Haggling on Tamarindo’s Beach
I think I’m too nice. And I think I just don’t like telling people no. I like to be liked.
All of these attributes are no use in haggling. So, I’ve had to learn my way.
Tamarindo, located on the far eastern side of Costa Rica, is fairly developed compared to some other parts of the country. The beaches are beautiful, and the people are so very kind.
The first day at the beach we were hit with tons of beach vendors looking to make a buck. On the main strip are tons of shops, restaurants and tour kiosks. These businesses didn’t call for tourists to come spend money (I’m sure they are the tourists first stop).
The vendors on the beach were the ones who solicited – heavy.
Surf board lessons at tour/excursion stores were about $35/45 per person and up. Random guys on the beach kept trying to pull us in for lessons a little bit cheaper. If we said no to the lessons the next thing they asked us is if we’d want to buy some weed (among other drugs).
There is no shortage on the ganga in Tamarindo or the chill vibes, reggae music, and Costa Rican surfer dread heads to match. The locals of Tamarindo really put their on touch on the “surfer beach town” aesthetic.
Other vendors sought to sell coconuts, drinks, hammocks, strange whistle things, jewelry, just about everything.
The funny thing is tons of vendors are all selling some of the same exact things – others with better quality.
My haggling mishap happened with the jewelry vendor.
We were already 3 days into our road trip by the time we made it to Tamarindo and I hadn’t gotten my parents anything.
After passing the more established vendors with kiosks on the main strip I noticed how expensive the prices were. After all, it is a pretty touristy destination.
I saw the beach vendors as my best bet.
So, there I was. Sitting on a beach chair under the umbrella enjoying the Pacific ocean view with the mountains in the distance and a lady approaches me with a shit ton of necklaces and bracelets. There was a good chance to score something nice to take back home.
Once you show these vendors even a little bit of interest they try to hook you. On the flip side, once you say no and show no interest they don’t pester you. They respect it.
I guess she caught me. To be fair, she had some nice pieces. Knowing I wasn’t from the area she tried to jack the prices up on me crazy high.
I may be nice but I’m not stupid.
25,000 colones ($41 USD) for two necklaces and a bracelet that probably cost her hardly anything to make and had in her inventory for who knows how long? Granted it didn’t take her (or whoever actually made it) 10 seconds to craft it, but I’m no chump.
Even the established kiosk vendors had some cheaper prices than that.
Knowing it’s a rip off I should’ve been offended. I quickly took to my cellphone to do some currency conversions while she tried to sell me more stuff.
“You like this one?”
“Yeah, nice, pretty – bonita, gracias” as I click through my phone weighing out different prices in my head and figuring out what number I was about to throw out to the women.
I was sitting there wondering, “Should I meet her kinda halfway – 10,000 – nah, she really tried to play me, I needa go lower… is that rude though?
I found the price that I wanted (and thought the items were fairly worth it. The haggling began.
Ok, to be honest, I am still not the best haggler.
I told her the price I wanted straight out of the gate.
A better method is to go even lower than the price you actually want. More of a “shoot for the stars and land on the moon” sort of approach.” I really feel like the locals would think of me as an asshole American if I go too low (Americans already got a bad rep). But it’s a thought I’m sure I’ll grow past the more I have to actually haggle.
I didn’t care to go back and forth much though. Give me my price or don’t. At the end of the day there were tons of other vendors on the beach that would if she didn’t.
She tried to pay hard ball – even butter me up with a sob story:
“This is my job, chica”
I respect the hustle. Still doesn’t mean I’ll allow myself to get ripped off in the process. I offer 7,000 colones ($11). I saw at a kiosk where they offered three items for $10. I thought my wager was fair.
She pressed me for more, insisting that one necklace alone (the one I had eyes on for my mom) was priced at 20,000. She insisted 25,000 for all three were fair.
I stuck to my number no matter what.
She declined. She got up and left.
I continued to sit and enjoy the view, a little disappointed thinking about how much my mom would’ve loved that necklace. It was exceptionally nicer than the others. Just not 20,000 colones nice…
Ready to partake in an adventure we left our beach chairs to find an excursion.
On our way off of the beach the lady stopped me.
7,000 colones it was.
Later that day, we found our adventure. We haggled for a $20 horseride through the town and beaches (I didn’t secure that price though – above my haggling levels right now maybe).