I am a girl who likes to shop and in the last six years, I have done some serious shopping in India. I spent a month in Karnataka and met many local artisans there where I bought khadi and made clothing. I’ve met artisans in Arunachal Pradesh who make the most amazing neon prints which I had made into dresses and even a leather skirt. In Jaipur, I have found the best wholesale shopping places for rugs, jewelry, and textiles. You can even see how to block print. In Mysore, I got to see how to make the famous silk saris with actual gold woven through them. I couldn’t even afford to buy a handkerchief there! I’ve been lucky finding some on my own and some through shopping tours in India as a part of longer tours I was on.
Meeting local artisans here and tailoring my own clothes is something I love and have written about a lot on here. But, I was lucky to have the connections I did and as a backpacker or traveler passing through you won’t have built these up and therefore a tour is the best way to go. I’m going to show you the tours you can take for textiles and unique handicrafts in India and shopping tours for the best markets here. I remember my shopping tour of the Mysore market – it was incredible – the most organized market I’ve been to in India!
learning how to make incense in the Mysore Market
I’ll link to a mix of Get Your Guide as my European readers prefer to use them for tours and Viator as it seems the American readers like to book through there. They are both great sites and very trustworthy so really booking through either is fine. GYG does offer the lowest price guarantee so if you see something on Viator you like that is cheaper, you can ask GYG to match that price. I will not list a tour that I think is a waste of money – only ones that I honestly think will help you find amazing deals, see how things are made, and buy the perfect unique products of India. I also chose ones that were priced well and had good reviews to save you time in searching.
One thing you’ll notice right away about India is everyone from your hotel concierge to your rickshaw driver will try to take you somewhere to sell you something to make a commission. It’s a big part of tourism in India. They will pressure you to buy whether you go on a tour or on your own – and you should be FIRM in your decisions and simply say “no” when you don’t like something or aren’t interested. Here are some tips for negotiation in India.
8 Tours to Meet Local Artisans and Most Worthwhile Shopping Tours in India
1. Private Delhi Shopping Tour $45
Delhi is great when you know where to go and I sure don’t, haha! It’s a big city with many great markets. all focused on different things. This tour is 6 hours and you can customize it by choosing which markets you prefer. I suggest reading this article about the markets and then passing along your favorites to the company when you book. In terms of value for money, this is a good value. It’s more than you could see on your own (as you’ll spend a lot of time lost without a guide). It also has hotel pick-ups and drop-offs included. Book here with Viator.
2. City Market Tour & Breakfast in Bangalore $24
Bangalore is such a great city (other than the traffic, ha!) and I admit I haven’t done a lot of shopping here, although I have spent two trips there exploring as deeply as I could, especially the food. This tour goes to the main city market (or KR market) and you do a 2.5-hour walking tour. Typically on these types of specific market tours, they have connections to show you “behind the scenes”. Reviews are stellar and say you can try on a sari as well. Breakfast is at an iconic spot – so make sure to order a dosa! Book the KR Market our on Viator.
3. Learn Indian Pottery in Jaipur $26
This is an hour and a half class which is for all levels to try your hand at pottery with local artisans. This would be great for solo travelers to have something fun to do or even families as they list themselves as very kid friendly. I love the pottery made here and recently brough my mom back an entire carry-on luggage full of pottery gifts. I love to make pottery and took classes in school, so this one is high on my list. Book the pottery tour on Viator.
4. Jaipur Full-Day Shopping Tour $30
Shopping in Jaipur is my jam! I actually want to book a trip there in April to shop even more (I was just there in October and bought about 20 pounds of amazing goodies. It’s something you can do yourself and use Uber and my guide (linked above) to see some cool places. But, if you want to go into the markets and learn about the way things are made then a tour is necessary (my guide doesn’t touch on the markets just shops). This tour is a whole day long and actually includes seeing all the top attractions in Jaipur. For that reason, with an A/C car and pick up and drop off at your hotel, it’s a really really good price. It’s got amazing reviews so far. Book the Jaipur tour now on Get Your Guide.
5. Get Something Tailored in Delhi $41
This tour does not have any reviews yet and was just added to the Viator system. I want to try this so badly! This tour is meant to take you through the how to get something tailored from scratch. Decide what you want to make and they’ll help you decide which market you need to visit for materials, which you then pick out. They will take you to a tailor who will measure you then “help you negotiate a good rate with the tailor” (which will likely not be that good of a rate, haha) then you get something unique made just for you! In the end, it’s pretty cheap, so for me it would be cool to try it out. In Delhi you get so many different types of material so you could make a silk dress, a suit, or some cotton kaftans – you name it. Book your tailor experience on Viator.
6. Learn About Marble Inlay in Agra $25 (Departing from Delhi & see the Taj!)
I have been lucky to learn about inlay many times on my travels both with marble and wood and it’s a unique skill that is passed along by generations here in India. Agra is known for its marble (the Taj Mahal is here) so it’s a great place to do this tour. This tour is priced so cheap it almost doesn’t make sense because it’s a tour departing from Delhi. This is literally the biggest no-brainer booking if you want to go from Delhi to see the Taj because you are getting from Delhi to Agra and getting a tour. So, you arrive in Agra at sunrise (leaving Delhi around 3 AM – they get you from your hotel) and you take a peek but don’t go in (you can do that later on your own time) as the shopping tour will start. You’ll see inlay, embroidery, brass work, and more. Book the Agra shopping tour on Viator.
7. Try Your Hand at Traditional Tie-Dye in Jaipur $86
Who doesn’t love a little bit of tie-dye?! Tie-Dye is actually called “Shibori” in India and it’s been around before the hippie’s claimed it. It’s a traditional, natural dying technique. This 5-hour class will let you try your hand at it. They’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. You get to make your own item from scratch. It’s a little pricey and sadly has no reviews yet so next time I’m in Jaipur I’m going to do this tour to see if it’s worth it – or if you do, let me know! Book the tie-dye tour on Viator.
8. Intensive 10-Hour Indian Fashion Tour in Mumbai $200
Pricey, no!? This tour is for those who are seriously interested in Indian fashion, the Western influence, and how things are made – including going to the slums to see the fashion made there (very impressive products come out from recycled material). They are open to customizing the tour for what you want. You’ll see how to weave cotton, silk, go into showrooms of famous designers, and of course, get to shop. It’s all day long and they will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. Meals are not included. This is expensive and I would imagine the average traveler would not want to spend money like that on a tour for fashion – but a fashion designer or someone wanting to get into this type of work should consider this. I get asked a lot about starting a fashion brand here, exporting goods, selling on Etsy and more and this would get you connections you might want in the industry. Book here with Get Your Guide.
Want more tour options through other companies? Tripsavvy put together a list of 9 tours she recommends which you can check out – some are longer tours over multiple destinations. Some are India-based companies while others are UK & USA based.