I am beginning to sort of kind of get the hang of this bargaining thing that is a part of the culture here. Price tags are largely negotiable here, if there is a price tag as all. I feel safest at a grocery store or restaurant where the prices are fixed and reasonable. But most of the time, "price" is a relative term.
I got to watch a master at work last night as Joseline helped me to negotiate the fare for a special hire taxi (as opposed to a cheaper matatu, a special hire allows a person to travel in individual comfort and door to door). I asked her as we walked up to the taxi stand in Wandegeya how much it should cost. "No more than 5,000," she told me, around $3.
We approached the taxi and Joseline asked how much for a taxi to Bukoto (which is about 5 miles away, at a guess). Where in Bukoto? Near Kabira (the local country club). Ten thousand said the driver. Ohhh nooo, said Joseline, shaking her head sadly, no more than four thousand. Ten thousand, the driver insisted again. “I take this route all the time and it is no more than four thousand,” insists Joseline, happily lying. So five thousand it was. And how peaced off (as they say it here) was the driver when it was I, the mazungu, who got into the cab. But he was true to his word, though he had to change a 10,000 =/ bill for me.
The lesson I'm trying to learn is a) have the price firmly in mind that you want to pay and b) offer to pay less! This last part is important, and I haven't gotten there yet. But I'm learning quickly!