In this blog, you will find a list of compilations to help you understand what you can bring to the US and leave back home. Certain items may feel expensive to give you a little heads up, but once you are here for six months or so, you will realize that they are not. After a while, you will stop converting USD to INR and have comfortable shopping.
We’ll also dive briefly into what shopping looks like in the US. At the end of the post, there is a link to download a checklist. Download it, print it, and use it to check off items as you pack, shop and prepare for your flight abroad.
Shopping in the US: A Retail Playground 🛍️
The US is the ultimate shopping experience. Credit cards and access to money makes people go crazy, as you must know about Black Friday. Here are some of the stores you would find in the US. It is important to make sure that you know what you can buy from here and what you cannot.
Big Warehouse Chains – nationwide (Clothing &/or Grocery Stores)
- Trader Joe’s
To check out some of the food chains in the states, check out this link.
Among the above chains, if you had to talk about food items, Walmart is pretty inexpensive compared to other grocery stores. There is Publix, Frys, Safeway etc. You’ll have to figure out the cheapest in the area you decide to reside. Grocery stores generally carry most of the product, from rice to wheat flour to pasta sauce.
Amazon is the most convenient and widely shopped website by people in the US. Clothing, electronics, food – Amazon does everything. Depending on your location, Amazon can get things delivered within 2 hours as well. As a student, you get six months of free Amazon Prime.
When it comes to Indian stores, the Patel brothers have stores in various states and is the best place to purchase Indian food in the US. You can surely find a local Indian store that has a similar selection of Indian items. Besides Indian food, I do not recommend buying any other food item from Patel Brothers or similar Indian stores, solely for being more expensive than the other stores.
Patel Brothers Store in the US
Besides what you already will be brought from India, H&M, Old Navy, Amazon are pretty decent for men’s clothing. Walmart also some good cheap clothing options. We would recommend you wait until Black Friday as you can get some great deals during that time. Both have great selections at extremely affordable prices. You can go to the websites for these brands and check out clothing options.
Dollar store is a lifesaver when it comes to smaller items. As the name suggests, the store has everything for a dollar. The store is great for non-edible items like cutlery, napkins, cups, plates etc. Although, we would not recommend you to buy food items from here.
Everything under $1!
Luggage Sizes 🧳
The size may vary depending upon the airline you travel from. Here are the airlines which travel from India to the US and vice versa.
For your laptop bag and carry-on details, I recommend watching this video.
In no particular order, here are a few pointers about the utensils you can carry as well as the ones you can (and should) purchase from the US.
- It is extremely easy to get a pressure cooker in the US. We would recommend you to get this atleast. You can find decent cookers here for $20 or so, but most Indian students get cookers from India, even today. They are cheap and work better. However, it is easy to find a replica of Indian pressure cookers. For instance, a great pressure cooker available online is this one.
- For pans and all the other utensils, you should check and compare the prices on both Amazon and Walmart. It will give you a clearer picture if you want to bring the utensils from home. A set of 4 bowls and four plates costs $18 only, and you can get many plastic containers for a cheaper rate. You can check out a plate set here. Also, if you share the cost with your roommates, it won’t hurt your pocket at all.
- You can bring a coffee mug for the first few days before you go shopping. As we mentioned earlier, you can get it for $1. A water bottle is essential, nothing fancy, get a sipper bottle that doesn’t leak. Also, you will get a lot of free “swag” (i.e. free items such as t-shirts, sunglasses, glasses, etc.) during the university orientation. Look out for these, as the university gives out free stuff to everyone. Further, do bring a pin to flatten out the rotis. You can usually find frozen rotis here at most Indian stores.
- Carry food from India in a Tupperware box 🍱 or a similar airtight/ seal proof container. Once your food stock dies out, you can use those Tupperware boxes for day-to-day use, to take lunch to college, etc. While purchasing the Tupperware boxes, make sure they are microwaveable because you heat and re-heat food all the time in a microwave. You can also bring food in ziplock bags as they are much easier to adjust in the luggage.
- Do NOT bring oil as you can easily buy them here. Moreover, there is a risk of damaging other items in your luggage. If you plan to get ghee, we recommend packing it in 4 layers of plastic and making sure it is airtight. You can never be too safe with these things.
There is a huge checklist of toiletry items at the end of this blog (intended mostly for men) for you to get an idea about what to bring along. Specifically, for personal grooming, I’d say buying a trimmer is a good idea. You can get a great affordable Philips Trimmer just for $20 here. Moreover, we’d recommend bringing a comb from India as they can be expensive in the US.
You’ll need to purchase a phone with a US number to work with the carriers here. In some cases, your existing phone may work; to check the supporting networks in the US, look up this website. Use it to find out whether you need to purchase a new device.
If you need to purchase a new device because your existing phone is not compatible with US carriers, we recommend buying a phone from India. There is no warranty, and it is much more expensive. iPhone 12, 128 GB in India is 1154 USD, whereas, in the US, it is $879 (both the prices are pre-tax).
There is often a lot of confusion and discussion among incoming students about which laptop to buy. Most students in the US have Macbooks. Especially if you are a student from a management background or a similar course, a Macbook is the most preferred choice for its max battery life, making longer classes a breeze. No software in the US is incompatible with a Mac, making your life much easier.
Most universities have computers in their labs that are at your disposal. They have these softwares pre-installed and paid for, so you do not have to worry about “torrenting” any of it.
If you’d like to buy a Windows PC, I recommend checking good deals with your student ID for benefitting from the student offers when you arrive in the US. Another great time to do this is in November, on Black Friday. (However, this may be too late for some of you). You can always check Best Buy and Amazon for great deals throughout the year.
The BIG conclusion? Purchase electronics (laptops and phones) from the US.
When it comes to accessories like SD card readers, pen drives (not HDD), cheap mouse and mobile accessories, Indian rates are more affordable. The thumb rule is that if an item is less than 500 INR, it is likely to be more expensive in the US, and if it costs more than 500 INR, the pricing in the US is probably similar or possibly less.
Many apartments have washers and dryers that require you to pay $4-5 to wash/dry a load of laundry. Other apartments may not even have these services available. Rather than investing in these, buy more underwear and socks. Socks are important because you will be walking a lot and need a fresh pair regularly.
Dressing Culture 👕👔
On college campuses, students typically dress casually, except when explicitly asked to dress into formals for a formal event or a presentation. It is worth bringing formal dress shirts, ties and belts from India, as these items are often expensive in the US.
Winter Clothes 🧥🧣
We do NOT recommend buying winter clothes from India. Winter clothing is well made in the US, and depending upon the state you are going to, well-knit winter clothes are essential to survive the cold. They may seem expensive at first but are crucial. For example, you can find this puffer jacket above for $30 (~INR2000) only.
Shoes can be bought for a cheaper price in the US, so don’t bring them in abundance from India.
You can easily purchase stationery in the US or bring some from home if you’d like. Pens, pencils, clips, several notebooks, stapler, stapler pens, markers, highlighters and possibly a hole puncher are some of the stationery items you’ll need. It is worth buying click pencils in India because they are expensive here, and most of the pens & pencils come in bulk quantity. However, most of the work is paperless and computer-based. Also, you will get a lot of freebie in the first few weeks. We known students who never bought stationery in 2 years of their education.
We recommend bringing a small tool kit for fixing things in the future. You can buy a small screwdriver 🔩, a Swiss army knife and a sewing kit that can prove to be very handy. Try carrying extra batteries🔋, an umbrella🌂, a scientific calculator, and extra charging cables🔌: all of which is cheaper in India than in the US.
Bring extra glasses; they can be absurdly expensive here if not covered by insurance. For instance, Parth has three glasses in total. He keeps an extra one handy and the others in a suitcase. You can never be too safe in terms of eyes. He often wears contacts, and if you do too, we advise you to bring some extra contact cases. They are Rs. 25 a pop in India, while here they may cost you $5 for 2. You can also get a contact lens solution or buy it here. The difference is insignificant.
Conclusion & Checklist ✅
I hope this blog and the video was useful! We tried to cover the important items you need briefly. Of course, this post was strongly oriented towards men. We plan to release a Part 2 focused exclusively on women and written by current and former female students in the US.
Since you are going through the pre-packing and packing process, a master checklist of items to bring along is what you need, and we made exactly that for you!
Click here to download the checklist, and remember to share it with your friends!