To prepare for this all-out assault on the senses, here are eight top tips from Narendra Singh, concierge at ITC Maurya, a luxury hotel in the capital New Delhi.
1. Go at the right time
Delhi’s rush hour can wear you down before you’ve even begun, so arrive around 10am to miss the worst of it. Or if you’re going shopping in the afternoon, plan to leave well before 5pm. At night, it’s just as ferocious.
2. Know what to buy
Each market has its own speciality – be it spices, jewellery or fabrics. India’s largest cities always have dedicated market bazaars, so it’s always best to identify what you are looking for and then head to a market accordingly. In Delhi, visit Dilli Haat for authentic Indian handicrafts, easy-to-wear fashion and affordable silver jewellery, then try Janpath for street shopping. Elsewhere, Khan Market is renowned for upscale Indian fashion and Khari Baoli is home to Asia’s largest spice market.
3. Prepare in advance
Do your research beforehand to find out how much you should spend. While some things might be cheaper than you’d expect in your own country, it always helps to ask a few locals or a hotel concierge for advice.
4. How to bargain
Don’t purchase the first thing you see, no matter how attractive the price is. Walk around first and gauge the prices offered by others. If you still believe you had a better deal at the first stall, or liked what you saw there best, come back and start bargaining. Bear in mind it’s important to avoid haggling when there are too many customers around. The chances of the shopkeeper reducing prices too much are rather slim when there’s a large crowd nearby.
5. Have a sense of humour
A good sense of humour in any situation is always a useful quality to have in India and definitely applies to shopping. It’ll help you engage with the locals better and it puts everyone at ease. And you never know – you may just discover something new about a place, or get a stellar deal on something you really like.
6. Be sensitive to local attitudes
The way a shopkeeper interacts with you might be very different from what you’re used to in your own country. So be respectful of the local culture and customs – it goes a long way in India.
7. Ask first
Most locals don’t mind tourists taking pictures of markets in general, so it’s usually not an issue. However, when taking pictures of people, or of certain objects inside a store, it’s always recommended to ask permission first.
8. Beyond Delhi
Some of the most popular markets in India are Dakshinapan Shopping Centre in Kolkata for local handlooms and handicrafts and Lal Bagh in Mumbai, a huge spice market that’s famous for its festivities during Ganesh Puja each year. Alternatively, try the city’s Colaba Causeway for street fashion and if you travel to Chennai, don’t miss T Nagar for traditional South Indian saris.
– TEXT BY MIKE MACEACHERAN
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.