How To Bargain Like An Indian

This is your how to guide to negotiating your way through India.

Negotiating in India, whether it be for tuk tuk rides or bananas on the street, is an interesting experience all on its own. OK, I’m not claiming I’m an expert or anything, I’m pretty sure I’ve been ripped off plenty in India. After all, they did end up taking me on my final offer. But after three weeks of heavy bargaining and head wobbling, I think I did quite well. I think. Hey, I tried.

3 Tips You Should Know

Here’s hoping my shopping skills can help shave off a few rupees for you if you ever decide to go shopping in India (which you will). First things first..

1. EVERYTHING in India is negotiable.

I mean everything – clothes, jewelry, water, fruit! You name it, it’s all negotiable. You just have to try it once. It gets addicting.

Second, and this mostly applies to buying food from street vendors, is

2. NEVER ever ask, “How much?”

If you ask, they will charge you more. Not always, but it can happen. Instead, naturally and effortlessly hand over the rupees (what you think it should cost or a larger bill just to be safe) and you will more than likely get the correct change back. I call this my non-verbal bargaining technique.

I once paid $20Rs for two banana. And then $20Rs for one. On my last banana run in Udaipur, I decided I’m not going to ask anymore. Instead, I walked up to the produce man on the street, picked out three bananas from a bunch, handed the old man my $20Rs followed by a head wobble and my best Mona-Lisa smile. Seconds later, I got a head wobble and no eye contact back. Score!

Which brings me to my last point. If ever you learn one thing in India, learn

3. the power of THEEK HAI.

Pronounced teek-aye it’s your secret weapon to successfully bargain like a real Indian. I was told it’s like a laid back way of saying, it’s cool, we’re good, or it’s no big deal. To me, it felt more like a, pretty please?? when I’m negotiating.

Tuk tuk’s will always agree to take you where you want. Make sure you land on a price and that it’s clear before getting in the car. Use theek hai at the end of your offer.

I first used theek hai trying to bargain a tuk tuk driver in Jodhpur. Two drivers declined my $50Rs offer for taking us from the Fort down to the Old Clocktower. They wouldn’t budge from $80Rs. I started to lose hope when I managed to slip out a quiet, theek hai? with a please-forgive-us-we’re-new-at-this look in my eyes to our third driver. Before I can retract, he wobbled his head back. Yay!

So, now that you’re armed with the will to bargain and the power of theek hai, let’s go shopping!

50 RUPEES = 1 DOLLAR
What to wear

Most days, we look like this. Our multi-colored cotton pants, a light t-shirt and a scarf for me. That’s pretty much it, nothing special but we were comfortable. In fact, I practically recycled the same three outfits over and over.

export2

Pants

I know they look goofy, but everyone’s wearing them. And by everyone I mean all the Westerners. But I will say they are the most comfortable pants you’ll be wearing in India. Plus you start to feel a bit left out if you don’t have one.

Price = 250 rupees
Initial Offer = 100 rupees
Paid = 150 rupees

DSC_0176

Jewelry

Jewelry is a tricky one. Street vendors typically do bundle prices. We were in Jodhpur and I really wanted some Rajasthani bracelets as shown below. I was quoted 4 bracelets for $150Rs and was surprise to learn another Westerner managed to walk away paying $100Rs but not for 4 bracelets – for 6! Not only did she get the price down, but she walked away with 2 extra bracelets! So I was determine to get 12 bracelets for a ridiculous price of 200 rupees.

Price = 450 rupees
Initial/ Final Offer = 200 rupees
Paid = 200 rupees for 12 bracelets

But not without a I’ll-go-elsewhere walk-away method and a couple of theek hai. This one took awhile because I wouldn’t budge when she counter offered. Twice. When in doubt, walk away.

DSC_0139

Henna

There are loads of heena shops in Udaipur. You can get quoted up to $250Rs if you walk into the wrong shop. I met the sweetest women who owned the smallest shop in town quoting me $50Rs! For the first time, I felt like I wasn’t being ripped off. I mean, come on. It’s one dollar! I didn’t even bother bargaining her down. Instead, I ask for a slight upgrade, asking her to henna up to my wrist.

1st Vendor Price = 250 rupees
2nd Vendor Price = 50 rupees
Paid = 50 rupees

henna

Scarves

I bought literally one scarf at the beginning of my trip. Most days wrapped either around my neck or head to be more conservative. In New Delhi, my favorite shopping ground is Main Bazar Road – Pahar Ganj. I found a Wholesaler selling scarves for $55Rs. Needless to say, I left India with twelve new scarves!

Price = 150 rupees
Wholesaler Price = 55 rupees
Paid = 50 rupees

DSC_0173

Men’s Pant/ Shirt

They’re not displayed well like women’s pants. You just have to ask. Gerard bought one brown pants made out of heavier linen but in a drawstring cargo- style which he practically wore everyday.

Price = 250 rupees
Initial Offer = 100 rupees
Paid = 125 rupees

His “dress shirt” was another story and our biggest bargaining lost. It was practically our first day shopping in India. We were taken to a “nice shop” and was quoted $650Rs for his shirt which we were unsuccessful to negotiate because it was “high quality, good fabric”. We later saw replicas of his shirt on the streets everywhere selling for $150Rs. Turban NOT included but valuable lesson learned.

IMG_7660

Dress

My best bargaining steal yet. Although I didn’t quite bargain for it. Just found it for much cheaper. In Jaisalmer, if you shop inside the Fort, you will get ripped off. I was quoted an outrageous $650Rs for my dress above. I didn’t even try to negotiate, just walked away. Before even stepping foot outside the shop the price came down to $350Rs. I kept walking avoiding eye contact and eventually hear the seller yell, “OK, how much you want?”

Needless to say, I didn’t return. Instead, we walked outside the Fort where I found the exact same dress for cheaper!

Price = 650 rupees
Another Vendor = 250 rupees
Paid = 250 rupees

DSC_0175

So there you have it. I hope my shopping experience in India will help bring out the lean-mean-frugal-bargaining machine in you. Remember, sometimes it’s not about what things should cost, but rather, how much you’re willing to pay for it. If you want it, then get it. But also know that there’s no such thing as hard feelings when it comes to negotiating in India so, if at first you don’t succeed, there’s another vendor down the street just itching to rip you off. (Try again.)

Do you have any bargaining tips you’d like to share?

 

You might like:

Share and Enjoy

Pinterest

, , , , , , , , ,

  • Sal

    I tried to bargain on leather purses in Florence. Sadly, I was laughed at more than anything. Needless to say I left Italy without one leather purse. Its a market I thought I could bargain down a few euros! I tried this with over 5 people too. Oh well it was fun, and I saved myself 26-30 Euros.

    I love your India posts, great photos and tips.

    Question for you Kieu, I am planning a very long trip to India. What shoes would you recommend? Open toe or closed toe sandals? I am also bringing hiking boots for treks, so I am struggling with an everyday pair of shoes. I will be India during their hottest months!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      oOo leather purses are a huge thing in India too. I never got a chance to bargain for one but I’d imagine your luck is better here than Florence. LOL

      As for shoes, I’d rec closed toe. We wore our Keens/J-41 w/o socks pretty much the entire time. It provided coverage yet wasn’t stuffy. It was too (pardon my language) shitty and gross, quite literally, to be wearing flip flops. The roads are mostly dirt paved, uneven and there’s cow poo everywhere. You definitely want something with a bit of coverage and grip so you don’t slip. I didn’t bring any hiking shoes but then again, I didn’t go to the Himalayas. I did some low-key trekking – by that I mean long walks and climbing lots of uneven steps – and my j-41 Dune’s suffice. They were comfortable and provided support. I did wear my flip flops around the guesthouse and in some showers.

      Thank you for the wonderful comment. Enjoy India! It’s a trip. 😀

  • Sal

    I tried to bargain on leather purses in Florence. Sadly, I was laughed at more than anything. Needless to say I left Italy without one leather purse. Its a market I thought I could bargain down a few euros! I tried this with over 5 people too. Oh well it was fun, and I saved myself 26-30 Euros.

    I love your India posts, great photos and tips.

    Question for you Kieu, I am planning a very long trip to India. What shoes would you recommend? Open toe or closed toe sandals? I am also bringing hiking boots for treks, so I am struggling with an everyday pair of shoes. I will be India during their hottest months!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      oOo leather purses are a huge thing in India too. I never got a chance to bargain for one but I’d imagine your luck is better here than Florence. LOL

      As for shoes, I’d rec closed toe. We wore our Keens/J-41 w/o socks pretty much the entire time. It provided coverage yet wasn’t stuffy. It was too (pardon my language) shitty and gross, quite literally, to be wearing flip flops. The roads are mostly dirt paved, uneven and there’s cow poo everywhere. You definitely want something with a bit of coverage and grip so you don’t slip. My J-41 Dune Vegans are my everyday shoes. They’re comfortable and provided support but also airy and sandal-like. I did wear my flip flops around the guesthouse and in some showers but most days I’m in my J-41.

      Thank you for the wonderful comment. Enjoy India! It’s a trip. 😀

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500024336 Christine Pham

    With all the awesome traveling, do you have tips on where you’ll be storing your goodies from each country?

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      You mean the goodies (ie. souvenirs) I’ve purchased? I actually haven’t bought much if any. India was my first shopping experience. I don’t have room in my carry on backpack to shop. LOL. Luckily we were heading to Thailand next and meeting up with my cousin, so I gave him much of the stuff I bought to bring back to the States. 😉

      Gerard thinks he’ll be doing some damage in Japan so we might have to ship stuff home, we’ll see. Haha

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500024336 Christine Pham

    With all the awesome traveling, do you have tips on where you’ll be storing your goodies from each country?

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      You mean the goodies (ie. souvenirs) I’ve purchased? I actually haven’t bought much if any. India was my first shopping experience. I don’t have room in my carry on backpack to shop. LOL. Luckily we were heading to Thailand next and meeting up with my cousin, so I gave him much of the stuff I bought to bring back to the States. 😉

      Gerard thinks he’ll be doing some damage in Japan so we might have to ship stuff home, we’ll see. Haha

  • Edgyjunecleaver

    It’s funny what one traveler finds helpful in another traveler’s blog post! Your pictures featuring your outfits and purchases are extemely helpful versus pictures of what Indian women are wearing. I’m traveling to India in October with my (female) partner and we are ridiculously obsessed with “what to wear”. Finding the right train doesn’t feel as daunting as finding the “right” thing to wear. (lol) I’m looking forward to reading all your posts about India.

    Happy Trails!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hahahaha.. I totally hear yah. Indian women generally wear sari so it’s easy to weed out the clothes for us Westerners. The pants are the funnest – bright, colorful and patterned – it’s the only place to wear them and not look ridiculous. LOL. If you want the right thing to wear, then definitely pack light and buy it there. It’s so dirt cheap! 😉

  • Edgyjunecleaver

    It’s funny what one traveler finds helpful in another traveler’s blog post! Your pictures featuring your outfits and purchases are extemely helpful versus pictures of what Indian women are wearing. I’m traveling to India in October with my (female) partner and we are ridiculously obsessed with “what to wear”. Finding the right train doesn’t feel as daunting as finding the “right” thing to wear. (lol) I’m looking forward to reading all your posts about India.

    Happy Trails!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hahahaha.. I totally hear yah. Indian women generally wear sari so it’s easy to weed out the clothes for us Westerners. The pants are the funnest – bright, colorful and patterned – it’s the only place to wear them and not look ridiculous. LOL. If you want the right thing to wear, then definitely pack light and buy it there. It’s so dirt cheap! 😉

  • http://www.tanamatales.com/ Ruth (Tanama Tales)

    Hey Q,
    Just out of curiosity, what shoes are you wearing on the pictures? I am always trying to find comfortable but fashionable shoes for traveling.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      J-41 Dune Vegan in brown and lavender. I think they’re discontinued, I tried to buy a new pair for this trip but couldn’t find them anywhere. 🙁 This one is 6 years old. Eeeek!

  • http://www.tanamatales.com/ Ruth (Tanama Tales)

    Hey Q,
    Just out of curiosity, what shoes are you wearing on the pictures? I am always trying to find comfortable but fashionable shoes for traveling.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      J-41 Dune Vegan in brown and lavender. I think they’re discontinued, I tried to buy a new pair for this trip but couldn’t find them anywhere. 🙁 This one is 6 years old. Eeeek!

  • Marcy Hino

    oooh, your’re making me so excited about going to India. It’s great to see some actual prices of stuff and how you can bargain them down!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      The prices vary from vendor to vendor depending on how much they think they can rip you off. Haha. But it’s fun once you know a starting point. 😉

  • http://queernomad.com The Queer Nomad

    oooh, your’re making me so excited about going to India. It’s great to see some actual prices of stuff and how you can bargain them down!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      The prices vary from vendor to vendor depending on how much they think they can rip you off. Haha. But it’s fun once you know a starting point. 😉

  • Anonymous

    Oooooh boy, I think these shops would be dangerous for me! I have to keep reminding Matt and I not to shop too much for the trip before hand since the real gems will be while on the road! Great tips, you’re officially a pro shopper!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      But at least you’ll have a home base for awhile so you don’t have to lug things around, right? 😉

  • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

    Oooooh boy, I think these shops would be dangerous for me! I have to keep reminding Matt and I not to shop too much for the trip before hand since the real gems will be while on the road! Great tips, you’re officially a pro shopper!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      But at least you’ll have a home base for awhile so you don’t have to lug things around, right? 😉

  • http://www.anywhere-but-home.com/ Naomi

    Wooooooooooooow this post is definitely getting bookmarked 😉 Bargaining can be a bit stressful at times but it’s so fun!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      In India it’s almost too much fun. Haha

  • http://www.anywhere-but-home.com/ Naomi

    Wooooooooooooow this post is definitely getting bookmarked 😉 Bargaining can be a bit stressful at times but it’s so fun!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      In India it’s almost too much fun. Haha

  • http://twotravelaholics.com/ Tara

    Love love love this post! This was definitely something we weren’t aware of, and it’ll help immensely once we get to India later this year. Cheers, guys!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      No problem! Hope I gave you a starting part but don’t be shy to go low low low.. 🙂

  • http://twotravelaholics.com/ Tara

    Love love love this post! This was definitely something we weren’t aware of, and it’ll help immensely once we get to India later this year. Cheers, guys!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      No problem! Hope I gave you a starting point but don’t be shy to go low low low.. 🙂

  • http://www.travelerahoy.com/ Alouise

    Bargaining always intimidates me because it isn’t something you see a lot of in North America, but I know a lot cultures do bargaining, so it’s probably a good idea for me to learn to some good techniques. Thanks.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      I wish I could bargain back home.. But they’d prob spit on me.. Or on my food. Haha! You should definitely try it in India though. 🙂

  • http://www.takemetotheworld.com/ Alouise

    Bargaining always intimidates me because it isn’t something you see a lot of in North America, but I know a lot cultures do bargaining, so it’s probably a good idea for me to learn to some good techniques. Thanks.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      I wish I could bargain back home.. But they’d prob spit on me.. Or on my food. Haha! You should definitely try it in India though. 🙂

  • http://www.tammyandchrisonthemove.blogspot.com/ TammyOnTheMove

    Non-verbal bargaining technique-I love it. 🙂 I have never tried it, but be sure to try it out in future. I always do the walk-away technique as well, but also say that I only paid half the price when I bought something similar yesterday. That seems to work too. Loving this post-keep up the good work guys!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      The non-verbal seems to work well in India. They always seem so desperate to rip you off. Haha

  • http://www.tammyandchrisonthemove.blogspot.com/ TammyOnTheMove

    Non-verbal bargaining technique-I love it. 🙂 I have never tried it, but be sure to try it out in future. I always do the walk-away technique as well, but also say that I only paid half the price when I bought something similar yesterday. That seems to work too. Loving this post-keep up the good work guys!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      The non-verbal seems to work well in India. They always seem so desperate to rip you off. Haha

  • Linda

    I’m impressed – I always end up with either cart loads stuff I don’t want or nothing at all.. usually the latter! I might just give your tips a try.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      It’s bad because I wanted everything in India. I walked away not getting a leather good. Still sad about that. 🙁 haha

  • LindaAW

    I’m impressed – I always end up with either cart loads stuff I don’t want or nothing at all.. usually the latter! I might just give your tips a try.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It’s bad because I wanted everything in India. I walked away not getting a leather good. Still sad about that. 🙁 haha

  • http://technosyncratic.com Technosyncratic

    Dang, you two are bargaining machines! When we were in India we most employed the “walk away” method — it’s amazing how much the price drops when you’re willing to look elsewhere. And I was one of those poor fools who paid like 250 rupees for henna… and then discovered that it was 50 just down the street. Oiy.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hehe that’s alright. Really you paid less than $5! 😉

  • http://technosyncratic.com Technosyncratic

    Dang, you two are bargaining machines! When we were in India we most employed the “walk away” method — it’s amazing how much the price drops when you’re willing to look elsewhere. And I was one of those poor fools who paid like 250 rupees for henna… and then discovered that it was 50 just down the street. Oiy.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hehe that’s alright. Really you paid less than $5! 😉

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca/ Ayngelina

    Wow I am impressed, I will haggle but I really hate it! I do the walk away method too.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      The walk away method is very effective in India. 🙂

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca/ Ayngelina

    Wow I am impressed, I will haggle but I really hate it! I do the walk away method too.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      The walk away method is very effective in India. 🙂

  • http://migrationology.com/ Mark Wiens

    Fantastic tips Kieu, I’ll remember to use the “theek hai” method when I travel to India!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      Thanks Mark! Definitely give it a go, it gets addicting. I still can’t get the head wobble out of my system. Haha

  • http://migrationology.com/ Mark Wiens

    Fantastic tips Kieu, I’ll remember to use the “theek hai” method when I travel to India!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Thanks Mark! Definitely give it a go, it gets addicting. I still can’t get the head wobble out of my system. Haha

  • Pingback: Travel Rinse Repeat Roundup May 20th, 2012

  • http://www.aswetravel.com/ Sofia – As We Travel Blog

    Great tips! I always feel uncomfortable to haggle at the start, but after a while I get used to it and a few days later I’m slightly addicted to it..!

    I always did the walk away in India too, it works incredibly well in India.

    I didn’t know that things like fruit was negotiable, and I’ll remember to do the “theek hai” next time we visit 😉

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      It is addicting isn’t it? When our friend told us she used theek hai to get an upgrade for a bed in the train, I knew I had to try it. Definitely don’t shy away from anything when you’re in India. Head wobbling for fruits from the streets was my favorite. 😀

  • http://www.aswetravel.com/ Sofia – As We Travel

    Great tips! I always feel uncomfortable to haggle at the start, but after a while I get used to it and a few days later I’m slightly addicted to it..!

    I always did the walk away in India too, it works incredibly well in India.

    I didn’t know that things like fruit was negotiable, and I’ll remember to do the “theek hai” next time we visit 😉

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It is addicting isn’t it? When our friend told us she used theek hai to get an upgrade for a bed in the train, I knew I had to try it. Definitely don’t shy away from anything when you’re in India. Head wobbling for fruits from the streets was my favorite. 😀

  • Ginny Morales

    Hi Kieu – You didn’t say goodbye! I just sent a message to Anna because I missed seeing your pretty face and friendly smile around then to find that you left the company! She kindly gave me this site address and I am thrilled to read your adventures. I’ve only read a couple but they are fantastic! Enjoy your world tour; take care of yourself and BF and I’ll be checking back to see and hear about your wonderful experiences. Always, Ginny Morales

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ahh so sorry Ginny! Everything happened so quickly, I thought I made my rounds. 🙁 Will definitely drop by for a visit when I return. Hope all is well. Missing the BE team! 😀

  • Ginny Morales

    Hi Kieu – You didn’t say goodbye! I just sent a message to Anna because I missed seeing your pretty face and friendly smile around then to find that you left the company! She kindly gave me this site address and I am thrilled to read your adventures. I’ve only read a couple but they are fantastic! Enjoy your world tour; take care of yourself and BF and I’ll be checking back to see and hear about your wonderful experiences. Always, Ginny Morales

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ahh so sorry Ginny! Everything happened so quickly, I thought I made my rounds. 🙁 Will definitely drop by for a visit when I return. Hope all is well. Missing the BE team! 😀

  • http://twitter.com/georgieonthego George on the Go

    Amazing tips I will definitely use these on my up coming trip to India 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yup! Once you get the head wobble.. you’re golden. 😉

  • George on the Go

    Amazing tips I will definitely use these on my up coming trip to India 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yup! Once you get the head wobble.. you’re golden. 😉

  • http://twitter.com/DocWends Journeys and Travels

    I’m planning to go to India next year and is post surely will be a great help! Il wear the cotton pants u both are wearing!

    Awesome tip and will remember theek hai

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Theek hai is a very powerful tool.. You’ll have a blast with it! 😀

  • Journeys & Travels

    I’m planning to go to India next year and is post surely will be a great help! Il wear the cotton pants u both are wearing!

    Awesome tip and will remember theek hai

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Theek hai is a very powerful tool.. You’ll have a blast with it! 😀

  • http://twitter.com/DocWends Journeys and Travels

    I’m going to India next year and this post is a useful tip!

  • Journeys & Travels

    I’m going to India next year and this post is a useful tip!

  • Sudeshna Thakurta

    Haha. I am an Indian and I loved reading your experiences. I hope you come back sometime soon and make sure you visit Puri, Odisha sometime for Ratha Yatra. You would have loved it had you been there sometime in July.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hehe thank you! Despite my Delhi belly, I really enjoyed our time in India. It was far too short though — we only got to explore Rajasthan. How’s the weather in July? I haven’t heard of Puri, Odisha, is that in the South or East? I hear both are very different and both worth visiting. I’d like to come back one day to do that. 🙂

  • Sudeshna Thakurta

    Well every Indian woman loves to show off this particular skill. Can’t really help it!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      This is a skill I need to master! Haha

Email
Pinterest