How to Bargain and Not Get Cheated in the Bazaars of India

India Dilli Haat bazaar, or street market, in New Delhi. Photo Credit - via Wikimedia Commons
Snake charmers at a bazaar in India.

Shopping

From the street markets of Hong Kong to the night markets of Bangkok to the bazaars of India, haggling for bargains is one of the joys of traveling for many tourists visiting Asia. There are so many cool things on offer. But how can you make sure you’re not being ripped off?

Bargaining Tips in India

The rules vary from country to country. Here are some tips for bargaining in the bazaars of India.

“Start by offering about 50% less than the asking price, but only if you are prepared to pay about 75% to 80% of the full asking price,” advises Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President, Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Keep in mind that antiques might be antiques in name only. And don’t expect a refund should you learn otherwise.

“Caveat emptor applies to every purchase,” Marilyn says.

“Antiques may have been made yesterday. Jewels might be glass. It’s often hard to tell.”

But what if you simply can’t live without it?

“If an item is pricey and you unsure of authenticity, err on the side of caution and forgo the transaction,” Marilyn says.

But if you just adore that copper pot or set of handmade ceramic cups, by all means start bargaining—it’s half the fun. And you’ll take home a keepsake that will remind you of an amazing journey for years to come.”

India’s Top Five Bazaars

You’ll find bazaars all over India. So which ones are the best? Asia Transpacific Journeys has put together a list of what it considers to be the top five bazaars in India. Comments on the Indian bazaars are courtesy of Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Chor Bazaar, Mumbai—Rummage to your heart’s content at “Thieves Market,” awash with antiques and vintage coins, bronze, and an almost endless array of both trinkets and treasure.

Market at Meenakshi Temple, Madurai—This temple is the spiritual heart of south India, yet its many carved and painted halls also contain a massive market. Elaborately decorated elephants roam through its corridors, and all manner of goods—from incense to Bollywood posters to fake Rolex watches—is traded at this bazaar.

Night Markets of Goa—A marvelous spectacle replete with painted cows and a myriad of stalls offering a wide range of colorful batik dresses and skirts, and hand-beaded necklaces for only one dollar a strand.

Dilli Haat, Delhi— Venture through one of the capital city’s hidden treasures, a lesser known outdoor market place made up of distinct areas representing the different states of India and the crafts indigenous to each. Skilled regional artisans eagerly negotiate and sell everything from textile purses to beaded slippers. This is truly a bargain shopper’s paradise.

Spice Market, Cochin—The best antiques and spice market in the south of India, this trading center reflects myriad cultures—it was occupied at various times by British, Dutch, Portuguese, and Arab traders. Troll for cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, and cinnamon of legendary fragrance and quality.

Comment

I’ve never been to India, but I would have to say that Mariyln’s advice would hold in the Asian countries I have been to – China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Generally speaking, offer half of the asking prices – but only if you are willing to meet the vendor half way.

I’d also advise approaching several vendors selling the same merchandise and also checking out fixed price shops to get an idea of the going rate for the types of things you’d like to buy.

 

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