Should you Bargain When you Retire or Travel in Mexico?

My husband and I were just talking about bargaining with vendors who sell handcrafts in Morelos. He came to an important conclusion that I thought I should add to this section on being conscientious guests in Mexico.

Many tourists believe that they have to bargain with vendors, but my husband has noticed that this bothers most vendors. Most vendors in Morelos (and possibly other places throughout Mexico) now give the going price when asked how much for something. They are not inflating the price in order to give room for bargaining, as we outsiders believe. Bargaining is pretty silly anyway. For many purchases it may be a matter of about $1.00 U.S. or less! Why be “stingy”?

Still, I think that a long time ago I may have read somewhere that I might insult the seller by not bargaining with him/her. This may be old intel. on Mexico, or possibly is true in certain regions of Mexico and not in others. It may be possible that people used to bargain a lot more than they do now because my husband remembers that when we first moved here he used to try to bargain too, but has since stopped instead opting for the price survery (see below). Anyway, we can’t quite figure out where the belief comes from but people from the country north of Mexico think that a Mexican vendor is automatically quoting them an inflated price–and since they have no idea what the going price is for things, they can’t tell if their assumption is correct or not.

However the belief got started, bargaining seems to be less appropriate then outsiders expect. At this point in my experience on Mexico, my personal recommendation to all people who travel or retire in Mexico is that you shouldn’t bargain.

Still, vendors can say any price that they want. Our friends told us that prices are consistently higher in Cabo San Lucas whenever a cruise ship can be seen anchored near the marina. So what do you do in order to know if a price is “fair”? You take a price survey.

How To Conduct a Price Survey So You Can Avoid Bargaining

If you want to purchase a particular type of item you need to know how much it should cost you. That way you can either pay the asking price or not.


“It isn’t everyday that you find a good source of solid, factual information [on getting settled in Mexico] coupled with a wry sense of humor. … [Author Julia Taylor’s] eye for detail covers those aspects of Mexico that make it a charming place for some and an absolutely frustrating one for others, and she does it with a deft hand that is neither condescending nor evasive.”

–Rita Pomade, independent reviewer for

Don’t miss your chance to read this book!

You find this out by asking around about the price of similar items. Stop at shops, point to items like the one you want and ask, “Disculpe. ?Cuánto cuesta este?” Smile. Listen to the price. Keep a straight face, say “gracias,” and gently walk away. Do this at a variety of places. If you have the time you can compare the more touristy areas with others such as the local market. (for example, in Cuernavaca blankets are less expensive at the stands near the food market than they are in near the zocalo–but not substantially so).

Once you have heard enough prices to tell what the price should be, you can return to a vendor of your choice and actually purchase the item.

Conscientious Traveler Knows How to Tip

The Conscientious Traveler/Retired Person Knows When and How Much to Tip

When you retire in Mexico, or are traveling, there can be a lot of angst around tipping, especially if you don’t really know which people to tip and how much. When you arrive in Mexico you see so many people who obviously don’t earn very much money. There is an expectation that money will be flowing from your pocket to theirs, but what exactly are the rules for this process? When you first retire in Mexico you want to be conscientious and not go around insulting people by tipping them when you shouldn’t… but what if they are calling you “cheapskate” as you walk away?

The conscientious traveler/retired person knows that there are people who work for tips only, like airport porters. Others, like taxi drivers set their price for the trip, but then might help you with your bags and you wonder if you should tip them or not.

The following is a list of jobs, whether or not you should tip, and how much. Practice being a well-informed conscientious traveler and just for fun, hold a piece of paper up over the right hand columns and think of your own answer before checking to see if you are correct.

Tipping Guidelines for Those Who Retire in Mexico or are Conscientious Travelers

location/person tip? comments
restaurant (formal) yes 10-15%, minimum 5 pesos
comida corrida optional 5 peso minimum for 1 person.10 peso minimum for 2 people.
small business proprieter no Imagine you are at work or selling your product and one of your customers just comes up and gives you 2 dollars. How would you feel?
grocery packer yes Since they don’t receive a salary, they work for tips. 2-5 pesos.
cleaning staff in hotel optional 10 pesos and up. This varies by the service you receive and the number of days you stay. (If the hotel costs 1000 pesos a day you may want to start at 30 pesos.)
bell boy at expensive hotel yes 20 peso minimum.
service personnel (e.g. cable TV installer) no Imagine you are at work and one of your customers just comes up and gives you 2 dollars. How would you feel? If you ever do want to tip someone like this, you have to give at least enough for a meal.
gas station attendant optional If you are feeling really generous, 5-10 pesos. 3 pesos for a window wash is OK.
taxi drivers no If they load and unload a lot of packages for you, you can tip 5 pesos (10 would be more appreciated).
porter at the airport yes These men don’t have a salary and work for tips. Tip 20-50 pesos. Give the higher amount if they have loaded your luggage on the hand cart and wait for you to exchange money, etc.
parking lot attendants (help you back out of your parking space) optional 2-3 pesos
mariachi bands yes Mariachis work by the song. A set of 3 songs will cost a minimum of 150 pesos. There’s two ways to hear them. One, you find them in the zocalo and ask them to come to play for you. Two, they come into a restaurant and start playing. It’s best to give at least 5 pesos if they come by with a hat afterwards.
roving musicians optional 3-10 pesos

So, if you didn’t get the answers right, but intend to retire in Mexico, or worse, are already retired in Mexico, you might want to print out the chart and hang it on your fridge. You can refer to it before you go out and about.

If you are a conscientious traveler, you will feel more relaxed knowing that you are neither insulting people, nor making yourself look cheap. Ahhhh. What a relief.

Back to Equity Issues for Those Retired in Mexico and Conscientious Travelers


image of cover of e-book: Mexico The Trick is Living HereBefore you live or retire in Mexico read this unique, humorous e-book.

Hi Julia,

Hope you and your family are all in good health! Thank you very much for the e-book and companions. They are, as ever, extremely informative.

Your empathy with the Mexican culture shines through and the book offers an insight into living in Mexico that I haven’t found in other books about living or travelling in Mexico.

I particularly liked the cultural differences and how not to upset people and what to expect from the beaurocracy out there. I had also paid particular close attention to you article about the cost of living for the three lifestyles you showed. I had seen this article previously on your website and I have used it as a gauge for the lifestyle my family and I might expect to have in Mexico.

With your article and other information I’ve researched on the internet I’ve come up with a figure of….

Thanks once again for all your help and the really useful books. I hope you are managing to sell plenty to help out with your family finances. I will stay in touch and I look forward to your next article on your website.

Kind Regards

Edward Shields

Drive Up Prices?

Can Rich People Who Travel and Retire in Mexico Drive Up Prices?

Travelers sometimes wonder if they are driving up prices with their extra money. As a concientious traveler you don’t need to be concerned about this. Unless you are in a “made-for-tourists” area, such as the ones set up for cruise ship passengers, it is actually the rich Mexicans who set prices.

If you are making an effort to eat and shop in areas frequented by other Mexicans and to ‘buy locally,’ the money you spend will be in balance with money spent by locals and Mexican tourists.

Back to Equity Issues for Those Retired in Mexico and Conscientious Travelers