Travel and shopping: the truth about shopping in India. This article is a start of a new posts series: about shopping in different corners of the world. I am starting with India first, as that’s where I am now.
Shopping in India is fascinating and attractive, the range of products is infinite. The streets are full of shops and sellers; it all seems so colorful. India, for many people, might be a shopping paradise.
How to enjoy shopping in India and spend the right amount of rupees? Where is it best to shop, and what is it like to shop in India? Let me tell you some truth about it!
The sharing is from my personal experience, my life in India, and multiple travels. If you haven’t visited this country yet, I encourage you to check two of my previous posts (and many more!): First Trip to India: from A to Z, Part 1 and Part 2. Enjoy reading!
WHERE CAN I SHOP IN INDIA?
There has been a significant growth of the shopping malls in India. From none in 2000 to a few thousand across the country. Shopping malls in India are the reflection of the centers across the globe: hypermarkets, unlimited shops, including luxury brands, cinemas, restaurants, leisure areas. The shopping malls in India are ideal for warm days!
Supermarkets are very popular in India. Nearly every street or apartment complex has at least one. They might have one or more floors. The products’ variety is excellent, from food products, cosmetics to toys or household items. That’s one of the places where you would not bargain. 🙂
The marketplaces are located both within the city and outskirts. The most famous ones are vegetables and fruits, as well as clothes ones. That’s an ideal place to buy food directly from farmers or obtain the best price. Many tourists enjoy the colors of the marketplaces for photography purposes. Just be aware that these shopping areas might not be that clean.
Small shops in India are everywhere! That’s where you can find more local products, enjoy street shopping and bargaining. Interestingly, some small shops change their products depending on the upcoming festival. Suddenly you might notice that half of the shop sells only ‘rakhi’ (thread bracelets) or Holi colors and water guns (toys).
The street stands are an integrated part of street shopping in India. They are available everywhere, very often till late evening hours. What can you buy from street stands? Nearly everything! From freshly made food, vegetables, and fruits to clothes or household items.
Pushcarts are more common in Asian countries. In India, they are circulating in the city from the early morning hours. You can find sellers pushing their carts both in main streets or smaller corners of the city. Shopping options are many, from fruits and vegetables to plastic containers or carpets. They are useful when you can’t go outside of the home.
Living in India, you might not need a morning alarm. Street sellers will wake you up! From early morning hours, you might hear “lemonnn” or “pineappleee”. Sellers might be driving a rikshaw car, bike, cycle, or simply walking. Their bag of products might be carried in their hands or on the top of the head.
E-commerce in India is a neverending experience. Unlimited websites and apps for online shopping. Deliveries are quick and often free of cost. Many websites accept international credit cards. However, some of the online portals will require a local payment method.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SHOPPING IN INDIA
People in India smile a lot. Yet, when entering a shop, usually do not expect that people will greet you. India is not the South of Europe. At the same time, it does not mean that people won’t smile or be helpful. However, when you visit more often, they will be very friendly, greeting you each time.
English knowledge is one of the best things about India. No matter if this is a luxury shop in the shopping mall or a small street stand: you will manage to communicate for the shopping purposes. English is the 23rd ‘official’ language of India: it does help a lot.
OPEN 365 DAYS A YEAR
Shops in India are open 365 days a year! (or 366 :-)) That was something surprising to me. No matter if this is Sunday or maybe one of the key festivals in the country (Diwali, Holi, Eid, etc.), all shops remain open.
Just some supermarkets or shops might be closed on Friday afternoon for prayers. Otherwise, enjoy non-stop shopping!
‘MRP‘ in India helps so much! Most of the products have a maximum retail price (MRP) printed on them. You will find it in on the items in the shopping malls, supermarkets or smaller streets. In the other places, prices might be written on the piece of paper or just told when asked. Importantly, when MRP is available, you might pay less due to the existing offer, but you shouldn’t pay more.
I am used to the fact that in Poland (or Europe) products have expiry date details. In India, it is more common to have manufacture dates and timeframe for usage details. My recommendation is: always scan the dates as the product could be expired or not that fresh. It applies to all shopping places!
India is advanced when it comes to the number of apps in the country and also online payments. In real and online shops, there are plenty of options to pay online: Google Pay, PhonePe, and Paytm. And you might be surprised that these online payment options might be available in small shops, street stands, or pushcarts, where for example, you won’t be able to use a debit/credit card.
BONI / BOHNI
Boni is a commercial and social custom in India. It means the first sale of the day. In India, people believe that the first sale represents the transactions of the entire day. So if the seller’s boni was good, the rest of the day will go similarly. Why I am saying it? If you know that you are the first customer of the street stand, pushcart, or street seller, buy a bit more. Maybe a few extra fruits or vegetables. It might not cost a lot but it might mean a lot.
There are a lot of good sellers in India. Although, sometimes, the selling methods might be different from your local country. Sellers might be negotiating with you, convincing you, or even walk with you to try to sell their goods. Very often, they need money to run their small business and ensuring living for their families.
LET IT GO
In India, like everywhere in the world, you might encounter sellers that won’t be polite. My Better Half has a helpful method for that. He thanks and walks away. Why? Firstly, as he doesn’t want to buy from not polite people. Secondly, we are in India. The chances of finding a similar shop or seller within the next 10 meters are high! And the next seller might bring back the smile on your face.
If possible, buy from multiple sellers. Support more people. During my first trip to Goa, I was buying some earrings from young sellers. After having bought, the initial amount of the earrings, I decided to buy a few more. So I approached back those two sellers. They disagreed with selling more earrings to me. They asked me to buy some from the third seller instead. Why? They told me that that boy didn’t sell anything on that day yet!
If you plan to visit India for the first time, don’t buy as soon as you see something interesting. I promise you there will be many interesting, colorful, and shiny things to buy! First, hold on, compare prices a bit and build your initial understanding. It especially applies to street shopping when MRP tags are not available. When I visited India for the first time, the mother of my colleague took me out shopping. And she didn’t allow me to buy anything. She said that we would shop the next day and that’s when I can enjoy it!
When I started to travel to India, I wasn’t aware of the actual prices. So I tended to convert prices to the value of my local currency (Polish zloty). Try to avoid it. Converting prices might lead to two things. Firstly, you might overpay, agreeing to the price mentioned by the seller. Secondly, you might miss that the nearby shop has the same product at a lower price.
Bargaining is an integrated part of shopping in India. Where can you bargain? In small shops, street stands, pushcarts, street sellers. Both during online shopping or in bigger shops you can ask for an additional discount. Lately, some of the smaller shops have a notice board that says no bargaining. How much to bargain? It all depends on the initial price. Often sellers increase products’ prices for foreigners. You can be around and listen to the price given to the local people. Or enjoy your negotiating skills!
Often when shopping, people focus on getting a lower price. It might be bargaining or asking for a discount. That’s very natural in India. However, I would suggest, instead, to consider sometimes paying extra. When buying products from a street stand, pushcart, or street seller, give a few rupees extra. Or maybe don’t ask for the change. For you, it might be just half a dollar or euro. For a seller, it might be a big smile. Often we leave pretty high tips at restaurants or hotels, and behind a corner, we negotiate with a street seller for a few rupees. Just consider it, please.
Many online shops provide a free home delivery option for any order or a minimum value price. It also applies to hypermarkets and supermarkets. A completely new thing for me was that also nearby small shops provide home delivery. And it is all for free! You can call them and share a list of products you need. Within a few minutes, you will find all you need at your doorstep! Impressive!
I am not sure if the shop credit option still exists in your local shops. It exists in India! I find it caring, as it gives a feeling of trust, of an extended family. Of course, unknown people might not receive shop credit. However, it is enough that the shopkeeper knows you a bit, and you can return later with the money.
DO YOU NEED MORE PRICELESS TIPS?
Did you find it interesting and would like to learn more about shopping in India? Don’t worry! Shopping in India is a never-ending topic. In the upcoming weeks, I plan to write a few more posts about it. We will do a shopping ‘deep dive’! Are you ready for it? 🙂
What amazes you the most about shopping in India? If you have visited India already (or you live here), what surprised you the most? And if you haven’t yet, what would you like to learn more? Add in the comments section below. And…enjoy your shopping!
Moments that matter, no matter the shopping.