India Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in India
Each region has its own specialities, and each town its own local craftspeople with particular skills 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, Hyderabad, Bangalore.
Shopping is as varied as India’s topography. There are specialised wholesale markets for specific items like spices, coffee and tea (Old Dehli’s Chandni Chowk) and single streets in Jaipur allotted to one item category such as 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. Delhi’s Baba Kharak Singh Marg or the Aparant outlet in Goa is perfect for this. Cash is the usual form of payment.
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. However, be wary of Shahtoosh shawls, as these are illegal to buy or sell.
Other goods you should expect to see 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 (https://asiainch.org/) which lists information about the history of crafts around India.
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 in Jaipur is the place to experience a Bollywood film screening: 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.