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India Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in India
Each region has its own specialities, each town its own local craftspeople and its own particular skills, often passed down from generation to generation. For fabrics, silverware, carpets, leatherwork, gems and antiques, India is a shopper's paradise.
Bazaars and well-organised melas can be found in cities and many regional hotspots – Chennai, Hyderbad, Bangalore.
Shopping is as varied as India’s topography. There are specialised wholesale markets for specific items like spices, coffee and tea in Old Dehli’s Chandni Chowk or in Jaipur where there are single streets allotted to one item like clothing, chappals and jewellery. Prices are not usually visible and bargaining is the norm at most local bazaars. Be aware, there is a tourist premium affixed to many items. If you are uncomfortable with bargaining, many tourist spots across India will have state-run emporia where reasonable prices can be found such as Delhi’s Baba Kharak Singh Marg or Aparant network of outlets in Goa. Cash is the usual form of payment. It sometimes helps to have a local with you when shopping who can help you discern quality and good prices.
India has one of the world's largest carpet industries and exquisite Persian rugs can be found nationally. If you prefer to shop direct head to Jammu & Kashmir and Leh to pick up hand woven carpets and pashmina shawls. Shahtoosh shawls may be on sale but it is illegal to buy or sell them so avoid. Other goods include pickles, spices, Indian tea, perfumes, soap, handmade paper, incense, puppets and musical instruments.
The best time to shop is around festival time at Diwali, which generally runs from late October to early November. This is high season and many retailers from around the country will converge at the large melas in major cities to sell their goods.
Shopping can also have charitable benefits if you buy directly from the producers at the bazaars. Alternatively, there are a few non-governmental organisations (NGOs) supported through items they make and sell in their own shops. Try the Craft Revival Trust site (www.craftrevival.org) which lists information about the history of crafts around India and has a directory of where to buy direct from producers or other NGOs that run craft outfits.
There is a veto on the export of antiques, art objects over 100 years old, livestock, animal skins, products made from animal skins, live plants, human skeletons, illicit drugs, weapons, ivory, products made from ivory, animal horns, endangered shells, antiques, gold and silver bullion.
Shopping hours are Mon-Sat around 0930-1900 in most large stores; variable hours in bazaars.
Nightlife in India
Apart from some of the major cities, such as Mumbai (Bombay), Delhi and Kolkata (Calcutta), India has generally little nightlife as the term is understood in the West. In those cities with a flourishing nightlife, expect to find swanky bars, nightclubs and a vibrant performing arts scene. In many larger towns and tourist centres there are cultural shows featuring regionally-diverse performances of Indian dance and music. Delhi also hosts film festivals throughout the year. The famous Raj Mandir cinema (which resembles a large, flamboyant wedding cake) in Jaipur is the place to experience Bollywood films as they were made to be seen: in public and with large helpings of audience interaction. Goa is the only state with casinos – gambling is highly restricted in India – and it also still merits its reputation as the party state with world-class clubbing and beach gatherings de rigour during peak season.