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). This means you can now import consumer electronic items like smartphones from the US and other countries to India, which costs up to 50,000 Rupees without any customs duty OR very fewer customs duties (earlier it was a flat 42% of the 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 about what to buy when traveling from the 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 heavy excise duty in India. And the process 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 them to India?
Let’s dive in.
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 (discontinued) 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 sent 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 the USA (friends or relatives).
(Discontinued) This is another neat service that will let you buy anything in the USA and ship it 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 given 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 time, 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. P.S – I haven’t tried this service myself but have talked to their owners regarding it and it seems to be a legit service.
4. Ask a relative
As if you didn’t know! But, this is the cheapest way to send stuff from the USA to India. One, you don’t have to deal with shipping charges. Two, you don’t have to pay customs duties if the items are a single piece. But the problem is you can only send one or two items max, and of course, finding a relative or friend willing to carry items for you.
5. Use a regular shipping company/ courier agency
Everybody hates shipping and courier companies. The problem is that their fees are steep and they are not-so-reliable. I get emails from several shipping companies saying that they do “amazing” service from the USA to India but I’m yet to find a reliable, friendly, and trustworthy service. My suggestion is to go with the big names if your package isn’t big, because they do reliable service although costlier. If you have a lot to ship, then getting a shipping agency that deals with container shipping are best.
Here is a list of the best shipping companies from USA to India.
Buy in USA, ship to India, customs is taken care of.
This service claims that you can buy anything from the USA by buying it off of their website (not others) and shipping it to India. When you buy something off of their website, they send it to the local warehouse (in the USA), verify contents, and ship it to your address in India. The good thing is that they will deal with all the customs duties on your products. The negative is that not all items are available on their website (like the new iPhone X for example) and there are too many steps between the process that may delay the shipment and it can get costly.
Buy in the USA, ship to India urgently, customs not taken care of.
Update: Some users have reported that the service isn’t functional anymore.
This service allows you to have a local address (given once you register with them) to which you can buy stuff from any online shop in the USA. Once they receive the item, they will ship it to India to your local address. The advantage is that you can buy anything from Amazon or other sites, but the disadvantage is that there is a big list of restricted items and they won’t deal with customs duties.
ShopUSA is a similar service to Borderlinx. It lets you buy anything from an online store in the USA to their local address (one address for everything). You can then manage your shipment online and send it to India by prepaying custom duties if any. They claim that they send shipments in about 3 days.
How To Ship Electronics from USA to India?
A lot of people ask me what’s the best way to ship electronics from the USA to India easily. Most people want to get away with 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 kinds of electronics should be declared to the customs when they arrive in India and they will be charged a customs 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 the 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 a shipping cost of within $35 – $50.
Questions to 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 at 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 a 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 the USA to India, you can end up in a tricky situation confused – which is creating the list of things you should buy for India. Everybody starts with a list and gets nowhere. I’ve been there many a time. But here are a few things that might help you. (Also read: List of things to buy from USA to India)
1. Electronics & Mobile phones to buy from USA to India
When buying electronics from the 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 TVs. 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 the price is comparatively cheaper in the 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 the USA, because the price is cheaper than India, and you can find a workaround 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 in 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 (The 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 buying a 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 a 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 the 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 the 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 the 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.
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. Indian customs officially does not charge duties on items under Rs.50,000 for personal use. But it’s really sketchy how items are classified and tagged. In my experience, you are very likely to get a customs duty on all items based on the original value of the shipment.
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. This means you can now import consumer electronic items like a smartphone from the US and other countries to India, which costs up to 50,000 Rupees without any customs duty. (Source)
All the best. Let me know how your shipping experience went.