I am currently working in Bombay, India, and have been completely taken over by how colorful and feminine the women here dress. Coming from the East Coast of the United States, our favorite three colors are black, black, and black. Indian women however are covered in vibrant tones like bright fuchsia, orange, or lemon yellow. Seeing this in the streets each day, I knew that one of my goals before leaving would be to find some great clothes to remember this trip by.
To begin this quest, two of my female colleagues and I ventured into one of the shops at the high-end hotel we are staying in. Of course, we started getting giddy over the gorgeous designs and fabrics. Not really paying attention to price, we picked out some lovely tops and ran to try them on. I fell head over heels for a paprika colored tunic covered in flowers made of gold thread and a cotton ivory dress sprayed with red roses. The damage at the register was a bit over $300. Ouch!
The following day a group of us went to another tourist shop recommended in some websites and guide books. Here a colleague of mine bought a lovely blue silk saree for 14,000 Rupees (about US$270). We were excited to share the news with our local company contacts at work, when we learned from them that we had really significantly overpaid (like double or triple). Graciously, someone at our company volunteered to “take us around” to get some great clothing and jewelry for awesome prices. We were all in.
After work the following week, we walked about 5 minutes from our office, and as I like to say, we struck gold. This one shop we visited had walls covered like a rainbow in colorful rolls of fabric, and multiple shelves filled with incredibly unique tunic length tops called (kurtis). The variety and selection were quite good. I grabbed a handful of items like a kid in a candy store. Much to my delight, many fit me like a glove, while some required alterations.
On the spot in less than 20 minutes, I had two shirts tailored to my measurements at no charge! I walked out with five tops for less than $129. THIS is the difference between shopping like a local versus shopping like a tourist. I want to thank everyone at Matching Centre in Rustum Palace (Near Ganga Jamuna Theatre) in Bombay for their hospitality and incredible service.
My best advice when traveling abroad is to ask the locals where they shop. If you don’t have any contacts or colleagues to tap into, take advantage of those you run into during everyday tasks. Asking the server at the restaurant you had dinner in, your tour guide, or taxi driver can be great places to start.
The point is that you should explore getting opinions from more than just your hotel concierge or a website. These typical sources may point to you to more well-known or touristy locations… which we all know can be significantly marked up in price.
As always, I wish you the happiest of travels!