I’ve heard great things about Delhi and not so great things. For one, the shopping is supposed to be awesome: great, colorful selection of clothes, good prices, and lots of markets. Also, the buildings and sights are pretty fantastic. The problem was that it can be very unsafe for foreigners or people traveling alone. If they know you are not an Indian (local resident) they will rip you off with everything. The safety issue here is that because they are very pushy with sales, you can find yourself badgered a lot my many different people wherever you go, and some people will take advantage of the fact that you don’t know how things work or how to get around. Originally I wanted to go by myself, but I’m so glad Lydia came with me because she speaks Hindi. The first thing people ask us is where we’re from so they can gauge how much they can get away with, it’s just the nature of the beast. When necessary, I kept my mouth shut and let her do the talking when we were shopping. I’d highly suggest going around with a local if you can, but if not just be prepared to pay a lot more. I know no one wants to be ripped off, so bargain your way as much as possible, and then don’t let it get to you too much. Besides, you’re buying something you typically won’t get back home, so a few more dollars/euros/yen is probably worth it.
Word of caution on shopping: I felt inclined to write about this after a particularly bad experience at one of the more popular markets, Dilli Haat. Lydia and I were both excited to check it out, and when we got there they told us that they didn’t do bargaining at all here. We thought it was odd but went along with it. They had a great selection of clothes with all these beautiful patterns and good material. Lydia had her eye on some sarees and we also saw a few scarves. However, the guy was acting a little shady, and quoting us different prices for virtually the identical item. They said the quality of the material was different, but it was difficult to tell (was probably the same thing.) We were getting annoyed by that, but it wasn’t until we overheard a transaction next to us that Lydia got really pissed. There was a foreigner looking at a nice scarf next to us, and his salesman quoted it at 3600 rupees, which is absurd. Lydia was sneaky and waited until they left and then inquired about the same scarf – the price he quoted her was 1400. That’s when she started telling the guy off in Hindi while I stood to the side, trying to convey my annoyance by waiting by the door and ready to go. The salesman was terrified that we would cause a ruckus and tell everyone around us what was going on and threw in two scarves for free; we only bought some small items which we knew were priced well and impossible to find in South India, and veto’d all other purchases. If you are planning on visiting Delhi to do some shopping. I would check out other markets instead where you can bargain. Don’t believe what they tell you at Dilli Haat – its dirty business! As Lydia said, if they rip you off through bargaining it’s your own choice, but lying and saying it’s the same price for everyone when it’s clearly not is so wrong, and you’ll have a lot harder time getting a fair price in the end. Remember though that Delhi does have great shopping though, so don’t let this dissuade you from venturing out and doing some fun bargaining. Good luck!