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Bargaining in Mexico? It’s fun! Here’s how to haggle like a pro

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

Necklaces! Bracelets! Cheap Mexican junk!

The cries of the beach vendors are as characteristic of Cabo San Lucas as the sun, sand and sea.

Day in and day out, you see the same good-natured men and women, dressed in white pants and shirts, traipsing along the sand, loaded down with their wares.

And bargaining in Mexico is the name of the game if you want to buy and take a souvenir home.

Bargaining in Mexico is common on the beach if you want to buy from a beach vendor.
A Mexican beach vendor with beach wraps for sale

You may not be comfortable.

But it’s worth learning how to bargain.

Bargaining in Mexico - beach vendor
Want a hat? You’ll have to bargain for it…

Just as haggling in Mexico is common, bartering is a way of life in other places around the world where you might also travel – like Thailand, Myanmar and elsewhere in Asia.

Bargaining in Mexico on the beach

Cabo isn’t the only Mexican resort destination where shopping (and bargaining) is done on the beach.

Puerto Vallarta is another. Add Cancun and the Riviera Maya to the list too.

But not in Ixtapa – the state of Guerrero has banned vendors from the beaches there (vendors can only sell in tourist markets).

Hey, here’s how to choose between 2 top places: Cabo vs Cancun – which is the best place for your holiday?

They’re waiting for you on Medano Beach :-)

In Cabo San Lucas, most of the vendors ply Medano Beach, one of the best beaches in Cabo.

(A few try their luck on the Corridor beaches in front of the major resorts; you rarely see a vendor on beaches on the Pacific side.)

There’s lots of shopping in Cabo San Lucas on the beach… 

Silver jewelry. Sun dresses, T-shirts, and sunglasses.

Sombreros and cowboy hats. Colorful Mexican blankets.

Temporary tattoos and hair braiding services.

Decorative ceramic plates. Polished wood carvings of marlin and even bears.

You name it, they sell it!

We’ve bargained for colorful Mexican blankets like these

At Los Muertos Beach – Puerto Vallarta’s busiest and most popular stretch of sand –  vendors also sell food, like barbecued shrimp-on-a-stick and donuts.

Recommended reading: Go for a seaside walk and check out the beautiful sculptures on the Puerto Vallarta Malecon

Haggling in Mexico: How to say “no”

Mexican beach vendors
A beach vendor in Cabo San Lucas hawks ceramic plates

If you’re not interested in what the Mexican beach vendors offer, simply say “No thank-you” or shake your head, and they’ll move on.

Tip:

In Cabo, many resorts and bars on Medano Beach have roped-off areas for guests, where passing vendors can’t cross.

Pick a spot behind the rope if you don’t want to be bothered.

The vendors in Cancun are pretty low-pressure.

How to bargain in Mexico like a pro

Tips for Bargaining in Mexico
The ceramic plates make nice souvenirs – but they’re a little bulky to put in your suitcase!

But if you’re keen and want to take a closer look, the vendor who’s caught your eye will spread their goods out on a blanket on the sand, or display their silver jewelry in an open suitcase propped up on a little stand.

Then the bargaining begins.

Remember, the vendor is happy to bargain with you. They want you to engage with them, and the bargaining should be fun.

You could start with offering half of the asking price.

But the vendor might act offended. For sure, they will say no and come back at you with something higher than your offer, but lower than their first ask.

One of the best bargaining tips?

Start to walk away. You’ll find out pretty quickly how low the vendor will go.

Ceramic plates for sale in a Mexican market

Expect in the end to pay about 30% less than the top asking price. If you’re tough, you might even get away with a 50% discount.

But it’s not all about squeezing the last peso out of the vendor, right?

In this delightful story on “How to Bag a Bargain in Mexico,” travel writer Marie Javins was even prepared to pay full price for a hand-embroidered Otomi textile in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende – but was bargained down by the grandpa who had sewn it.

Tourism is what makes Mexico’s resort destinations tick, and bargaining in Mexico and selling wares is how vendors make their living.

shopping in Mexico
Don’t expect to bargain down jewelry in a store (bargaining in Mexico is typically common only on beaches and in markets)

The bargaining should be fair

The current exchange rate is about 21 pesos for one U.S. dollar or 16 pesos for one Canadian dollar. (Check the rate at the time you go.)

Vendors take U.S. dollars. But you’re usually better off to pay in pesos.

Bottom line?

If you’re happy with the price, it’s a good deal. And you’ll take home a nice little memory of your Mexico vacation.

Shopping in Cabo San Lucas on the beach

Oh, the stuff we’ve bought!

Carved wooden bears:

Yes, George has bought bears, even though we don’t believe Mexico is home to bears. George couldn’t resist, since black bears often wandered down from the mountains and roamed around our old Vancouver neighborhood.

Silver bracelets, earrings and ankle bracelets:

Buying silver in Mexico is a bit tricky on the beach – but we’ve bought lots of it! Only one bracelet has ever broken; unfortunately that was a gift to Janice’s best friend, so we promptly had to buy her friend another on our subsequent trip to Cabo.

T-shirts:

We’re walking advertisements in the gym with our “Cabo!” T-shirts.

Mexican blankets:

One fell apart in the washing machine, but we still use three others as throws in the house (good for snuggling in when watching TV).

Ceramic plates:

We had to lighten the load of one of the vendors pictured here :-).

Beach wraps:

Great for covering up, they also double as tablecloths when we go on picnics.

Do you like bargaining in Mexico?

What have you bought?

Experience more of Mexico!

Read our posts on:

Cabo San Lucas | From whale watching to hiking up the Pedregal, check out these 25 epic things to do in Los Cabos.

Zihuatanejo | Want a great beach vacay? See the best beaches in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.

Mexico City | Fabulous museums. Gorgeous art. A rich historical center. There are oodles of cultural things to do in Mexico City.

Puerto Vallarta | Where to stay? You’ll love these beautiful boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta.


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Bargaining in Mexico

Photo credits: © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except #1)


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Alyssa Heberlig

Tuesday 13th of March 2018

This is a good post. This is something a lot of tourists don't know how to do because it is not a thing in the United States, however it is normal in a lot of Spanish speaking countries. The unfortunate thing is that if a native sees that you are a tourist, there is a big chance that you are going to get a high asking price for what you are trying to buy.

Janice and George

Wednesday 14th of March 2018

You're right, Alyssa, most tourists are going to pay more than locals. It helps that tourists are usually okay with this; they earn more than locals and have more spending money - and they're still paying less than what it would cost to buy the item back home in the U.S. or Canada :-). Thanks for chiming in!

Cheryl

Friday 2nd of March 2018

This is so helpful! I haven’t been to any of these destinations yet but they’re on my list. I love the items in your photos too so I’ll definitely need the bargaining info. Thank you for the helpful tips. I also love the way this shares a way of life and keeps it alive.

Janice and George

Friday 2nd of March 2018

If you haven't bargained before, it can be a bit awkward :-). And you'll love the Mexican beach destinations mentioned here...

Silviya

Monday 19th of February 2018

I really enjoy reading this article. Unfortunately I've never been so good at bargaining although I live on the Balkans - in Bulgaria, to be more precise. But I enjoy watching my friends doing it. You have to be clever and to think faster than the trader. It's funny.

Janice and George

Monday 19th of February 2018

Thanks for sharing what it's like in the Balkans! Bargaining is a bit strange for us Canadians too, because we're not used to it. Shopping is all "fixed price" -- unless you go to a garage sale at someone's house :-).

Agness

Monday 12th of February 2018

These are some excellent tips on bargaining on the beach everywhere in the world, not only in Mexico. Very enlightening and informative post, Janice and George!

Janice and George

Tuesday 13th of February 2018

Thanks Agness!

Julie

Thursday 28th of November 2013

Love this! I used to go to Mexico with my family as a child, and my parents always told me to bargain at the markets!

Janice and George

Thursday 28th of November 2013

It's quite fun too, once you get used to the idea. The only problem is when you return home and ask a store if they can offer a discount or a better price, they look at you strangely.