For better or worse, the only items we truly negotiate for in the United States are our homes, vehicles and salaries. Rarely do you see negotiation for items otherwise. Since I haven’t needed to hone my negotiation skills in my home country, entering a negotiation heavy country like Egypt is exciting and a bit nerve-wracking to make sure I don’t get swindled when picking up fun souvenirs or investment pieces like rugs.

We used Memphis Tours to help take us around Egypt and we were taken to many ministry of tourism authorized shops that guarantee authenticity of items. One thing you have to know about Egyptians, is that they are natural salespeople. There is a hospitality tradition and they serve juice, coffee, tea every time you enter a shop and they also do an excellent job at cross promotion. Our guide may have gotten kickbacks from taking us to her friends’ shops, and you can tell they all know one another very well on the tourism circuit.

That said, our guide was able to give us recommendations on how to negotiate and here are my takeaways:

Know how and where it is made

Machine made versus handmade will command two very different price ranges. Handmade items will have less negotiation power and a higher price tag given the time and materials that went into that item. On the flip side, machine made replicas will likely be from China, will have typically lower quality, and have much more room for negotiation.

Start with 75% off asking

Many artisans and shops outside of major tourist sites will sell their knick knacks, keychains and smaller souvenirs. Plan to start with 25% of the asking price, or 75% off. You may also be able to bundle a few items for an overall lower price tag. Often shop owners will convince you to buy more for a discount rather than taking a discount on a single item. Depending on what you want, it would benefit you to patronize one seller for multiple items to get the largest discount.

Landing at 50% off is a good deal for everyone

When starting with 25% of asking, shop owners are typically trying to get you to 50% off or less. Their wholesale cost is likely in the 20-40% range, and you may have to walk away if the shop owner is holding their line at nearly full price. Shop owners plan to negotiate so landing somewhere in the 50% off range is where they are willing to land more often than not.

Define the currency of negotiation

Some shop owners you may negotiate a price and at the very end he will say “I meant Euros!” and negotiation will start all over again. Confirm the exchange rate before your trip and be sure to say the currency when suggesting a price.


One of the more interesting shop experiences our friend had was when she bought her gold cartouche. They were negotiating down the price when the shop owner noticed her Apple watch. What was a negotiation on price turned into a bartering situation. It was an older model of Apple Watch and the shop owner wanted to get one for his son’s birthday and they didn’t have access to Apple Watches in Egypt. Knowing she couldn’t get more than $50-80 USD if she tried to resell in the US, she opted for a heavy discount (~$200) on the gold necklace and both her and the shop owner were thrilled!

Do you have any negotiation tips you’ve picked up in other countries? Now that you’re ready to negotiate, check out the article on unique Egyptian souvenirs.

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Posted by:Allie

5 replies on “How to Negotiate in Egypt

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