India is a shopping haven for many. Although prices of goods have increased in recent years, it is still relatively cheaper to shop in India. There are numerous places where you can shop.
Let’s take a look at some of them
A relatively new shopping format in India, malls have caught on in a big way as a weekend hangout for families and young people. A typical shopping mall is airconditioned, multi-level, has security measures, accepts cash and credit/debit cards, and depending on the size of the mall, it may even have a movie hall or multiplex, a few take-away joints or sit-down restaurants along with a cluster of shops selling local or international brands. Basically it’s a like a town centre you get in Great Britain.
Stand-alone departmental stores offering various brands of products are found in big cities. The air-conditioned arrangements and computerized handling of cash or credit/debit cards allow shopping in a hassle-free manner. They often do home deliveries which is convenient for many working couples or busy families.
Items you may get at well-equipped Indian shopping malls include things like frozen food items, clothing, accessories, electronic goods etc. You will certainly feel at home in these shopping malls. Street shops
These shops are everywhere. These mom and pop stores are called “kirana” stores in many places in India. Grocery stores owned by individuals sell limited stocks of local merchandise and daily use items. You find all sorts of thing even items you may not find in the shopping malls. If you wanted to buy basic items like soap, toothpaste etc you can buy them in these types of stores.
In many old Indian cities, you may find stalls lining narrow gullies where you get spices, bangles, metal idols, decorative items etc. These are the stalls you want to try!
The government has its own emporium outlets by the street in many tourist-friendly cities. In these emporiums you can pick up handicrafts, textiles and other traditional items at standard rates. Most of the time, the prices are fixed by the government although you may get a discount on some items – just feel free to ask at the counter.
Sweet and snack shops
Great thing about India is its variety of sweets and snacks. Some of the popular ones include ras malai, gulab jamun, chole bhature, chena pais, jalebi, samosa, chaat and so on.
You find many shops specializing in traditional Indian sweets, drinks, snacks and fried dishes. These are many stand alone shops where you can try sweets and snacks on the go. They are much safer as far as hygiene is concerned. If the shop is full of people then this means that they are a popular outlet and they have a huge turnover of ingredients. Feel free to ask about the various types of sweets and snacks. In many of these sweet shops, you will find that the handlers will be using gloves and therefore there is harm in trying the sweets and snacks on offer. In fact, I suggest you try them. Many of them will also have burgers and cakes in western styled – just ask who ever is serving.
People set up their wares either in carts, makeshift stalls or on the pavement, and carry the unsold products and their ‘stall’ home at the end of the day. You can pick up different items like clothes, accessories, toys, plastic items like combs, buckets, mugs etc. at these stalls.
If you want to get fresh local produce such as fruits, vegetables, fish and meat then Indian bazaars give you that option in some cities and towns. The supplies come from the rural locations that are close to the big cities. The bazaar, often called a “subzi mandi” in Northern India, if it sells only fruits and veggies, usually consists of sprawling makeshift arrangements on the footpath. The sellers may also have their own basic stalls to display the items tastefully. The colors, chaos, smells usually full with bargainers and sellers make these Indian bazaars a quite an experience.
Besides bazaars for fresh food items, many cities have traditional specialized bazaars such as Chor Bazaar for antique goods in Delhi or the Janpath in Delhi has the best of street shopping you can experience.
Many cities have markets in which stalls are assigned to the owners. A few famous markets are New Market in Kolkata (in a building), the open-air Sarojini Nagar Market in New Delhi etc. where you get great bargains on various items. You may have to sweat quite a bit as many markets are not airconditioned.
At flea markets, often organized in Goa and some other places in India, you can buy second-hand or first-hand items, at dirtcheap rates. Many flea markets are weekly or set up in the evening or morning. You will have to enquire with your hotel or tour organizer about local flea markets.
Haats are a traditional place to buy and sell and are set up at specific times, such as once a week under a tree or on the side of the road, depending on the local arrangements. Usually, people come from nearby villages to buy the certain merchandises on offer at these haats which may include local handicrafts, toys, household utilitarian devices, cattle etc. depending on the kind of haat. One of the most famous haat is the Dilli Haat of Delhi showcasing the best of Indian craftsmanship in one open-air plaza. I highly recommend going there if you are considering buying local Indian products that can range from silk and wool fabrics to camel hide footwear. It’s quite a treat.
Fairs are places where you shop plus enjoy a festive carnival like atmosphere. Many of these fairs have giant wheels and merry-gorounds for children. An Indian fair, called a ‘mela’ usually refers to a gathering of people who meet for a common purpose, usually to buy and sell, entertain or take part in a religious ceremony. Many melas are ages-old and go back centuries. Many of them were started by the local aristocrat or even the people of the place to celebrate a religious or social occasion. Depending on the customs, these fairs continue for a week or a month, and are often seasonal or annual. In melas, people are in a festive mood and you will get to try local snacks, sweet dishes, traditional handicrafts etc. Fairs in India can range from books fairs such as the Patna Book Fair to religious one such as the famous Pushkar Fair of Rajasthan. The most famous mela of them all is the Kumbh Mela which is considered as the largest gathering of human beings on the planet. It is in this mela that Hindus bathe in the River Ganges to wash their sins away.