Haggling in Spanish: Shopping in Plaza de Armas in Old Havana
While this post will focus on haggling in Spanish, the original motivation behind it was to recommend visiting Plaza de Armas. Plaza de Armas is located in Old Havana (Havana vieja), Cuba. It’s known for its used book market, which is open daily. You’ll find other random treasures there such as antique jewelry and trinkets, souvenirs, vinyl records, and posters, but I was a bookworm on a mission. As soon as I arrived at the plaza, I took a deep breath and smiled as I took in the incredible smell of used books. I promised myself I wouldn’t go too crazy with my spending, and prepared myself for some haggling.
I should note that pretty much all the books sold in Plaza de Armas are in Spanish, so this isn’t the best place for non-Spanish speaking bookworms. However, it’s still worth browsing the market for other items. I made sure that all the haggling in Spanish phrases and tips I have included in this article and on the infographic were universal, so whether you’re shopping in a Cuban market like Plaza de Armas or a flea market in another Spanish speaking country, these phrases will help!
Haggling in Spanish
Instead of asking “Cuánto cuesta?” lead with “Cuánto sale?”
“¿Cuánto cuesta?” translates as “how much does it cost?” It is more formal and makes it sound like the price is set in stone. The more casual “¿Cuánto sale?” translates as “How much does it go for?” which lets the seller know that you’re a little savvier than someone with a phrase book and also interested in making a deal.
Use the conditional tense
The conditional tense in Spanish roughly translates to “would” or “could.” For example, “Aceptarías cinco?” means “Would you accept 5?”
I’ll save you the grammar lesson and give you a basic run down on how to form the conditional. Just take the infinitive verb and add “ías” for the casual Tú (you) form.
¿Tomarias diez por los tres? – Would you take 10 for the 3?
¿Me darías los dos por diez? – Would you give me both for 10?
¿Aceptarías quince? – Would you accept 15?
These phrases bring me to my next tip:
Ask for a volume discount
A lot of sellers will lower prices if you buy several items from them, so take your time and see if the seller has more than one item that interests you.
In Plaza de Armas, I found a seller that had 3 books I wanted. The prices he gave me for each individual book added up to about $30 Cuban CUCs, so I asked, “¿Y si compro los tres, tomarías veinte?” which means “And if I buy the three of them, would you take 20?”
Test out your haggling skills in Plaza de Armas
If you find yourself in Havana Vieja, Cuba, I highly recommend passing by Plaza de Armas to test out your newly acquired haggling skills. The book selection is excellent, but I also found myself tempted by some pretty random but interesting stuff like old maps, antique compasses, handmade jewelry, and vinyl records. If you’re in Havana Vieja, Plaza de Armas is a quick walk from basically anywhere and close to several museums and restaurants so it’s definitely worth stopping by for a quick look.