Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What to purchase on a trip to India

We are planning another India trip this year, and I can't wait to do my favorite!!! For those of you who don't know, I am an expert shopper. Like, Ph-D level.... and my favorite thing to do when abroad is purchase unique things that you would never find at home.

Traditional Indian outfits (of your choice)
Whether it be sarees, Salwar Kameez, MUST purchase Indian clothes simply because you CANNOT match the quality and price to the things that you'd find abroad - trust me, I have looked! Plus, in India - they have the latest designs. And one of my favorite processes is picking out fabric, sitting down, at the fabric "bar", as I like to call it.
Note: Get it tailored while you're there. Usually any dress shop will have a tailor on site or right around the corner. Some even do delivery to your hotel!

Children's Indian attire
If you thought finding Indian kids' clothes were hard abroad...then wait til you try to find children's clothes. You HAVE to get these in India itself - and if it is ready-made, note that the sizes run waaaay smaller.

(My auntie and me - in our cotton kurtas)

Ready-made cotton kurtas
Wear it over jeans or leggings, even the cotton ones have a fancy look! Easy to wear, especially in the summer heat.

Pure Attar fragrance
These are amazing and last forever. I have three bottles which I am still using, because you only use a drop. You can put it in your bath water, body moisturizer or use it as a fragrance, or even a room fragrance.


Gold (or other fine stones)
Yes, expensive. But go ahead of time, and take a snap of it - and send in an Indian friend/relative in later to do the negotiating in terms of the price. The craftsmanship of gold in India is amazing. And, they'll give you a protective travel case to go with it.

Costume jewelry
They have a fantastic selection of costume jewelry - especially bangles. They have more selections of colors and newer designs.

One of the things that I only buy in India is packs of bindi's - mainly due to the price. In the West, they can cost $10 per pack, when in India, they only cost max 15INR. Plus, they pack light! I get at least 10 packs when I go.

Fancy Chappals (sandals)
Indian women like to wear bejeweled sandals with a small platform kitten heel with their outfits. You won't find fancy enough ones out West! The largest size I saw was a 41.

You can purchase loose fabric or purchase it ready-made. The block-printed ones are the best. All my tablecloths are from India.

(Lakme sindoor)

Beauty Products
Some of the things I like to pick up are beauty products, such as hair oil, or Lakme products. For those of you who wear Sindoor, Lakme makes a liquid one so you can get the line straight.

Fine teas
You just can't get the same quality or freshness. I like to purchase small packets and try each of them. This is also great as gifts.

If you are a fan of Mehndi or like to practice it - you have to purchase Henna from India itself because it will guarantee it's freshness. Many of the ones that are sold in Indian grocers abroad are years old and will have no color.

Indian Literature
One of my favorite things to do is go to a local bookstore and scour the Indian Literature. So many of the novels are things that are not even carried out West - we probably only get 1% of it! Plus, reading Indian literature gives a deeper insight into many cultural behaviours that may or may not be explained.

Idols/Religious artwork
Almost all Indian artwork has elements of religion in it & depicts many of the stories of gods and goddesses. I love to purchase miniature paintings and wood carvings depicting the gods. 


What do you think, dear readers? What are some items that you only like to purchase from India?



  1. I will EAT A LOT south Indian foods if I go to India.

    1. Me too! And I like to purchase sweets to bring back abroad..

  2. Musical instruments! I wanted to get a harmonium last time. Will get one this time. :)

  3. I am a tea fanatic, and I will say that quality tea is actually more difficult to find in India than in the west! the reason being that until very recently tea in India meant chai for most people, the quality of the leaves for that kind of tea doesn't need to be good as the tea leaves are boiled along with the water and milk and doused in sugar and spice. It was torture for me at first because I like my tea black without sugar and milk, and gently infused, none of the tea leaves brands in India delivered anything taste wise. Until finally twinings offered some variety, but to really get the good tea stuff you can easily end up spending 3-400 rupees a small pack in full leaves, and that is the starting price for fine tea. A couple of years ago there was a show on TLC hosted by Vir Sangvi about tea and how for a tea producing country India is not leaving the best of its production to the domestic market.

    1. That is so interesting, I had no idea!!! Good to know, thank you for the info

  4. My family likes to shop for home decor and spices when they come visit me in India by the way :)

    1. Home decor - the best!!!! And spices - YES!

  5. @Alexandra

    You look fabulous in salwar kameez just like in sari.

    1. Thank you! Salwars Kameez is my go-to every day, even here in the West! In the Summer I only wear Salwar Kameez!

  6. I can feel your excitement Alexandra! How fun to plan the trip?:-) Since, I am already here I can also say yes to all ---- too many lovely things to purchase in India! Love the fabrics and clothes here:-)

    1. Yes, fabrics and clothes....the best! I always have overweight luggage on the way is unavoidable!

  7. Alexandra,

    Glad you are planning another trip to India, thanks for sharing your shopping tips. Love your outfit, looks good on you! The picture of you and your Aunt is cute! Good luck getting all your goodies when you go. I will say that the perfume vial is just amazing! Especially a gold bottom and precious stones on it, how lovely.


    1. Thanks Missy, I can't wait...I just have to remember to pack light!

  8. Alexandra, What excitement going to India to shop! As you know there is a plethora of articles from different states such a beautiful handmade stationery; cook books; pottery; leather goods;laquer ware; carpets, sandal wood carvings from the South etc.
    With regard to the tea, it was my understanding that the tea sold in India is dust tea (lowest grade), and that the good stuff is for export only.
    Have fun!!

    1. Yes, those are great suggestions....a lot of the cookbooks you can't get in the West, last time I got some special dal cook books from Tara Dalal but my MIL stole them when she came!
      Sandalwood carvings are magnificent...

  9. For Americans suffering under the miserable & expensive excuse for a healthcare 'system' in the US-
    Buy your maintenance medications (prescriptions & over the counter) in India.
    Stock up & save $$$!
    India has great quality pharmaceuticals at incredibly low prices compared to the US in BOTH brand name & generic!
    Get your allergy meds, high blood pressure meds, migraine meds, prescription topicals like Retin A, asthma inhalers, whatever in India & save beaucoup $$$!!
    You don't need a prescription in India to buy your medications either - but if you would like to see a doctor & go over your meds a physician visit is cheap & readily available.
    Some advice on utilizing an Indian tailor-
    If you are really picky about how your clothing fits & don't want to go through numerous fittings & aggravation - find a garment that fits EXACTLY like you want & show it to the Indian tailor to copy the style & fit. For example find a kurti/kameez/salwars that is exactly the fit & style you'd like & ask the Indian tailor to copy it in the fabric you've chosen.
    Since Indian tailors don't use a set 'pattern' like we do in the west it is much better for them to use the measurements from an actual garment that fits how you'd like than measurements from your body. We westerners also tend to be shaped a bit differently than most Indians also - (broader through the shoulders & narrower through the hips).

    1. That is a fantastic suggestion....and also to see a doctor there, you can just walk in without an appointment in many places - quick and easy!
      That is excellent advice about the tailoring, very smart. That way they will all fit the same.

  10. I would also like to add to this list:

    -South Indian pickles in jars
    -Sweets (they can be sealed air-tight for freshness)

    1. Don't forget to wrap the pickle jars in plastic in case they leak.

      Some online shopping seems to have taken off as well as I noticed this article about one store. I am sure that there are other smaller ones as well and friends will be able to advise you as to which ones are reliable.

  11. Alexandra, This jewellery is made for a good cause and can be bought in India, US and online.

  12. Indeed Indian clothing and fabrics are of good quality and the jewellery too.And yes I would like to tell you that you are beautiful and look great in indian attire.Loved your pictures.

    1. Awwww thank you! The majority of my shopping I only do in India now...the quality is just too good


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