Haggling is an art. Here are six tips to ensure successful negotiations in Marrakech:
Beware the mint tea: Tempting though the shopkeeper's mint tea may be, accept his offer at your peril (unless you're with a guide). Once seated inside with the door shut, you may find it difficult to leave after your tea is finished — at least until you've bought something.
A guide may be your best bargain: There's no better way to learn how to haggle than with a local guide, who will deflect unwanted attention, take you to less touristy parts of the medina and may be able to advise you on prices. You also can take a souk tour from a reputable company, but remember that you may be steered to shops that offer that company a kickback.
Have a poker face? Wear it: Though you may feel bad about responding coldly to a shopkeeper's greeting, anything more than a polite reply may make him think you're easy pickings. Stay cool, which may make him more likely to back off while you choose.
Set a mental price beforehand: Settle on a mental price before you begin haggling, then don't budge. The local sellers are experienced businessmen and will put plenty of pressure on you. Be prepared to walk away unless they agree to your figure.
Be firm but not rude: If you're not interested in a product or someone's offer of help, say no, be firm and don't hesitate. Don't be rude, but softness can be construed as weakness, in which case you might find it hard to shake the salesman.
Avoid buyer's remorse: After the transaction is complete, don't think about whether you've paid too much. The transaction is over and done. If the seller has agreed to your mental price, everyone's a winner. Relax and enjoy.
If you go
THE BEST WAY TO MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
From LAX, British, KLM, Lufthansa, American, Tahiti Nui, Air France, Virgin America and United offer connecting service (change of planes) to Marrakech. Restricted round-trip fares from $880 to $1,524, including taxes and fees.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 212 (country code for Morocco) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY
Riad Joya, Hay Mouassine, 26-27 Derb el Hammam; 524-391624, http://www.riadjoya.com. For a truly boutique experience, stay in this beautiful seven-suite riad, a tranquil retreat in the heart of the city. Rooms start at $200.
La Mamounia, Avenue Bab Jdid, Marrakech; 524-388600, http://www.mamounia.com. A palace of indulgence, and for many years the most luxurious and fashionable place to stay in Marrakech. Nearly a century old, its lush gardens and Moorish rooms have been graced by Winston Churchill and many famous people. Rooms start at about $500.
Hostel Riad Marrakech Rouge, Riad Rue Zitoun el Jdid, Marrakech; 670-760149, http://www.marrakechrouge.com. This friendly hostel in the heart of the ancient medina is ideal for hip twenty- and thirtysomethings on a budget. Relax among plush cushions in the main courtyard and share mint tea with other guests. Doubles start at less than $35.
WHERE TO EAT
Chez Chegrouni, 46 Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech. Chez Chegrouni is set back from the action of Djemaa el-Fna, allowing visitors to enjoy the bustle at a distance. The food is superb.
Le Tobsil, 22 Derb Abdellah Ben Hessaien, Marrakech; 524-444052. Perhaps the finest dining in Marrakech, where traditional Moroccan cuisine is masterfully prepared and served in a candlelight setting fit for a prince.
Toubkal, 48 Place Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech. It's one of the least expensive restaurants on Djemaa el-Fna, but its potent tagines are as good as any in the city.
TO LEARN MORE
Visit Morocco, Place Abdel Moumen Ben Ali, Gueliz, Marrakech; 524-436179, http://www.visitmorocco.com