“Look at this! It’s a lovely shawl. You no like shawl? How about carpet? Beautiful carpets from Kashmir…”
Shopping in an Indian bazaar can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you want to buy. Shopkeepers will inundate you with options, prices and colors before you even know what you want to buy. One way to make shopping easier is to have an idea of what you’d like to buy before you set out souvenir shopping. This can save you thousands of rupees on items that you may not really want but are pressured to buy. Here’s the top 10 picks for cool souvenirs from India.
1) Indian Tea
Tea is an essential part of Indian life. Visit Darjeeling or Assam to see how tea is grown and prepared, and be sure to bring home a few boxes of your favorite varieties. No time for a tea plantation? Go to any tourist emporium for attractively wrapped teas from all different regions of India.
The subcontinent is sure to assault your senses, smell being particularly strong. Incense is used at shrines and temples, and you can find hundreds of different scents. Pair the sticks with a carved incense box or marble incense stand to make a nice gift for a friend back home.
You’ve got tea for taste, incense for smell, and now you can bangles for their sound. Glass bangles are the cheapest, but metal bangles are more likely to survive the onward journey. Bangles make great gifts for any little girls in your life.
4) Inlaid Marble
Agra is famous for its inlaid marble work, as well as for the touts who sell it at exorbitant prices. A popular souvenir is a miniature marble Taj Mahal, but tourists also buy expensive inlaid marble tabletops, jewelry boxes and even lamps. If you’re brought to a marble shop by a taxi or rickshaw driver, expect to pay extra for his commission. Remember that marble is heavy if you need to carry it home.
5) Scarves, Shawls & Saris
If you plan to attend Indian weddings or functions be sure to pick up a gorgeous sari during your shopping in India. It’s hard to decide which type of material to get, so it’s best to shop for saris with a local friend. Stock up on beautiful scarves and shawls for your aunts, sisters and friends back home.
6) Taste of India
Is there anyone in your family who loves to cook? A perfect gift would be an Indian cookbook and a set of dried spices so they can cook up exotic Indian cuisine themselves.
7) Henna Dye
Women in India love to dye their hands and feet with henna for festive occasions. Henna has been all the rage in the West, but it’s quite expensive to get it done. Buy a few tubes of henna dye to give your next special day an Indian touch.
If you’ve got the budget and room in your suitcase go for a handmade carpet. You can usually find these in the Northern provinces at their cheapest prices because there you’ll be buying closer to the source.
9) Musical Instruments
The musician in your family will certainly appreciate a set of Indian drums or a beautiful wooden flute. Most large cities have a musician’s quarter located near the traditional red light area. Buy some ankle bells to reenact harem scenes from the Mughal emperors.
10) Leather Shoes
Curly-toed leather shoes are another popular souvenir. Rajastan is a great place to buy different types of leather shoes. You can get ones with embroidery or traditional leatherworking.
Shopping in India is an experience you’ll never forget, and hopefully it will be because you had an amazing time. Bargain hard and try not to get ripped off too much! Remember, there’s usually a local price and a ‘foreigner’ price, which can be ten times as much.