When traveling to India, one question most of my friends in the US ask is, what should they be buying to India? What gifts should they be buying to their friends and family in India? I’ve asked myself this question during my initial days in the US. I still remember the first time when I was trying to squeeze in everything possible into my suitcase, when I over packed and the airline refused to accept my luggage. I send some stuff back home, but learned a lesson. So when my friends ask what to buy from USA to India, I have a lot to say.
First off, if you have been in the US for some time and are now traveling back to India after a long time, understand that things might have changed back home. India’s growth is incredible and when you are here in the US, you don’t really know what’s happening back there. You tend to miss the trends, the new culture and social demands because you could be stuck in time.
I’ve seen this happen to few of my friends. When they arrived in USA on a student or work visa, they embraced capitalism but the idea of India in their heads froze. When they went back to India after 10+ years, they were shocked to see the difference. India had changed in her culture, looks, infrastructure and make up. Some of my friends complained about why they didn’t like the change while some struggled to catch up.
Any ways, if you are planning your return trip (or visit) to India, I strongly urge you to shake off your idea of how India would be, from the time you boarded the plane and check the ground reality. Because if you are going to buy things from USA to India, you better make sure you live up to the expectations of your folks back in India.
Things to keep in mind before buying things from USA to India
Before we get into what things you can buy to India, let’s look at some things to keep in mind.
Make a list
First off, create a wishlist of things you want to buy. This could be stuff that you wanted or think your friends might want, back in India. Go ahead and write them down, make it as extensive as possible. Go ahead, don’t worry, we won’t be buying all of these things, but it’s part of the exercise.
Split the list in to gift and non-gift items
From the main list you created, find out how many you will gift and how many you will not. You might want to separate them based on whom you will gift to. For ex: List for family members, list for friends and list for relatives.
Put a budget
Now, put a budget towards your shopping list. You know exactly what this is for, so I’m not going to explain. 🙂
Now, that you have a list for your friends, family and others you have a pretty solid idea about what you need, how many are going to be gift items and how much money you are going to spend.
Now, here is a list of things you could buy from USA to India.
1. Apple Macbook Pro (Price difference up to $500)
I strongly suggest you buy a Macbook when going to India, and the reasons are many.
Apple products including the iPhone and Macbooks are priced at exorbitantly high prices in India and not many can afford it. At the same time, most young folks know and understand the value of Apple products that they wish for it badly. India has a tech savvy young crowd, which uses and understands the latest technology like nobody else. Apple Macbook can be used by young folks in your family or your business friend, so it’s a guarantee. But before buying one, take care of the following points as well.
– Buy a universal power plug adapter (~$10) because the flat pin charger of your USA made Macbook won’t fit in Indian power plugs. You don’t want to be disappointed later, getting stuck with a un-usable Macbook.
– Ensure there is international warranty on your Macbook, so that if it gets faulty, it’s owner in India doesn’t have to ship it back to USA.
– Find out who will be the authorized repair guy for Apple in your area in India.
2. Branded Watches (Cheaper in USA than India)
Branded watches like the ones from Fossil, Kenneth Cole etc are cheaper in the US. In India, they tend to be slightly costlier (if at all available), especially for the expensive ones. For example, Fossil ME 3078 Analog watch, is priced at USD 245 on Amazon.com and at USD 284 on Flipkart.com. This price difference will be higher as you go up into the more expensive categories. If you can grab any of these branded watches during a black friday sale, you will be saving even more.
Update: Smart Watches
There are a lot more smart watch options in the US than in India, and many of them are comparatively cheaper than in India.
3. Kitchen Utensils (High quality stuff from USA)
When it comes to quality, US has some of the best brands available for cheap since it is the standard. Go to Ikea or even a store like Macy’s and get some kitchen utensils. Anything like steel utensils, ceramic vessels, small appliances are all good. The thing is, they are cheaper in the USA and you get good quality stuff. If you are going for dinner sets or baking items, even better, because you get good quality brands at better prices than in India.
4. Super Foods like Quinoa seeds, Chia Seeds
These days, you can find some of these super foods in some high quality Indian super markets but they are hard to find. I recommend buying a few small packets of these as gifts to your family and friends. They are unique, exclusive and not expensive. Make sure you buy good brands so the quality is good.
5. iRobot Roomba Vaccum Cleaner
I agree that not all electronic gadgets in USA are cheaper compared to India, but if you ignore the price point, there are some electronic gadgets in the USA that are still not available in India. For example the iRobot Roomba Vaccum Cleaner. It is not available in India as of now and will be a great value add for any household. It helps folks keep your house clean without any labor and many people will consider it a flashy, show off item (lol). You need to have wooden or solid surface floors, which is common in India.
6. Men’s Jackets (For friends)
Men’s winter jackets, especially from brands like NorthFace are really good for Indian winters. Unfortunately, you won’t find them in Indian markets. Whatever you can find in India either will be cheaper quality or really expensive. If your native place in India has winters, then buying few men’s jackets under $30 will be a good idea. You could gift it to your friends or elders in the family.
7. Automatic Diabetes Testing Kits ( For elder folks)
If you have elders in the family back home in India, who are Diabetes patients, this can be a nice gift to them. In USA, you’ll find several top quality blood sugar testing systems that are unavailable in India. A popular brand like Active 1st will only cost about $30 on Amazon, which cannot be bought in India. This will be an exclusive item when you got to India and great value for those diabetes patients in your family.
8. Wireless Audio Headphones (Big Price difference!)
If you have any young folks in your family or friends list, then this is a must have. Beats Audio headphones are super popular with the young folks and difficult to get in India. Beats Wirelesss, Over the Ear, Audio Headphones are available from Amazon while the same headset will cost about $500+ from India. Beats, like the Apple brand is well known for their aesthetics and superior sound quality. Also every young Indian knows the brand so well, that it will be a great value add to whoever owns one. I strongly suggest buying one when you’re going to India from USA.
Recommended: Get the Sony WH1000XM3 – I bought it from USA for $349 and it’s so much better than the Bose Quiet Comfort 2.
9. Perfumes – (Price difference up to $100)
If you are looking to please the women folk back in India, splurge yourself and grab a couple of best seller perfumes from USA. USA has some great variety of perfumes to purchase, and at great prices too. Some of them are now available in India but the price will double up. My personal recommendation is to buy smaller bottles and carry different brands rather than buy one or two big volume bottles of fewer brands. Trust me, there’s going to be a lot of demand once you reach home back in India, so carry enough perfumes. Nothing is never enough btw.
Note: If you are traveling via Dubai, Dubai Duty Free also has many of the brands available.
10. Sunglasses (Price difference up to $50)
Who doesn’t like to have a sun glass gifted? In USA, there’s probably more sun glass brands available than the whole world. You will never run out of options. Either visit your local sun glass store at the nearest mall or hop on to Amazon and you’ll find many top brand sun glasses available for deals. An all original Aviator type sun glass from RayBan costs only $100 on Amazon while it costs about $125 on Flipkart India. Now, keep in mind that this price difference is available only for high end, branded sun glasses, as cheap counterfeit, knockoff brands are available in India for cheaper prices.
In India to ensure blanket WiFi connectivity throughout your home or home office, it is recommended you get a WiFi system like that from Google. They ensure that your home WiFi is extended with full coverage to the entire width and breadth of your home. There are many WiFi systems available but the Google WiFi systems are eye candy and you get it at under $125 a piece (you might need the 3 pack just in case).
12. Apple Watch or the New iPhone
Both the new iPhone or the Apple Watch is not available in India yet (as of Sep 2017) and will only be released later. Meanwhile, it’ll be a good idea to get a non-contract iPhone (you got to pay full price) or Apple watch for India.
P.S – When you get the iPhone, make sure it is unlocked, so it works in India.
13. Cosmetics & Makeup Kits
Apparently, many cosmetic brands are only available in USA (some are available in Dubai Duty Free as well) and are great picks to buy from in USA online. Here are some of the best cosmetic brands you can buy from Amazon USA and bring to India.
- Marc Jacobs
- Anastasia Beverly Hills
14. Microsoft Pro
If you don’t like or have folks who are anti-Apple, gifting them the best of Microsoft would be a great idea. If you have teenage/college going younger generation guys, this would be an excellent gift idea too. Compared to prices in India, Microsoft Pro is a great gift.
15. Branded Bags
For women folks back in India, who’d like some branded bags, USA is the right place to buy from. Although some brands are available in Dubai Duty Free, buying it from authentic stores or online websites, will ensure you’re getting the right product at the right price.
I found this fancy alarm clock/radio from Sony that could be a good gift to any household in India. It is cheap and unique!
Bluetooth speakers are kinda trendy these days. They’re wireless and you can take them where ever you want – makes them instantly likeable! Although there are many bluetooth speakers available, I suggest something special and typically “American”. Marshall is a great brand when it comes to anything sound and this speaker I found is just amazing!
For photography enthusiasts back home in India (and not so enthusiasts too), this cute little Polaroid Action WiFi Camera is sure to make a great gift!
I found this really useful/ergonomic/fancy carry bag that looks like a great boon to those carrying large pieces of photography equipment. If you got folks in India who’s got a thing for travel, this sure will make them happy.
20. Universal Power Adapter (Must Have)
Now, whenever I travel to India, this is one thing I wished I carried enough. Because of the differences in the way plug sockets work in US and India, you always one like this handy. It’s a great gift for yourself and those traveling as well. Plus, it’s cheap. So.. 😉
For those who have that extra care for personal hygiene, a rechargeable electric toothbrush would be the perfect gift.
22. Step Down Transformer (To make US electronics work in India)
This product will go into my list of must-buys. It’s also my answer to how to make a US electronic product work in India.
Since all US electronic products work under 110 V, when you take them to India, you’ll need to convert/step down the power electricity input from 220V to 110 V. For that, you need a step down transformer. This particular product I’ve listed here is just perfect and fits all plug types (flat and round).
23. Japanese Knife
A little something for the kitchen! Get one of those iconic super-sharp Japanese knives. You will get good quality ones only in US (I guess Japan too).
In fact, there are many fancy and unique refrigerator magnet sets you’ll find on Amazon, but I found this particular one interesting. It’s got every state of US in it. I think it’d make a good gift set and keep you remembered for it. Perhaps you can gift each one state to each of your friends?
Any star-wars fans out there in India in your family? I can 100% guarantee that they will love this gift. It’s an app controlled little robot that does some cool moves!
Update: Drones are currently banned in India and you need license from local authorities to fly them. So, it may not be a good idea to buy them.
Drones are much in demand these days, isn’t it? Young folks these days plays with them all the time. Of course, the professional drones are all super expensive and is too much of a risk. But if you wanna gift a drone to one of your younger friends in the family, then there are are several options. One such cool product is this drone I found on Amazon. It’s neither expensive nor is too big to handle. You can easily pack it in your luggage.
This is a fancy lamp that can sit on your table top or bedside. It’s made of Himalayan rock salt and enhances the ionic balance of your living spaces. When heated, the salt crystal lamp emits negative ions that fight against electromagnetic radiation. The naturally-ionized air also helps you sleep better at night, allowing you to wake refreshed.
For the health conscious, this is the perfect gift! Infusion water bottles lets you add fruits to the main infusion chamber and let the juices infuse to the water, making it a better, healthier choice for drinking water. Get it on Amazon!
Bonus Recommendations (From user feedback)
- Branded bags – Those of you women who fancy an MK or Louie Vuitton bag, might want to consider purchasing one from the states while leaving. They tend to be priced higher in India.
- Lots of flat pin to round pin converters – If you are taking your electronic devices to India, you will need lot of them.
- Non-stick cooking set – They tend to be higher quality if you’re buying a good brand.
- Jackets and Sweaters – You will get a better collection in US, compared to India, but choose the brands wisely as fancy ones tend to be on the higher side.
Wondering how to ship your items when returning from US to India? Here are your best options.
Confused over whether or not you should return to India? You must read this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the best gift to buy from USA for parents?
Like I mentioned above, diabetic machines, sweaters, Roomba vacuum cleaners, bags, flashlights, radios are all good gifts.
What should I buy from USA for younger brother?
For younger generation, get something like the new iPhone X, Wireless Headphones, a Macbook or a Surface Pro.
Is it good to buy a TV from USA to India?
In my personal opinion, No. Agree that you will get large screen, newer tech TV in USA at almost half the price of what it’d be in India. The problem is shipping. If you ship the TV, you’ll need to pay customs duties in India, which can be almost 50 – 60%. These days you get good TV in India as well.
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So, what are you planning to buy?