Bargaining is an integral part of Indian culture. It’s a game that intimidates most but in reality is very simple and just takes practice to acquire.
You will be an expert in it after a few goes. I’m going to show you how to give them a run for their money so you get a fairer price.
The 3 Rules of Bargaining
- Start at one-third of the asking price and work up.
- Don’t go past half price. Usually, the real price is one-third of the price they’re quoting foreigners.
- Trying to buy a pashmina and the shopkeeper quotes you ₹3000? It’s worth ₹1000.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away.
- This is you flexing your power. If you walk away, they lose the sale, and the next shopkeeper or taxi driver gets it.
- When you walk away, they freak out. They’ll call after you. Turn around and check the price now and bargain again. If they still don’t meet you at your price, try the next store.
- Don’t let the shopkeeper know how much you love an item.
- They’ll let you walk away and assume you’ll return to buy it because they know how much you want it. You’ve lost your power.
Tip: Make friends with the concierge at your hotel. Ask them where you can shop for an item and what price range you should be paying.
Always Negotiate Prices up Front
This is one golden rule when buying anything in India.
Do not wait until the end of a trip for a driver, guide, or anyone to tell you the price, you’ll always be in for a shock, and they’ll quickly get angry if you try to bargain at that point.
Always negotiate prices first.
First Customer of the Day Belief
Shopkeepers believe that the first customer of the day is extremely auspicious. If the first customer doesn’t buy, it will be a lousy day for sales. They will do everything they can to make that first deal.
So, use that to your advantage by starting your shopping early and bargaining for a fair price. Don’t be surprised when the shopkeeper kisses the cash after the transaction too.
Check the Maximum Retail Price (MRP)
Every packaged product in India must, by law, have an MRP printed on it. It’s illegal for a shopkeeper to charge more than the MRP.
Always check the MRP before paying to make sure they are not overcharging you.
If they are, point to the MRP – they all know the MRP laws. This law does not apply to items sold loosely, without packaging, such as fruit.
How Much Do Rickshaws (Tuk-Tuks) Cost in India?
Rickshaw and Taxi are the main modes of tourist transport in India. For rickshaws, you should be paying no more than ₹25 for the first two kilometres (KM) then ₹8 per KM afterwards (1 KM = 0.6 MI). This is the Government set rate.
Every rickshaw in India must by law have a metre. They’re also meant to use those metres but they rarely will with tourists.
Know the distance you’re travelling by using Google Maps and calculate accordingly. They’ll never take you for the metre rate, you’re going to need to add ₹50 – ₹100 on top of that.
There is one exception: If you find a group of rickshaws and they’re not busy, you have more power to bargain for the metre rate.
First, tell them you want to go by the metre. When you sit inside the rickshaw they’ll turn the metre on. Make sure they do this and not tell you at the end of the trip the metre was off.
If not using a metre, agree on the fare for both taxis and rickshaws before the ride begins.
If you’re in a part of India, like Mumbai, where the drivers actually use the metre, make sure the metre is reset at the beginning of the trip. Sometimes there’ll be a few sneaky kilometres on it.
How Much Do Taxis Cost in India?
Standard taxi rates vary per city. They’re usually around ₹50 flag fare then ₹15 per KM or ₹20 if you want AC on. Taxis will more readily use the metre than rickshaws.
One exception is Goa. There you will be met with sky high taxi prices.
Just watch out for the drivers trying to get you to visit their friend’s store as mentioned in the airport chapter.
Full day taxi
Full day taxi hire is around ₹2000 a day. It’s an excellent way to see a city in a day. Hotels can organise this for you.
Have a plan of where you want to go ready for the hotel to instruct the driver on. Any problems with the driver call the hotel and have them talk to him.
You will need to tip the driver a few hundred rupees at the end of the trip, more if he was a kind and helpful driver.
Tip: For taxis in the major cities, use Uber. They work out cheaper than rickshaws because Uber is substantially subsidising trips in India to win market share.
How to Get Refunds in India
Shopkeepers in India hate returns. They can be very hard to get out of them. But one tactic that usually works is arguing.
When you ask for a refund, the shopkeeper’s first instinct is to say “no” and hope you’re like most tourists that give up there. Their second and third answers will be the same, “no.”
You need to repeat your problem with the item four or five times before they start giving in.
I find that if you remain at the counter and keep repeating your problem, they more often than not come around, especially if other customers are watching.
Tip: To avoid this hassle altogether shop at large reputable stores and brands.
India Survival Guide Table of contents
- Travel Essentials: Before You Travel to India
- Arriving in India: Getting to Your Hotel & Airport Amenities
- Tourist Scams to Avoid in India
- Avoiding Fake Money & Ripped Notes in India
- Avoiding Bad Accommodation
- How to Bargain, Get Refunds, and How Much Rickshaws Cost
- Avoiding Counterfeit Souvenirs in India
- How to Be Street Smart in India
- Buses and Trains in India Explained
- Food and Drink Safety for Travellers
- What to Do If You Get Sick in India
- How to Deal with Air Pollution in India