make sure you have enough money in the local currency, Egyptian pounds. Also, it would be good to have smaller denomination bills, like 5, 10, 20 EGP, to avoid situations where you’ll be told there’s no change and you are forced to buy something you didn’t need. It's not ideal at all to go to the bazaar or market with € or $! Yes, you can pay with these, but you will still lose out anyway!

Sunrise and Climbing the Mount Sinai, a Test of Endurance
Whether it will be adrenaline-challenging for you or just a heartfelt pilgrimage, I would be pleased to invite you to explore changing moments and the rough beauty of Mount Sinai through my eyes in this story.

Don’t show the seller how much money you have in your wallet. Try to have small change, placed in different spots, pockets, or compartments of your bag/wallet.

Don’t show your enthusiasm for a product when you enter a shop. The seller will notice that you like it, that you want it, and will take advantage of your enthusiasm. Try to subtly ask how much it costs, look around the store, pretend to leave.

Most likely, seeing that you are leaving without buying anything, the seller will initiate a negotiation process. And they will drop the price a bit, maybe enough to persuade you. Then, see that there’s room, try to push a little.

For example: if you want to buy a galabeya, the seller asks for 400 EGP, try offering 200. Maybe they won’t let it go for 100, but even at 240 it's still a good deal.

Shopping, just like anywhere else, should ultimately be a relaxing activity!
And bargaining should be something fun. You won’t always come out ahead, but at least you try. You will feel where there is room for bargaining.

End Of Season Holiday - Egypt’s Mediterranean Coast
Guests from all over the world come for the tranquil atmosphere and for the services that Egyptians offer in their friendly and smiling way.

Lately, I’ve noticed a tendency among some merchants to no longer be open to negotiating prices. No worries, a few steps away you will find the same product, at a different price, not necessarily lower. In the end, you still need to find what you wanted.

Ultimately, shopping and bargaining should be fun and relaxing! You won’t always come out on top and you will often notice, even after you've negotiated and obtained a lower price for a product, much lower than you were initially told.

Here are a few examples from my recent bargaining experiences

About a week ago I was looking for some shawls. I went through the shops on Sheraton Street. I found some nice models, but guess what? I entered at least 20 shops. In some, I couldn’t find the colors I wanted, in others, they didn’t have the models I was looking for.

It’s certain that although it was more or less the same item, the prices were worlds apart. In some places, they asked for 300 EGP for a shawl, in others 400, 500, or even 600.

At one place, they offered it to me for 120, but something irritated me and I left. Eventually, I bought two for 280 EGP each. About 3 days later, still on Sheraton, I stumbled upon a shop by chance, with hundreds of shawl models and guess what? It had displayed prices, and a shawl cost 200 EGP (4$) … Well…

At the market

When I go through the local fruit and vegetable market in Dahar, I delight in a plethora of colors, aromas, and tastes. A madness of types of exotic fruits, super tasty and moreover, cheap.

There, prices are displayed, but in their Arabic numerals. So, I learned the numbers. Depending on what and how much you want to buy, you might be able to get discounts. People are willing to sell their goods and of course, to haggle with you.

They will be delighted to exchange a few words with you, to find out where you’re from, how many times you’ve visited… Don’t be surprised if everyone speaks to you in Russian!

In the fish market, things are a bit more rigid with bargaining. There are no displayed prices, and merchants are not willing to reduce their asking prices much, especially when they have good and fresh stock.

For example, calamari generally go for about 400 EGP/kg. If you also buy some fish, you might get a price around 340-360 EGP. It depends on what stock they have, how in demand it is, and the time of day. Logically, you should go to the market in the morning. Not in Egypt.

Here, life wakes up at the end of the day when the heat subsides. It's not a rule, but I always go in the afternoon and find that I consistently get fresh goods. Let the seller first tell you what price they want for a product/service!

This way, you will know how much to try to ask for. Don't be shy to ask for half the price or even less. Watch the reaction and gradually increase your offer! Most sellers will start with the highest price. Especially if they sense you are a novice.

In Egypt and elsewhere, you will see bags, shoes, or clothing from famous brands like Gucci, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana everywhere. By no means should you believe they are original! Maybe only the prices asked can resemble those of the original products.

Of course, there are brand stores with real products, but not in the bazaar or exposed at every kiosk on every street. Don’t fall into their trap! Be very careful with taxi drivers!!!

In Egypt, as in our place, taxi drivers are a breed of their own. Make sure the driver understands the destination and that you have agreed on the price. Taxi drivers will not shy away from changing the price on the go, or taking you to some store they know with good prices, or waiting to take you back.

Ever since I discovered Uber, I don't even use regular taxis anymore. The conditions are very good, and the prices are not much higher. Plus, I don't have to haggle anymore. I've always had trouble with taxi drivers. It annoys me that they resort to all sorts of tricks to cheat you.

Thank you for reading and make sure to subscribe. We're constantly exploring new destinations and share our stories, tips, and the beauty we discover along the way.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to The Traveler.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.