Jerusalem is called the Holy City and City of Gold for a reason. It mesmerizes you with unforgettable rich historical and religious sites that will make you wonder whether you are truly there or inside a travel magazine. Seeing the Western Wall, Ramparts Wall, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and Temple Mount can be surreal for first-time visitors. With so many attractions that are unique in the world, it is a wonder why people still spend plenty of time and exert a lot of effort to go shopping in Jerusalem. Is it worth it?
For avid shoppers, shopping is always worth it anywhere, anytime. For tourists, shopping is one of the best ways to really understand and appreciate a city, and for tourists in Jerusalem, shopping is a chance to learn the art of haggling and to take home amazing souvenir items.
Jerusalem’s Old City market has rows and rows of shopping opportunities where you can try your hand at bargaining with the locals. There are so many unique and beautiful souvenir items that you will surely want to take home: jewelry, clothes, fabric, spices, trinkets, household items, statues, and so on. Buying any of them is quite a catch, but the experience of buying is worth being told over and over.
When haggling in and around the Old City, understand that you are at a disadvantage since your skin color gives away your unfamiliarity with the place, items and popular price. Locals share a common assumption that all international tourists have pockets full of money as they go about walking the streets and entering the markets, which is why market vendors will try to make a kill every time a foreigner attempts to buy from them. The first thing you should do, therefore, is level the playing field.
Do a little research about the products and popular prices. Ask around. Ask your Israeli friend or your hotel concierge. They know what’s to be found in the market and how much they usually or should cost.
After you’ve equipped yourself with basic knowledge on items and prices, negotiate in confidence. Never settle for the first price. Vendors anticipate the haggling and, therefore, throw a pretty high first price on you to cushion the bargaining that’s about to happen. Bargaining is expected, so play along and play well.
Put on your best poker face. Don’t ever show how much you are interested to purchasing a certain item. The leverage for customers is the fact that the vendors have to make a sale. If they feel that you will buy an item no matter how costly it is, then they’ve won.
Pretend that you’re not really interested in buying something. If they refuse to go down to your price, motion as though you are leaving and that they’re losing a potential sale. It is at this time that vendors normally offer the lowest price possible. They have to make a sale. Then, game over; you win.
Often the final price is a middle ground. For instance if the first price was $100 and your first counter is $50, almost always the final price will turn out to be $75. In other words, you should be doing mental math as you try to reach a desired price. Don’t be surprised, by the way, if after closing the deal the vendor offers you a cup of tea and asks that you drink with him. This makes shopping in Jerusalem truly worth it. You’ve got your souvenir item and won a friend at the same time.