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Top 10 tips for shopping in India

If you’re looking to buy something that doesn’t have a price tag in India, prepare to haggle.  Here are my top 10 tips for shopping – including the small-talk that kicks off your shopping experience. Disclaimer: These observations are based on my experiences … !

  1. When asked if it’s your first time in India, say no.Street in Varanasi, India
  2. Don’t walk into a shop wearing expensive jewellery or with a DSLR hanging around your neck if you’re planning to buy.
  3. When asked what your job is, where you’re from, how long you’re travelling for, and where you’re staying – try out some different answers. This is not small talk, this is establishing how much you might be willing to pay. If you’re staying in a ‘decent’ place the starting price might be higher. Don’t forget, these are shrewd business men.
  4. Don’t shop when you’re tired – it means you’re less likely to haggle and might lose your rag when negotiating.
  5. Assume most of what you’re told isn’t the truth. It might be silk, but it probably isn’t unique to that shop and it won’t be found in Harrods for five times the price.
  6. It’s easier to shop in the very north of India, in the mountains north of Shimla and around Darjeeling – the pace is far more relaxed and browsing was a lot easier without being hassled.
  7. If you like it, buy it. You might not see it again (though you probably will).
  8. Walk away if the price isn’t dropped to something reasonable and they’ll probably chase you with a reduced price. What’s reasonable? That’s for you to decide.
  9. Be weary of tuk-tuk drivers dropping you anywhere or offering to take you to shops – most likely places that you’ll pay over the odds for. And if the tuk-tuk drivers says it’s his uncles shop – it probably isn’t.
  10. Don’t lose your cool. Keep smiling (hence number 4)!
Silk testing in Varanasi, India

Silk testing in Varanasi

I got ripped off a fair few times – alas, we live and we learn. Towards the end of my ten week trip I preferred shopping in places that had price tags as I didn’t have any bargaining power left in me.

But when all’s said and done, it’s a cultural experience like no other that you will get better at over time. Good luck, and if you have any other stories please add them to the comments – wishing you happy shopping and haggling 😉

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