Tips for Bargaining at Markets in India

How to Haggle and Get a Good Price

Tourist negotiating the best price at an Indian shop. Harald Woeste/Getty Images

Shopping at markets in India can be a lot of fun. The dazzling array of handicrafts and textiles is hard to resist. However, it's important not to pay the initial asking price. Bargaining, or haggling, is expected at markets where the price of items isn't fixed. If you're a foreigner who isn't experienced in doing this, you may feel uncomfortable at the prospect. Be assured though, that vendors actually enjoy it and look forward it. The interaction breaks the monotony of their day.

Something to keep in mind is that vendors commonly do have an "Indian price" and a "foreigner price". Foreigners are viewed as having plenty of money in India, so shopkeepers set higher prices for them. It works because many foreigners happily pay such prices. Compared to the cost of goods back home, the prices don't seem so high. Unfortunately, this often has the effect of driving the price up for other foreigners though, as it creates an expectation that they will pay the hugely inflated prices.

Here's the best way go about haggling and bargaining at India's markets, so you don't pay too much.

  • Firstly, to get a feel for how much goods should cost, visit some fixed price stores first. You'll find handicraft emporiums in major Indian cities. Read more: 7 Places Buy Indian Handicrafts in Mumbai.
  • If you see something you like at a market, don't immediately buy it from the first stall you come across. There will be plenty more vendors selling the same thing and they may even have a better variety for a cheaper price. Walk around the market and check out all that's on offer first.
  • As a general rule, don't pay any more than half the initial asking price of any item. Sometimes it's possible to pay less, especially if you buy more than one item.
  • Shopkeepers consider the first sale of the day to be lucky, so shop early and they may give you a better price to get your business.
  • Never reveal how much you're interested in an item. Always pretend to be indifferent as to how much you want it.
  • After the shopkeeper states the price, start the bargaining process by asking,"Is this your best price?" or "Is a discount possible?".
  • The price will immediately be dropped a small amount. Tell the shopkeeper that the item is still way too expensive. You'll then be asked how much you're prepared to pay.
  • When it's your turn to offer a price, make sure you start with a low amount that's well below what you're prepared to pay. Around one third of the quoted price is a good amount.
  • If the shopkeeper isn't dropping the price enough, walk away. Usually this will result in an immediate reduction in the asking price. If it doesn't, it's an indication that your price is too low. You can either go back and keep negotiating, or try and find the item cheaper somewhere else.
  • Don't be too petty by haggling over small amounts. A few rupees is worth more to an Indian shopkeeper than to you.
  • If the seller accepts your price, the deal is considered to be done. Don't keep haggling or say that you've changed your mind and don't want to purchase the item. This would be considered to be impolite and really bad form.
  • Lastly, keep in mind that bargaining is meant to be fun. Do it with a smile! In addition, using some of the local language may fetch you a better deal, as well as break the ice. In Hindi, you can ask, "Yeh kitne ka hai?" (How much is this?). And say, "Bahut mahanga hai". (It's very costly).

Where are the Best Markets in India?

Delhi is renowned for its markets. Here are 10 Delhi Markets You Shouldn't Miss.

In Kolkata, head to New Market, an historic bargain shoppers paradise.

In Jaipur, Johari Bazaar in the Old City is famous for cheap jewelry.

Mumbai also has some interesting markets, including the Chor Bazaar Thieves Market.