Commerce and shopping are so ubiquitous in Bangkok that they appear to be genetic traits of the city's inhabitants. Hardly a street corner in the city is free from a vendor, hawker or impromptu stall, and Bangkok is also home to one of the word's largest outdoor markets, not to mention Southeast Asia's largest mall. There's something here for just about everybody, and often genuine and knock-off items live happily side by side. Although the tourist brochures tend to tout the upmarket malls, Bangkok still lags slightly behind Singapore and Hong Kong in this area, and the open-air markets are where the best deals and most-original items are found.

Bargaining is part of the culture at markets and small family-run shops where prices aren't posted. When engaging in this ancient sport, remember that it requires finesse rather than force, and the best approach is one of camaraderie. If you're interested in buying, ask the vendor the price and then ask if they could lower it. You can then counter with a lower sum that will tug the return offer closer to a comfortable range. Figures are sometimes volleyed back and forth at this point, but stay calm and cool. It is poor form to haggle over a difference of 10B. Prices aren't negotiable when a price is posted.

Thais are generally so friendly and laid-back that some visitors are lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting that Bangkok is a big city with untrustworthy characters. While your personal safety is rarely at risk in Thailand, you may be unwittingly charmed out of an unfair amount of the contents of your wallet. See opposite for more information about scams.

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