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How to bargain at local market?

My Magazine 2022/07
5 min
Join us on tour through the Serekunda market. Go shopping in a relaxed mood, be patient and take time to bargain.

Serekunda market is a traditional market where locals from the nearby communities meet to trade goods in a community-like atmosphere that offers a glimpse into Gambian culture.

Known for being one of the oldest markets in The Gambia, the Serekunda market has become a profound cultural destination that sits proudly at the top of the list of places to visit, making it a memorable stop for travellers.

The market continues to be home to an array of local produce and products such as fruits and vegetables, Gambian spices, nuts, herbs, oils, fisheries, as well as other goods such as clothing, footwear, household supplies, phones, and so much more.

The market is more than just a place to shop but also a place for the locals to meet. Women and men go to the market regularly as they can find there almost everything they need. And it is part of a daily routine for women who go to the market nearly every day to buy fresh ingredients for their daily lunch. If you are in The Gambia before any festive period, you will experience a big crowd in all the markets.

It is also a place where you can enjoy observing happening at the market. Vendors are using different strategies to sell their products and ways to display them. There is music playing in some shops behind stalls, people passing with megaphones inviting people to buy from them, vendors with wheelbarrows full of products rushing through the narrow streets, some are holding all their products in their hands or on their heads, trying to earn daily income. You can also find vendors displaying shoes, second-hand clothes or other goods on a piece of fabric on the floor.

Do not hesitate to spark conversation with the friendly locals; they are an absolute joy to deal with.

The Gambia has several street markets where you can find anything from food to clothes. If you really want to experience daily life, you should visit some. It can sometimes be an overwhelming experience, especially if you find yourself amongst a big crowd and you are looking for your last atoms of patience to find your way out of the place. We recommend taking a local guide or a Gambian friend along with you for a more carefree experience.

Apart from numerous tiny markets, there are some worth mentioning and exploring. First is the oldest market in The Gambia; Albert market in Banjul; next is the must-see Serekunda market, two of the most known fish markets at Bakau and Tanji, Craft Markets in Bakau, Senegambia, Cape Point, Fajara, Kotu and Brikama, livestock market in Brikama, Barra market, and Farafenni Lumo (country market). 

Craft markets are places where you can find a good range of local crafts, including quality batik clothing, jewellery and beads, handmade leather shoes and bags.


Why should you visit local markets?

  • It is a great way to discover the daily life of Gambians; anywhere busy is good, but at a local food market, you have the chance to watch people going about their everyday lives, to see what they eat, how they dress and how they relate to each other.
  • Buying there means you will directly support vendors and farmers.
  • You will be able to enjoy a colourful and busy atmosphere.
  • It is a good way to practice your negotiation skills.
  • You will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables which you might see for the first time.
  • Shopping is one of your best chances to chat, learn about the culture and practice one of the local languages;
  • Whether you are an aspiring or professional photographer, the local markets are a great place to catch candid portraits but always, always ask permission before taking someone's photo.


Get ready for bargaining!

Barging is a part of the Gambian trading culture. Vendors will not be surprised if you will start the game of barging, but you should always do it with respect and patience. If you give the person at the end a little more than they finally asked, they will feel happy. It would help if you also kept in mind that many vendors live from hand to mouth, which means that your purchase can directly impact the daily income of families.

Here are some tips for bargaining:

  1. Do not bargain for something you are not ready to buy.
  2. Check through the market first.
  3. Do not show excitement about a product you like because prices may shoot up.
  4. When you decide on an item, think of a price you are willing to pay (in mind and your currency).
  5. Prepare for the bidding battle quietly.
  6. Be confident and respectful.
  7. Plan to meet halfway. But if you feel the starting offer is way overpriced, offer less.
  8. Negotiate a price that works the best for both of you.
  9. Be ready for the reaction. Always. The vendor might exaggerate as if you've offered a completely unfair price but don't be taken back; that's part of the trade.
  10. You can also exaggerate when a vendor offers the first price. It is part of the trade.
  11. Think about the product's value, how much time one spent to make it, which material the item is made from, and how much it costs in your currency (and what it means to you).
  12. If you feel your offer was unfair, consider it and offer a bit more. Don't forget vendors make a living out of it. And competition is tough!
  13. If the seller gives you a price you don't want, walk away. Some may offer you a lower price when you start taking those steps farther from the shop.
  14. If you really like an item, buy it. Please don't walk away because it was a few €/ £ /$ more than you wanted to pay.
  15. Even if someone else paid a bit less, if it offers significant value to you, you should be satisfied with your purchase.
  16. You're a traveller with an amazing opportunity to explore the country. On the other hand, some of the vendors might be struggling to make ends meet. Offer fair pricing; don't get caught up over a few cents.

Enjoy shopping, experience daily life and take home fabulous products from The Gambia.

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