How to buy things from USA & ship to India?

Update:  According to a new provision passed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in India, the C.I.F value of import of consumer electronic items for personal use is enhanced to 50,000 INR (from INR 2,000). Which means you can now import consumer electronic items like smartphones from US and other countries to India, which costs up to 50,000 Rupees without any custom duty OR very less customs duty (earlier it was a flat 42%  of original price)Source.

Many people have asked me this question. How to buy something from the US and then get it shipped to India? If you’re thinking what to buy when traveling from USA back to India, here is a list.

Mostly gadgets or electronic items, like when there is a new mobile phone released that is only available in the US. Shipping gadgets and electronics to India is kind of a problematic issue you see, especially when you have to pay the duty.

There is a lot of security check that goes in, and you have to pay a heavy excise duty in India. And the processes in India of getting the product delivered to you is a nightmare.

I’ve heard stories where some people got charged 5 times the actual cost of the product and sometimes products damaged during shipping etc.

Looks like there is an easy solution to the problem now. (If you’re trying to send gifts to India, read this article.) 

How to buy things in USA & Send to India?

1. Good ol’ Amazon

Amazon recently launched a new service called Amazon Global. Certain products are eligible for this service. What it means is that you can buy from Amazon, and have it shipped globally without worrying about third party shipping. When you search for products on Amazon, just check the “Amazon Global Eligible” and “Free International Shipping” toggle on the left (see screenshot). Once you select the product, you can ship to India by just adding your local address. You will need a global credit card though. Click here to see how the process works.

Buy laptop from USA to India

2. Borderlinx

Borderlinx is a company that can help you buy stuff in the USA and then ship it safely to India. According to what the company claims, you can buy stuff from stores like Amazon or BestBuy online, order it to your local US address (the company’s address) and the company will mail it to your Indian address in 2-5 business days. Sounds great! There are some restrictions though on what you can send. For example, cash, lithium batteries etc cannot be send as they are illegal.

According to Borderlinx, you can save up to 25% in shipping costs when you send it through them as compared to other regular shipping. Also, they have a shipping cost calculator so you can see how much it will cost you for sending something to India from USA.

Pretty neat service, I must tell you. But this is for those who don’t have any contacts in USA (friends or relatives).

3. Manyship

This is another neat service that will let you buy anything in USA and ship to you in India. It uses people traveling to India as carriers. So essentially, you will buy from some online store, ship to a local address (which will be give by the app based on who is ready to help you) and they will bring it to you.

The problem is that most of the times, you will not find people traveling at the time you need. You will need to wait until there is someone willing. But it’s a great service to save on the customs duties.

Here is how you can send gifts to India from USA

How To Ship Electronics from USA to India?

A lot of people ask me what’s the best way to ship electronics from USA to India easily. Most people want to get away with the custom duty. Here’s my answer to those looking to get this done.

You cannot get away with custom duties on electronics (read update above). All kind of electronics should be declared to the customs when they arrive in India and they will be charged a custom duty. However, there are some exceptions and a right and wrong way of doing it. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

If you’re sending any kind of electronics, let’s say a laptop or mobile phone to India from US, then first off figure out how much does it cost for shipping. For example, most shipping companies measure the height and weight of the shipment to calculate costs. Let’s say you are sending a large laptop. The length of the laptop might be, say 20 cms and width say 15 cms and height 2 cms. For most shipping companies, this would make to a shipping cost of within $35 – $50.

Things you should ask when shipping electronics from USA to India

Ask them the following questions.

1. What is the actual price? Give them the height, weight and width of the box the item would fit in (most shipping companies calculate cost by box size) instead of the actual dimension of the item.

2. Ask them how long it will take for the shipment to arrive in the local address instead of their company. Most shipping companies will tell you the time it will reach India, not necessarily your doorstep. There is a difference between the two.

3. Ask them if there is a speedier option. Mostly, they will quote you the cheaper price and upsell you with the higher price if they sense urgency.

4. Ask them if there is a slower option. Don’t show urgency. Sometimes, they can club your order with another one, if you are ready to wait couple more days/weeks and this becomes a cheaper option.

5. Ask them which cities they deliver to and ensure your local address is catered to.

6. Ask if you will get a shipping tracking number. If they’re using a reliable shipping partner like UPS, you will get a tracking number by which you can track the shipping status.

7. Ask for promo codes. better yet, search for it online. Most companies have a reserve price and they can squeeze in a discount if required, although they don’t reveal it the first time.

Things to buy from USA to India

So, if you’re traveling from USA to India, you can end up in a tricky situation confused – that is creating the list of things you should buy to India. Everybody starts with a list and gets nowhere. I’ve been there many a times.

But here are a few things that might help you.

1. Electronics & Mobile phones to buy from USA to India

When buying electronics from USA to India, make sure you buy the ones that are compatible in India. Not all electronics are compatible in India, right from plug points to screen types there are many things you got to look into. If you’re looking to buy TV’s. the advice is that you’re better off buying them in India. Because, considering the import duty charges and risk involved, it’s not worth the money. Agree that price is comparatively cheaper in USA, but including import duties and the shipping charges, it will make up more than what you’d expect in India.

However, in the case of mobile phones or tablets (especially a recently released model), it is advised that you get it from USA, because the price is cheaper than India, and you can find a work around to make it work in India. For example, a new iPhone can be bought from the Apple store (not contract based), and the price would still be cheaper than India (if it is available that is). I’ve bought an iPhone 5 when it released in 2013 and took it to India, and it worked fine there with the new SIM cards available (Phone was not on contract). I had to get a charger adapter though to fit Indian plug points.

Also, there are several unlocked, no-contract mobile phones available well under $100 on Amazon. I’d recommend to buy couple of them if you have the budget. Just make sure that they have the facility to change SIM cards (Phones that come from carriers like AT&T and Verizon will only work with those carriers, so this is extremely important) and has triband/quadband feature, that is required for them to work in India. I’ve made a list of such phones that you can buy from USA to India.

2. Clothes

Can’t generalize here because people think differently about clothes. For instance, someone looking for branded stuff, definitely should buy from USA. Like Louis Vuitton or Tommy Hilfiger stuff. You are not going to get it in India, and if at all, it’ll come at a double premium. So, if you are the trendy kind, who wants the latest in Fashion, look no further, get it from USA.

But if you’re the budget conscious kind, then you might get some good deals online or at regular stores like Walmart and Target, but my personal recommendation is that you buy clothes from India. It’s far cheap and you get a better collection to choose from (except for when it is high end premium brands).

3. Gifts

There are several gifts you can buy from USA to India, and that too at cheaper prices. Most of these gifts range from $20 – $500 and are very cost effective when you take them to India. Example: Toys, Mobile Phone Accessories, Small Electronics, Gardening Items, Home Improvement Items, Kitchen Accessories etc.

Here is a list of gifts Indians buy while going to India

Most of these items are under $100 are are valuable when you take them to India, because either you won’t get them in India or they are better quality for the price.

Shaver/Trimmer

Most of the times, Costco has some kind of promotion going on where you get two trimmers/shavers for around $30. On Amazon too, there are several good one’s available. I recommend the one with different trimmer sizes.

Braun Series 3 is a good choice (Available at Amazon).

USA-To-India-Shopping-List-Shaver

Dental Floss

They are cheap and can be easily accommodated to your luggage.

What To Buy When Going to India from USA

Motor Toothbrush

The kids in your family are going to love these I guarantee!

What to buy from USA to India

X Box 360 / Sony Playstation

Most of the times Costco would have a promotion for these and it’s a good idea to check with your local store before buying it online. If you can’t find a deal, it’s a good idea to get it from Amazon. Because the price in India for an Xbox is higher that in USA. (Amazon price is around $399)

What to buy to India from USA?

Designer Shoes

These are much recommended if you have teenagers or youngsters in the family. One thing to note here is that you’ve got to check the US Foot Size v/s Indian Foot size measures. Call up your family member whom you want to gift to and ask their foot size and buy the corresponding US foot size. (I personally recommend buying one step higher if you’re buying a sports shoes like running/walking shoes.)

Watches

I’m not a big fan of watches but I know a lot of folks buy it because they are easy gifts. And they are cheaper for known brands in USA (not the cheap knockoffs). I won’t suggest buying the below $20 types, because they are cheap in quality and in India these days, you can get them pretty cheap as well. So try to stick to $50 and above and choose good well known brands. There are several smart watches out in the USA that is not available in India now, like the Sony Smart Watch – which is around $78 bucks – very much worth the money!

Branded Perfumes

Branded perfumes too are available in India but some brands are not available in India like Nicki Minaj or Justin Bieber kind. They are exclusive in the US market, so you might want to eye them rather than buying just any perfume.

Hand Sanitizers

They are cheap and available in plenty.

Body Massagers

Going-to-India-USA

Though several China made massagers are available in India today, the one’s you get in USA are better in quality, especially the above $50 ones. I got a full body massager from Costco at $130 the other day and it’s probably the best investment for that money I’ve made recently. Top quality massager that elderly folks will enjoy! Just make sure that they work in Indian electricity power and you have a converter for the plug point. It’s easy to carry them too.

How much will it cost in custom duties to import electronics to India?

Good question. It really depends on the items you are bringing and their original cost. To get an idea about how much the Indian customs will charge extra as duties on electronics and other items you import, check out the thread here in the forums – Indian customs import duty prices.

Update:  According to a new provision passed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in India, the C.I.F value of import of consumer electronic items for personal use is enhanced to 50,000 INR. Which means you can now import consumer electronic items like smartphone from US and other countries to India, which costs up to 50,000 Rupees without any custom duty. (Source)

All the best. Let me know how your shipping experience went.


About the author

Mani Karthik

Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC's to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I've learned in life. This blog is read today, by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here's my full story. Connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! :)

72 Comments

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  • Hi Mani,

    Is there customs duty on apparel? Last time I bought in 2015, items cost was $100 and customs charged me Rs.2000. Is it still the same or there is no customs charge for apparel like electronics upto Rs. 50000. Thanks.

    • Technically, there is no duty on things worth upto Rs.50,000. But from experience, what I’ve seen is that they will charge duties randomly and to their wish. One way to avoid is (no guarantee though) is to declare it as a used item and not let it stand out in fancy packaging in your luggage. Avoiding new boxes, gift packaging etc is a good idea.

    • You can, but it also depends on what type it is. Drones are kind of a grey area because of regulations. You might want to check with the manufacturer whether or not it is possible.

  • Hi Mani,
    I want to order whey protein (ON 100% whey gold) directly from USA to India (Delhi). I searched on Borderlinx, health supplements are in their prohibited list.

    KIndly suggest me in Detail what to do?

    Thanks

  • hi.. i want to buy gas grill stove it will cost around 900 USD weight like 72Kg…
    how much it will cost shipping + customs and how there pickup my product kindly guid me…

    thanking you..

  • Can i import used mobile phone to this country we call India?
    I have a cousin in USA, he purchased S8 when it was launched. Now he wants to buy Note 8 and wants to send S8 to me.

    So my question is, do i have to pay custom duty? The handset is used, you said no duty if item is proved used. Otherwise i may have to pay 12000 Rs as duty only.

  • Hi mani karthik sir,
    one of my friend stay in USA, and he wants me to send his 2 years old, used, Lenovo thinkpad, do i have to pay custom tax on that? or where i have to collect that item, does the shipment company directly send it to my door?.

    • Hi Sagar,

      If he is shipping it via an agency like Fedex or DHL, it’ll need to clear customs. Once proved that it is used laptop, you wouldn’t most likely need to pay duties on it, but this is totally up to customs to decide. You’ll need to provide documents to show that the laptop is used (receipt of purchase showing date etc).

      Otherwise your best bet is to let someone carry it over with him while visiting India.

      Hope that helps.

  • hi mani my cousin is in usa and he bought an iphone 7 but no one is coming to india the present price of iphone 7 32gb is 60000 in india but in usa its $649 how can he ship safely to india without any extra taxes please comment very important

  • Mr mani karthik sir,
    iam looking forward to buy a edc flashlight from a site called banggood, the product costs around 5000 rupees ,
    and according to your update stating that the limit for electronics has been increased to 50000 rupees from 2k, will i be able to get this without getting customs slapped on it??
    please help
    your help is much appreciated

  • Hi Mani, This is a great information. I am eager to buy a soundbar which is not launched in India – Samsung HW-K950 which cost $1500 in USA. Can you please suggest how do I need to get to India safely and in a most trustful manner?

    Your advise will be highly appreciated.

    • That’s a great product you found Nilesh. It’s on Amazon but Global shipping is not available (most likely because it isn’t launched in India officially). So your best bet is, Borderlinx, ManyShip or ShopUSA. Get a quote from them giving the product package dimensions and weight (available on the product description on Amazon) and compare who gets the best deal. My hunch is they will be very close. All the best!

  • Hi Mani I want to purchase wd Hard disk from Amazon.com
    some of my friends already purchasing hard disk from amazon.com

    for example WD 4TB HARD DISK is $100 if purchase 4 pcs 100×4 = $400

    THEY SOLD AT $80 dollars each after they get in india
    they buy it from borderlinx or manyship

    my question is that how we considered item as used to get discount on item as well as on shipment ?
    i am new i never buy anything from amazon.com i am kneen to start buying
    please give the the guidance .

    • Rahul,

      You will have to pay the customs fees on them. Borderlinx is a good site to buy through (you will have to pay the fees anyways). They have lot of complaints for small orders however.

  • hi can i buy second hand camera lenses from usa which are not avilable in india i have been wrongly charged custum fee of more then 2000 rupees on the item which i purchases on 16.5$

  • hii
    i want to buy bhcosmetics..dy arnt costing mch… bt d custom duty aftr getting d product in india is high… do me favour leme kno if dre is any chnce f reducin d cost… how about shopusa.com ..

  • Sir Thanks for this Great Blog.You are Awesome.
    and I have a question sir and that is How can I buy an iphone 7 for less than 100$ and ship it to my city here in India?
    Please help me Sir.

  • Hi,
    I though I posted this yesterday…
    I want to import two CD turntables and a mixer from the UK?
    Will I still pay a custom fee since the new limit is 50K Rupees? The CD turntables are about $150 each (used and out of production), and the mixer is about $250 (also used and needs a bit or repair). I’ve heard of stuff disappearing but is this still the case, especially with electronics? I’m not sure if it’s worth the risk. I’m was willing to pay the appx 30% tariff but then saw that the limit had been raised. Please inform if you think this is easy enough to do. My main concern is that it might get lost/taken. I have not imported anything overseas from before so a bit worried.
    thanks
    R

    • Hey Rahul,

      I think it still is a good deal if you import them. Considering they are used, you could save a lot if you are getting them through a friend or family. You didn’t mention which service you are taking, but depending on which one, your charges will vary. I’m not entirely sure of UK laws, but if you can find a service like Manyship, it’ll be a lot more easier and cheaper in your case. If you go the other route, with a professional courier like DHL, then the cost is higher, but you’d get it safer for sure.

      • Hi,
        I’m not asking about the shipping options, but whether it is safe enough to ship (not stolen, unwarranted customs charges). Since these are below the 50k amount, I shouldn’t get any customs charges right?
        thanks
        R

  • Do you know if it’s ok to have food items shipped from USA to India? I want to get some organic honey sent from my friends farm, but can’t seem to find any definitive answer on if this is ok. It will weigh around 1 lb without packaging and is in a glass jar.

    Thanks Mani!

    • I don’t think this is possible unless someone is bringing it with them. (and declaring it with customs at the Airport).
      However if you can find products on Amazon that has global shipping, then it’s possible.

  • i have a friend in usa.he buy a new iphone 7 .and he want to ship me india.will it will be cost more than present price in india..
    us price 649$-indian rupees around 43000 rupees
    but it costs 60000 rupess in india

    • Hi Wasid,

      In US, iPhone mostly comes on contract with the carrier. That is, if you are on say Verizon’s monthly $80 contract for two years, you don’t need to pay anything for the phone upfront. You can get it basically “free”. In India, this concept isn’t yet available, right? So buying upfront in US is cheaper (even though you can pretty much use any iPhone 7 as all the new ones are unlocked, even though they don’t advertise it that way). With that little additional duty, you are still getting a good bargain with buying the iPhone 7 in US and shipping it to India.

  • i want to buy iphone se 16 gb from usa to india it is 399 dollars
    should i pay customs apart from courier charges as it is less than 50000, waiting for the reply

    • Yes, you will need to pay customs if you are importing it. Although it’s a less amount. But if you try services like ManyShip, then you can get it done with far cheaper rates than professional shipping. For cases where you only have one item, I’d recommend it.

  • HI Mani karthik..I want to buy XIAOMI RED MI NOTE 4 FROM FLOSMALL FOR THE PRICE THEY SAY IS 108 DOLLARS.HOW CAN I GET IT HERE IN INDIA? WHETHER CUSTOM PERMITS.THE INDIAN COST IN RUPEES IS JUST UNDER 7000/ RS.CAN I PURCHASE?

  • I just came across Borderlinx recently myself. It’s a very interesting business model that certainly serves a dire need in the market. Perhaps now I can politely point my relatives their way when I’m asked to be a spice mule on my trips to and from the US!

    Their package consolidation service is intriguing as well, but I’m sure they will face troubles with Customs. Indian customs are notoriously terrible… And they seem to magically lose things all the time. I’m curious about how they would deal with a package containing multiples items where one is deemed illegal to import. Will they suspend the entire shipment or simply remove the inappropriate article? What would be an impressive service is contracting people who are already travelling between the countries who might want to make a quick buck. Have two processing centers on each side, ideally one in Mumbai and one somewhere between JFK and EWR. These locations would serve as a dropoff/pickup/inspection/consolidation/packing/recording point. The items could then be forwarded to the recipients via domestic, cheaper mail services or even hand delivered for a fee.

    India should completely revamp their customs and mail departments. Aside from widespread corruption, it is dreadfully slow at times and quite expensive to ship internationally. China serves as a beautiful example of what could be. Their subsidized international mail services have enabled small and large businesses alike to export to the entire world, hassle-free. Imagine what could be if we were not hampered and impeded by poor government…

    Great write-up, thank you.

    • Hi Vihang,

      Borderlinx too have certain restrictions so that users don’t take advantage of their services and abuse it. Interesting you mention about a drop off kind of service. There is already one, it’s called Manyship.com. Check it out!

      And yes, I agree, the customs regulations has to be improved. I’m sure they have rules in place to curb malpractices, but at the same time, it should not be tough for genuine folks.

      • Thanks for letting me know about Manyship! I’ve just signed up. Also, I’m really enjoying your blog. The “How to Start a Business in India” one was very thorough and well-written. Looking forward to reading more from you in the future. Cheers

      • Hi Mani,
        I want to purchase a specialised sport shoe from amazon US. It’ll cost around INR 25k including shipping. Do I need to still pay custom duty over it as you mentioned the new import price ceiling has been increased to INR 50k. Kindly let me know.
        Cheers

        • If you use a service like Manyship you don’t have to (in most cases) pay the duty or worst case just the minimum. Otherwise, yes you should pay the duty. However, in your case, it’s not going to be too much as you are under 50K.

    • You could buy it from USA on Amazon or any other online store, have it shipped to the local address given by Borderlix and then have it delivered to India. Check out their services.
      Else you could use a service like Manyship. Also mentioned above, please check.

  • Boss I am planning to buy a workstation from USA and has to be shipped India is there any cheap way of importing and the weight of the product is 22 kg dimensions of the box is actually big in size I wait eagerly for your reply give the best advice it has to be less affordable from my side

  • Hi mani,
    I am planning to buy few items from us and ship to india. Products such as – Baby stroller, cot, few clothes, pair of shoes, an mk bag, clothes and such. Upon reading sites such as borderlinks, etc i see that customs has to be paid. Is there any way of knowing amount to be paid for customs clerance prior purchasing items.

    • Hi Sundeep,

      Customs duty is inevitable. Each product, depending on the category will be charged separate customs duty. I have listed a customs duty table above, that will give you a fair idea about how much additional cost you have to pay for each item when it is delivered in India. Please note that you have to pay this only when your items are delivered.

    • Not all the time. It depends on the type and number you are importing. If you just have 1 or 2, you could carry them with you in opened condition. If you have more, you have to provide purchase bill and other details.

  • how can I buy a music keyboard from Alibaba.com for really cheap rates like 300 dollars for two Korg Kronos 88-key music keyboards and have it shipped to India ? Will it clear customs duties in India ? How is it possible to sell so low ? Won’t Indian customs people not seize it ? I am really amazed by the prices on that site and would like some info if I should go ahead and place an order for the above-mentioned items.

    • Deepak, Alibaba is a B2B marketplace. You’ll have to buy in bulk (minimum order quantity) for every commodity. And yes you will need to pay customs duty on shipment arrival in India.

  • Whoa this sounds too good to be true! So if i buy DJI Phantom 3 Advanced drone and ship it here(India) through borderlinx i just have to pay the shipping charges?!

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