The Indian shopping sojourn rarely disappoints visitors - there is something for everyone in the Indian bazaars. The markets cater to multiple tastes and you always have an array of choices. From enamel work, miniature paintings, colourful fabric and intricate furniture to jewellery, leather goods and carpets, you name it and it's all there!
Shopping in India is as much part of an Indian holiday as visiting the many temples or experiencing the tasty local food and exotic spices in India. You can see what the local Indian shopping scene is like in the destinations below, as well as some suggestions on places to grab a bargain or souvenir!
A leisurely walk through the crowded Indian bazaars and lanes selling exquisite jewellery, handicrafts and clothes will soothe the shopper's senses. Of course you need to polish your bargaining skills in these markets since the prices here are not fixed and uniform. This is especially essential for foreign travellers as many shopkeepers tend to quote higher when they see a foreign buyer.
Shopping in India, especially the metros, throws up many more options because of the numerous super markets, malls and department stores. Rural India, on the other hand, compensates for the lack of swanky stores by selling authentic handmade things which are exclusive and not churned out in hundreds. In the major cities there are government run emporiums where the prices are good and quality guaranteed.
If it is handicrafts and intricate marble inlaid work you are looking for, then Agra is the place to shop in India. You can indulge in the crowded Kinari Bazaar which also sells brassware, embroidered fabric and chikkan work, jewellery and leather goods.
The pink city Jaipur, like the name suggests, has colourful bazaars along the old forts and palaces. Indian shopping here is like walking into the medieval era. The famous products of Jaipur are blue pottery, enamel jewellery (minakari), hand printed textiles, handmade puppets, filigree and lacquer work.
Visit M I Road and Johari Bazaar for jewellery, Kishanpol Bazaar for tie and dye fabrics, Khajanchion ka Rasta for marble work and Ramganj for traditional footwear. Don't miss out on a tour of a carpet factory while in Jaipur, Rajasthan. It gives you an insight into the intricacies of the carpet making process like designing, knotting, cutting, drying, pricing etc. Who knows, you may even find a masterpiece!
Indians believe that wearing bangles enhances femininity. Colourful bangles peep out of every bazaar in India. These bangles are unique to each state as it is made out of materials that are available locally. For example, in Rajasthan, bangles are made out of lac whereas in Andhra Pradesh they are shaped out of wood and in Gujarat they are moulded out of silver.
Some of the exquisite carpets trace their origin to India. Carpet making can be attributed to the Mogul invasion and influence in the past. Indian carpets, both silk and cotton, have been exported from time immemorial. A rich silk carpet from Kashmir or Jaipur makes an ideal gift to loved ones. India shopping should always include a visit to see these local products for yourself.
If you are looking for a good bargain in household knick knacks like painted crockery, table accessories, earthenware etc, Delhi's Chandini Chowk is the destination. Shops compete with each other in décor and noise to grab your attention. Be prepared to push and jostle with the crowd as walking space is less and shoppers aplenty. Even the locals prefer shopping for their daily ware in Chandini Chowk.
For the pampered shopper looking for ample elbow space while checking out souvenirs, shopping in New Delhi, especially at Janpath is more satisfying. Here the fun lies in closing a good bargain, a pleasure you are denied elsewhere.
For a completely tangential shopping experience, in contrast to the crowded lanes and markets of Delhi and Mumbai, try the well organised markets in the planned city of Chandigarh. The posh shopping complexes and spacious street bazaars sell jewellery, leather shoes, clothes, hand bags and artefacts. Prices in such shops are fixed, so bargaining is not an option here.
Mumbai is where the world flocks for deadly bargains and the latest in fashion. Most of the shopping locales are in the tightly packed, extremely crowded bylanes. The designer labels and chic wear are available in huge malls and exclusive boutiques. The popular places where you can strike a good bargain are Linking Road, Bandra, Fashion Street Linking Road and Juhu. Fashion Street is where you can pick up trousers, jeans, shirts, accessories, shoes and trinkets at cheap rates. The Colaba Causeway stretch is popular for junk jewellery, trinkets and bags. Dharavi, the world's biggest slum, manufactures the best leather bags and shoes.
Tea is something you can add to your goodie bag while in Assam. It is available in a variety of flavours, colours and fragrances. What is innovative and eye catching is the packaging of these tiny leaves. Beautifully wrapped tea from the north eastern region is the perfect gift for friends and family back home.
For the book worms, India offers high quality fictional, non-fictional, spiritual and medical books. These are a cool 40% lighter on the wallet compared to those in the West. The best places to buy them, especially the second hand ones, are off the roads around Victoria Terminus. These vendors operate from makeshift tents on pavements. You can hit a double discount with some of the vendors as they're willing to buy back books after you've read them, deducting a small reading charge.
Other things you can collect on your trip are precious stones, gems, antiques, both original and reproduced versions, batik fabrics, handicrafts made out of coconut shells and sea shells. Music shops are also big crowd pullers here. You can find an eclectic mix of western, classical, instrumental, fusion and bollywood music in all shops.
Shopping in India is value for money that lures even the tight fisted to splurge. The shopaholics often end up looking for an extra suitcase to take home. More than the money spent, the complete Indian shopping experience, be it in the loud and crowded markets or the swanky malls, is unique.
India still remains the 'Shopper's paradise'. But before you buy something, do compare prices with other shops. Indian shopping, as a thumb rule, means you must bargain at local bazaars but the state run emporiums are safe havens as the quality tends to be uniform and prices fixed.
Do make sure to thoroughly check items before you buy them and that you receive proper receipts after purchase. The Customs Authority in India is very strict and returning goods once sold is not entertained. In case your airline does not allow excess baggage it can always be dispatched to you as unescorted baggage.
Most of the handicraft shops have the facility of shipping a purchase to your address. In such a situation, do cover expensive purchases with comprehensive insurance. The Archaeological Survey of India needs to ratify the export and transportation of rare antiques. This is normally arranged by the establishment from where you have purchased the goods. Most shops accept credit cards and some accept traveller's cheques as well.