While you’re traveling in India you might want to think about shipping India souvenirs home as you go along. One of the best things about traveling in India (other than culture, temples, and food) is shopping in India! They have some the best and most affordable markets in the world. Unfortunately, it is hard to carry all your amazing buys (especially furniture) so you will want to ship you souvenirs home while you travel.
Not sure what to buy in India, check out this list, Indian souvenir guide, where I go into detail about what to buy in each region of India. Definitely give this a look before your trip there.
Shipping from India to USA is something I’ve done before, and I have friends here with clothing brands who ship all over the world. So far, no packages have gone missing- which I think is what most people are scared of.
My favorite shopping is in Goa for stuff made by foriegners (silk dresses, sexy kaftans, not general indian souvenirs but actual fashion designers). If you’re coming to India and will spend a week of more in Goa, check out my ebook the Insider’s Guide to Goa. After five years of living here, I’m sure this 170-page book is the most comprehensive guide to Goa on the market with loads of information on shopping. Click here to buy it.
Shipping India Souvenirs
International Post Offices | $
Cheap international shipping is possible and the cheapest you can get is at a local Indian post office. I really don’t advise shipping your precious souvenirs through them, but let me explain why and then you can decide. You can choose “priority/tracked” shipping, the highest on offer. It’s SO cheap. I have sent stuff to Australia and the US this way and MOST clothing labels in Goa send their items abroad this way. I also see foreigners going in with huge packages they are sending off abroad. No one has issues. On the other hand, non-tracked packages tend to never arrive to me. Postcards, letters, etc.
If you’re on a budget then the regular Indian post office is an okay option for you. It seems that going out of India tracked is okay, but coming in is useless. It only tracks the package until it leaves India, and vice versa if you send something from America “tracked” via USPS to India, it will track only until it leaves USA.
If you choose this method wait to ship until you are in a big city so that you skip some of the chances of it going missing. Don’t ship from a small village post office.
- FYI sending TO India from a regular post office in another country, you would choose the highest tracked service, for example I”ll use USA. So, the USA package is really expensive, you choose tracking, then you see it left the country… but that’s it. Months could go by and you don’t even see it arrives in Mumbai. US Postal Service will tell you “it’s only tracked until it leaves America” When “regular” post packages arrive in India it’s just luck if they make them to you. I would say 80% of the time they do but it can take over a month. It could easily be the same way leaving India, that it’s only tracked in India- I haven’t had issues here so am not sure.
Courier Shipping Services | $$$
Shipping rates in India to internationally destinations are very low. The next option if you want something more secure than the Indian post, is DTDC is an international shipping company and they are more reliable. They are more expensive but rates depend on if you choose air or ground shipping and the timings you choose as well as the weight of the package.
A little higher up is Blue Dart, which is DHL. It’s the “Indian DHL”. I have actually have so many annoying issues with them. You would have to choose the most expensive highest tracking option to make sure that the package is fully tracked to destination and not stopped once it leaves India.
You can try UPS and lastly, FedEx. It is pricey but reliable and if you’re really in love with your souvenirs you will want the highest priority/tracked service from FedEx.
- FYI if you want to bring something into India: When it comes to receiving packages from abroad to India, I have had packages come via FedEx and DHL with none going missing. You do have to fill out annoying KYC docs (know your customer documents) for any packages coming from abroad that go through customs and prove who you are with a lease, passport, driver’s license, and more.
Freight & container methods of shipping | $$
If you are buying a lot of furniture and large items you will need to arrange a customs officer to help you sort this entire operation. You can ship freight through air with FedEx and these other huge brands, but there are more economical options like sharing a container with someone. You can read about DHL ocean freight options here. I haven’t done this yet, but would look into hiring an agent who has done it many times and use a certified Indian company to save money rather than these huge brands. Read more on it here.
Make sure it’s sorted if it’ll come to your door or to the port. It is up to your and your agent to track this, no one at customs will alert you and it could sit there forever.
When you mail items from India to your home country they will most likely go through customs. You have to put in an invoice which states what you have in the package. They want an invoice which is written by you and inside the package, of if it’s a company, an invoice on their letterhead. Then you’ll get a little declaration form from the postal office to fill out which goes on the package in a little clear slip. If there is no invoice it will not clear customs.
“All paperwork for sending packages internationally has a section for providing CBP information. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Declaration is a form obtainable at most foreign post offices. This declaration form should include a full and accurate description of the merchandise, and should be securely attached to the outside of your shipment.”
On the form you must have: sellers name and address, quantity of each item, weight of package, price of each item in US dollars, and the country the items are from.
Customs on Regular Post
Your customs fees back home really go by country. Here’s an example from the USA which basically says if the item is under $200 in value it’ll clear right away, if it might be over $2000 they might ask for more documents, and if it is over $2000 you’ll owe an import fee. The package will be released to your local post office and you’ll go there to pay.
- DO NOT ship jewelry through the regular post in OR out of India.
- If you have ever ordered clothes online from ASOS, Etsy, or these online boutiques outside the USA and the invoice shows it’s under $2000 you won’t even know customs saw the package because they just approve it and clear it right away.
Customs on Courier Methods
The same rules on the dollar amount apply here, but if you use a courier (DHL, FedEx, etc) then they deal with it as a customs liaison of sorts, although you still pay the fee. Keep in mind anything that looks expensive or that you may not have told the truth on will be investigated. If you put in a gold necklace and wrote it was worth $20, they actually have that checked to see what the value is. You are SO much better off never shipping these things because they never look in-depth at the airports.
“Formal Entries: If your goods are valued at more than $2500, or for commercial textile shipments (clothes/materials) regardless of value, you will be required to file a formal entry, which can require extensive paperwork and the filing of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bond”
Customs on Freight shipments
You can have them deliver to your door (therefore using a customs agent) or to the aiport/ship port and collect yourself (you do the customs yourself). Again, if it’s over $2,000 you’ll pay fees on it.
- If you leave something in customs and come to get it way later, you’ll be paying storage fees and they are massive.
- Do NOT pre-pay your duties as the agent won’t know what they are ahead of time. Be careful not to get scammed on this as if you pay the agent and it hasn’t been taken care of, it’s on you to pay and clear the package as the importer.
- If you’re shipping this stuff to sell it, that’s a whole other issue you need to look into!
Bottom Line of shipping out of India
So this is pretty much all the tips I have on the matter! I know when I move from here, I’ll be putting my clothes that I like the least (which won’t fit in my luggage) into a big ass box and shipping it with the Indian post with their tracked priority mail via flight (not sea).
If I were shipping India souvenirs I’m obsessed with like my amazing Rajasthani wall hanging, or anything of value I would ship with FedEx tracked services. For furniture, I would leave the headache behind and pick up something in the US at Ikea lol!
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