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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
They are cheap and can be easily accommodated to your luggage.
The kids in your family are going to love these I guarantee!
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)
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.)
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 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.
They are cheap and available in plenty.
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.