Many years ago, Ubud was a laid back place where travelers spent weeks on end, soaking up the beauty of Balinese culture and finding inspiration in the lush and tranquil rice-terraced countryside. And it still is! But… along came a book called “Eat Pray Love” which put Ubud on the beaten path and reduced the town’s once authentic down to earth nature and vibe. Nowadays, shop keepers on Jalan Hanoman, Monkey Forest Road and Jalan Raya Ubud are inundated with the buying power of day trip bus tours and women of a certain age trying to imitate a feeling they once read in an Oprah’s book club offering. While there are still “deals” to be found on many of Ubud’s quality and culturally significant souvenirs and keepsakes, it takes a keen and shrewd shopper to realize what is a good price and what is a good price in Bali. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of tips to give you an edge when shopping in Ubud.
1. Shop around, shop around, shop around
It can almost be guaranteed that whatever you have your eye set on, no matter the location, there is another shop within a 5-10 minute walk that has the exact same item at a completely different pricing scheme. Never buy an item the first time you see it. Shopkeepers have different selling strategies and it never hurts to see what their final offer is before walking out.
1a. Walk away
These first two tips go hand in hand. Just the simple action of walking away can often push a vendor off “their price” and closer to “your price”. Regardless, walking away is necessary for you to be able to see what the next store is offering.
2. Go to the wholesaler’s street
Traveling east along Jalan Raya Ubud, head towards the large statue of the archer and make a left at the round about (where the archer is). This street is the wholesalers’ street, and there are kilometres of shops selling everything available on the main streets at a fraction of the price. Here you will find items starting at 1/3 to 1/2 the price on Jalan Hanoman or Monkey Forest Road, and there is still some wiggle room for negotiation, especially if you are buying multiples of an item. Shopkeepers here also tend to be friendlier (at least in our experience).
3. Know where to start, price wise
If you are shopping downtown, your first offer should be 1/3 of the price they tell you, with the final goal being around 1/2. If they are unwilling to budge, don’t worry; there are other shops with the same stuff. If you are on the wholesaler’s street, you should offer about 60-70% of their initial price, but occasionally the price they offer will be pretty close to the final price, unless you are buying in bulk.
4. Buying silver? Don’t tell!
If you are interested in buying items made of silver while in Bali, then you will most likely be heading to Celuk, a small town just outside of Ubud. We strongly recommend that you do not tell anyone that Celuk is your destination, as you will find yourself hounded by people telling you they “know the best shops” or something of the ilk. Anyone who takes you to a shop will be making a commission off your purchase, which will directly affect the prices you are offered. While getting directions to Celuk may be necessary, be prepared; Arienne and I were stalked by the man who we asked directions from. He would not leave us alone, despite us saying we were not interested in his “services”. I should also mention that the area is like a shark pool, once there is blood in the water, everyone will be looking for a “bite” out of your silver purchasing action.
5. Bargain, but be courteous
While tourism has resulted in a commercial turn for parts of Bali, the island as a whole still remains a beautiful and spiritual place. The Balinese are wonderful people whose culture is being diluted by foreign influence. While everyone wants to get the best price possible, it is important to remember to show respect at all times, even if you aren’t getting the “deal” you want. It is much better to simply say “no thank you” than to make a souvenir purchase some sort of personal pissing match.
5a. Keep it in perspective
Try to remember the value that you may be haggling over. While a few thousand rupiahs may seem like a large number, it equates to mere cents in western currencies. If the item you are purchasing costs more than a couple of dollars (20,000 rupiahs), don’t argue over 2 or 3 thousand rupiahs here or there. In general, try to maintain perspective. The same goes for if you are buying something over 200,000 rupiahs, try not to argue over 10,000. In the moment, it may seem like a deal clincher to you, but when you get home it won’t really have made much of a difference. In Bali, in does.
Do you have any additional tips for shopping in Ubud? Leave them in the comments section below!