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Sandalwood items, fabrics (including silks), papier-mache, brassware, wood carvings, clothing, religious paraphernalia, paintings and prints, dhurri rugs, shawls, Oriental carpets, marble-inlay boxes, dolls, copperware, bronzes, musical instruments, silver, jute products, tea, saffron, batiks, bamboo products, fossils and crystals are among the good buys. Well-made souvenirs are available from most good hotels, but for the real Indian buying experiences head for any local market.

The national and state government emporium stores have high-quality items, but prices are usually a bit higher than elsewhere and you can't bargain. Bargaining is the name of the game almost everywhere else: Depending on the product, you may want to offer one-third to two-thirds of the initial asking price and take it from there. Remember that haggling for a good price takes time. When buying name-brand items, be careful - copycats abound. Any item more than 100 years old is classified as an antique; you will need an export license to take it home.

It's true (as you'll be told by gem dealers) that you can buy gems to take home for profit, but you can also get burned - only attempt it if you know a lot about gems. It's usually best to avoid any vendors selling animal-derived objects - tiger skins, elephant horns - because trade in most animal products is illegal. If you are dead set on obtaining such merchandise, the Indian Tourist Office strongly suggests that you insist on seeing the permission to sell any animal products and make sure to take a receipt.

If you see a brand-name product in unexpected places (a Gucci bag from a street vendor or a U.S.-brand candy bar), it may not be legitimate. Counterfeit and copycat goods are not just aimed at tourists - Indian residents are also wary. We had always wondered why the Indian toilet paper, A-One, carried the warning Beware of Imitations until we accidentally picked up a roll of A-Won brand, which had nearly identical packaging.

Shopping Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30 am-6 pm. In established markets, shopping hours usually stretch on till night falls. Because markets differ in which days they close, it's sometimes a good idea to double-check with locals before going to one.

Banking Hours: Generally Monday-Friday 10 am-2 pm, Saturday 10 am-noon. Long lines are common, and you are often required to stand in at least two lines for every transaction.

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