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home > hints and tips > things to buy in India

Things to buy in India

This section covers a few things that can be bought in India that are cheaper or better in India than they are in Europe.

Glasses/contact lenses
DV (digital video) tapes
Portable speakers
Computer books

Kerala coffee
Tin boxes

Cheap and best

Glasses/contact lenses

In the UK at least, glasses and contact lenses are extremely expensive, especially the frames. Glasses in India can be had very cheaply and are usually of good quality if you don’t buy the very cheapest. There are plenty of opticians, but the better ones are in cities. The best offer state of the art facilities as good as the UK, and a full range of services. Imported designer frames can be had far cheaper than in Europe, and the higher end "made in India" frames are nicely designed and durable. Lenses are offered in glass or more modern materials at a fraction of the price you would expect in Europe. Some materials are imported, while others are made in India under license from major international manufacturers. Tinted, light sensitive, lightweight; all types of lens are available. A pair of glasses with light sensitive lenses and good quality Indian made frames should set you back about 2,000 rupees, or 25 UK Pounds.

A recommended optician in New Delhi is the Optical Palace on the Outer Circle of Connaught Place in "M" block, kind of opposite Nirula's hotel. Tel 0112-373-9800. They are very helpful and can produce quality specs in 24 hours.

DV (digital video) tapes

If you’re coming with a mini DV camcorder, it might be worth waiting till you get to India to buy the Tapes. Most consumer electronics and consumables are pricey in India, but for some reason not mini DV cassettes. Genuine Sony tapes sell in Manali for about 300 rs each, about 4 UK Pounds, which is at least 20 percent cheaper than UK high St prices, and Manali is usually substantially more pricey than major cities. Proper brand name shops will still be expensive, but going to the likes of Palika Bazaar in Connaught place will get you a good price on "grey market" original tapes.

Portable speakers

If you're bringing a walkman or Minidisc player and don’t want to be tied to headphones, you can now buy cheap and fairly backpack friendly pairs of speakers in India very cheaply. They are usually mains powered, stand about 15-20 cm tall and offer fair sound quality for the price. The best place in Delhi is Palika Bazaar near on Connaught Place. Expect to pay around 200 rs after a bit of haggling. Do get them to check they work with a walkman before leaving.

Computer books

Not the obvious purchase in India, but if you do buy computer books, the bookshops in India are worth a browse, with prices a fraction of those in Europe. The printing is usually a little inferior, and colour pics are usually substituted for black and white, but for most books, that scarcely matters. The books are labelled as "for sale on the Indian Subcontinent only, and are usually published by an Indian publisher under a license deal. For example, the Dreamweaver Bible costs 499 Rs, as opposed to about £35 (2399 rs) in the UK. Assuming you buy a few books and dont want to carry them, you can always send them home via surface mail parcel, which is incredibly cheap.


While Silver jewellery is cheap and fairly common in India, it is seldom any more unusual in design than that found in trendy markets in Europe such as Camden market in London. What is great though, is having stuff made to order to your own design, set with stones you pick out yourself if desired. Its a lot easier if you can offer a good drawing of the design you have in mind than trying to explain what you mean. The best place is certainly Jaipur, famous for its markets in Jewellery and semi precious stones, where prices quoted are usually per gram for the weight of silver, plus a price per gram extra for the work. Check out the quality of the shops other work before you pay a deposit and do haggle over the cost of the work. Be very, very wary of scams in Jaipur that sound too-good-to-be-true; they are not the bargains they seem. Avoid going into a shop with your rickshaw wallah like the plague; his commission will add a fat increase to the price you pay. They are even given a commission for taking you in, whether you buy or not.

Kerala coffee

The Indian Coffee house, owned by the Indian coffee workers Co-op has branches in many Indian cities and serves good, inexpensive food and excellent, fresh coffee. They also sell very nice ground coffee or beans for around 200rs a kilo to take away.

Tin boxes

There are many shops in India catering to "tin box fetishists". They sell, well, tin boxes in an incredible range of shapes and sizesand uses. Tiffin (lunch) boxes, snuff boxes, budget or induatrial size stash boxes. These can often be a useful way to protect small delicate items in your backpack from getting crushed, or the tiny ones can serve as emergency ashtrays in rooms that dont provide them. If you have a peculiar fascination for these and are in London, there is a shop (Indian of course) in Green street, Upton park E7, opposite Plashet Rd, that has an amazing selection of tin boxes and iron stuff.
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