Surviving Your First Trip To An Indian Bazaar
Updated: Jan 10
Bazaar's also known as a market, are always buzzing with activity no matter the size or location in India. Bazaar's are typically overflowing with local stall holders selling anything from fruit & vegetables to traditional clothing or trinkets. Laneways are crammed with motorcycles weaving through the crowds of market goers just casually strolling along, chatting amongst themselves or haggling with stall holders. Hawkers will be trying to cram your hands with any goods that they have happened to come across to sell.
Beggars will stalk you through the crowds harassing you for money, while vendors will be yelling at the top of their lungs in a bid to grab your attention above other vendors. Strange men will gawk and stare at you, and in some cases even grope you. Then there are the thieves who take any opportunity to steal your belongings should you not be paying enough attention.
Along with all the sights to see, cuisines to taste and aromas to smell it can be a sensory overload. Albeit it is certainly a destination that every tourist must have on their to visit list, as it is an experience to remember. Here are a few tips to help you navigate your first trip to an Indian Bazaar.
Surviving Your First Trip To An
Be Ready To Haggle
As a tourist many locals will immediately overcharge you as they consider foreigners to have money. Sure I don't mind supporting the local economy and paying more, although that can get expensive each and every time you need to purchase something. So don't be afraid to haggle. Even locals haggle to get the best price possible. There is no hard and fast rule to haggling, other than to trust your instinct and pay what you are comfortable with.
Hold Onto Your Belongings Tightly
With laneways buzzing with crowds of people and traffic, be sure to secure your belongings or better yet bring as little as you can. Thieves are opportunistic and won't hesitate to swipe your handbag should you put it down. It is common for thieves to drive by on motorcycles and swipe your handbag from you. So I'm always sure to wear a crossbody bag and hold it securely in front of me. Even locals will wrap their coin purse or mobile phone in handkerchiefs to disguise their belongings when going to market.
Don't Accept Items From Hawkers
Indian streets are full of hawkers trying to sell you anything from wilted roses picked from someone else's garden to plastic dogs with wobble heads to place on your car dashboard. There are just so many hawkers in India you simply can't help them all. So if you are trying to avoid the attention then don't make eye contact with them. However chances are they have already spotted you through the crowds and are trying to get you to take one of their items. They do this so that once you are holding the item it is now yours and will make a scene demanding money from you to pay for it. No matter how much you try to give the item back they usually won't accept it and insist you pay for it.
Don't Make Eye Contact With Strange Men
As a foreign woman you would think that smiling or making eye contact with strangers is just being friendly. However should you do this to strange Indian men they will take this as a sign you are interested in them. Many will already most likely be staring or leering at you as you stroll through the bazaar, but should you then throw a glance their way they may take this as an invitation to grope you or make advances towards you. Of course tourist destinations tend to be more westernised and locals are accustomed to foreigners so this may not be as prevalent. Though you can certainly expect this behaviour in more traditional regions of India such as Punjab.
If You Donate To A Beggar Expect To Be Stalked
Homelessness in India is everywhere and you can expect beggars to approach you as a tourist, as they have more chance of receiving money. Locals tend to ignore beggars and won't make any eye contact. It is tragic seeing children being sent to beg and they use this to their advantage. But once you donate to one, they all tend to flock towards you and usually stalk you through the crowds in the hopes of receiving more. They typically won't give up till they receive a modest donation as they believe all tourists have money. This is really a personal choice as to whether or not you ignore beggars but let me tell you now, you are probably better off helping in other ways should you wish to help. Giving money only really encourages the cycle of begging.
Don't Overindulge On Street Foods
Indian street foods are oh so good yet oh so bad for you. You will find that street food vendors have next to no hygiene or food handling standards. So if you do over indulge you will definitely regret it the next day when you are suffering from food poisoning. Yet you certainly don't want to miss the experience. So I always stick to small portions when I do try new foods at the market. I also tend to avoid any dairy as even a small portion of dairy I have found makes me ill.
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Be Prepared To Be Pushed And Shoved
There is no such thing as personal space in India and there certainly isn't such a thing at an Indian Bazaar. Especially when they're in laneways with stall vendors having limited space and motorcycles sharing the laneway with crowds of market goers. Even large more well known bazaars in major cities usually are overflowing with crowds of people pushing and shoving their way past one another without a care.
Be Careful Of Traffic As They Will Run You Over
Not all bazaars will have traffic as some of the major well known bazaar's have designated market grounds. Though local markets tend to be in laneways and on streets. So there will be motorcycles zipping through the crowds without a care if they hit anyone. The only warning you have is a loud horn blaring before the motorcyclist barges their way past you.
Enjoy The Experience!
With so many sights to see, cuisines to taste, aromas to smell and souvenirs to buy you must remember to enjoy the experience. Every bazaar is a new and different experience in its own right. Therefore these tips are just a guideline.
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How was your first trip to an Indian Bazaar?
What tips would you add to this list?
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