What should I carry to US ? List of things to pack? Costly? USA baggage packing items

In F1 Visa by KumarUpdated : 232 Comments

I still remember those days when I traveled to US for the first time as international student on F1 visa, where I packed at lot of stuff (three full bags 33 kgs each – Thanks to Lufthansa student promo), which was not necessary to carry. Due to incorrect information and poor guidance I carried way too much stuff than I needed. Typically, most of us, when we come to US for the first time we  try to multiply with our local currency and come up with a number and blindly consider “Oh god everything is expensive in US”. Let’s face it, compare the average salary in US with the average salary in India. The prices are relative. You have to carry only those kind of things that are not available in US or stuff that is very expensive. This article discusses some of the very common things that are advised to be carried to US and what not to carry.  I am writing this article on List of things to pack to USA based on my practical experience as Student and working professional.

In reality, as a student you either live anywhere in a shared apartment with few people or in student dorms by yourself. If you are living in student dorms, you do not need any kitchen related stuff. Personal care items and clothes are key.

Items to carry from Home Country ( India)

Health Care

Items to Carry to US

Reason to buy in home country (India)

Get over the counter general cough, fever medication like crocin, Benadryl, metacin, etc that you normally use. Be careful and look for expiration date, buy the recent ones with most expiration date.  You may get as much as you want. Recommended 4 strips eachOur physical body is used to generally used to the general medication we have in US. It is a good idea to have our regular medication until we adjust to this weather.
Eye glasses – at least 2 pairs. If Contact lens – based on how often you have to change them. If disposable advised to check online at Wal-Mart vision center  http://www.1800contacts.com/.Eye glasses are expensive in USA; average good pair price is around $150 – 200 USD for normal ones.  Similar case with contact lens, but some disposable lens are cheaper in US.
Medicines along with prescription for pre existing  medical conditions like Asthma, migraine, diabetes, etc.  You may be asked for prescription at the immigration check point if it is not over the counter. There is no limit for the amount of medicine you can carry. Check TSA website for medical conditions carry on list.It is not a good idea to change your existing medication as it is pre existing condition. You may get new prescription after review with doctor.

Personal Care and Toiletries

Items to Carry to US

Reason to buy in India

If you have any specific skin condition, then only get any soap. Otherwise NO need.You may not get the specific medical condition soaps you are prescribed in US right away, you may need to see doctor and get such soaps.
May be any Indian specific fairness creams, cologne that you are used to and not available globally. Gillette, Old spice, Axe, Tag are global brands. No need to carry these brands.You may not get fairness creams in small towns. If in big cities, you may get these items in Indian grocery store.

Clothing & other personal usage items

Items to Carry to US

Reason to buy in India

Undergarments. Get at least 15 pairs. Both tops and bottoms ! You may buy these in US eventually, but it would be hard for the first time until someone takes you to the store.You do laundry once 15 days and there is no concept of washing it hanging it every day. You get in shower naked and wash your undergarments with laundry once in 15 days.
Wallet, BeltsThese are a bit expensive here. But, if you want good brands, just get what you have.
Just one pair of Sneakers/ running shoes, slippers and one pair of Formal shoes.You get better models in US and cheaper too. Only for the first few months.
Just couple of pairs of Jeans and T-shirts, one formal dress( you won’t even use this, just backup)Couple of pajamas and shortsONLY couple pairs and these are only for first few weeks. Clothes are cheaper in US if you buy at the right time in SALE. You have to wear the US brands in US to look cool and trendy!
Couple of Bath towelsJust for first two weeks.  You get better ones here!
One leather or other good material Jacket, sweater and a  formal suit (optional, not needed )This is for first week or day. You should buy snow jackets and other woolen items in US. Indian jackets do not keep you warm for cold weather in US.

Kitchen Items ( only if you plan to cook)

Items to Carry to US

Reason to buy in India

Pressure cooker with extra gas cuts and whistle.You do not get our style pressure cookers here everywhere. The ones available  in store are not good.
ONLY Home made Sambar powder, Rasam powder and Garam masalas. Not too much. Just few packs.ONLY HOME MADE Please. You get ready made powders by MTR, Everest, etc brands in US, do not need to carry. You may carry some if you are going to a very remote location in US where there are less Indians.

That’s all you need to carry. You do not need to bring anything. You can buy rest of the items here for cheaper price and better quality too. I will just put some list that you should not bring with reasons.

Health Insurance for Travel to US :

Having visitors health insurance is important for you, when you enter US to avoid any unforeseen health conditions, including when you are on transit to USA and in the first couple of weeks until your employer or school provides you Health Insurance. It is always a good idea to get Health Insurance from a US vendor, who can support you, when you are in US. We recommend Buying Visitors Insurance at Visitors Coverage – Visitors Insurance as they have US phone support and you can compare all insurance plans to buy cheapest that fits your need.

List of items NOT to carry from India

Health Care

Items NOT to Carry to US


Any medication that does not have a prescription on your name should not be bought here unless they are sold over the counter.It is not advisable at port of entry to carry any medication or drugs that do not have your prescription and you may be in trouble.

Personal Care and Toiletries

Items NOT to Carry to US

Reason to buy in USA

Soaps, Shampoo, Moisturizers, Conditioners, Deodorants,  after shave lotion, ear buds, nail cutter, mirrors, comb, perfume or cologne, shaving creams, Razors, etcAll these are very cheap in US and you are better off buying here.Make sure, you get all your current personal care kit to use for the first week. DO NOT BUY anything new, just get what you have.


Clothing & other personal usage items

Items NOT to Carry to US

Reason to buy in USA

NO woolen clothing like thermals, winter jackets, fleece, etc. Maybe just one small one for first few days, if needed for flight.It is good to buy in US, you get good quality. The stuff you buy in India will not stand the cold weather, especially, if you are going to be in zero degrees areas.
NOT more than 2 pairs as stated above about jeans, etcJeans, corduroy, t-shirts, shorts are very common and regular wear. You will get good deals here in US. Also, I believe you should wear local brand to be trendy !

Kitchen Items

Items NOT to Carry to US

Reason to buy in USA

Electric rice cookers or any electric related appliancesDifferent power specifications. Will not work
Non stick pans, spoons, plates, dishes, tava, knives, any kind of kitchen utensils..DO NOT BUY in IndiaThese all are very cheap here and you get good quality. In reality, when three friends of you sign a lease and start to live in apartment, you all will share the expenses. So, it is good deal.
Masala powders, rice, oil, or any kind of dals. Unless you are going to a very remote place and there are no Indian or international grocery shops around.Everything is available in US! Do not buy these items. They might look high price, please  do not start multiplying everything with 50 !

Overall as someone said, “when in Rome, be a Roman”. Similarly, ‘when in America , be like an American ( at least lifestyle wise) ‘. Do make sure when you are packing for USA not to bring way too much stuff that is not needed.  It is advisable to buy clothes and other stuff here to get along well with the fashion and trend in US.

What are your thoughts ? Share your experiences…


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Comments ( 232 )

    1. administrator

      It is not racist, it is very common in India to use a fairness cream or some sort of face cream…If you use a specific cream and you don’t find it in America, then you may not be happy…

      1. Nishant B

        It is also common in India for people to discriminate and insult those who belong to lower social classes. Just because something is common does not mean that it is not racist. It is extremely racist.

        The best advice to give someone moving to America is this: stop trying to whiten your skin color and learn to respect yourself and people of all colors, because it is illegal to discriminate based on skin color in America. If you are caught, you could face legal trouble due to civil rights violations.

  1. vinay

    i will be travelling next week,i want to know whether i can carry peanuts, indian sweets (kaju katli) etc,should i declare it in form I 94 what should i write??

    1. administrator

      You can carry…well, I am not sure, if you have to explicitly declare them. Many carry these things to US…

  2. Sangeeta Majhi

    Hi Kumar,
    I want to take some home made roasted meat and vindaloo (cooked by mom). I would be missing my mom-made food for almost three years, hence wanted to carry something which can be kept and savoured for few days . Is it possible to bring cooked food in US as per their food regulation? Please let me know.

    1. administrator

      Well, technically many carry pickles, processed food from home and get away..sometimes, the customs will throw them away, sometimes they don’t check… it all varies….You can try packing it well and taking it, if they happen to check and throw away, dont feel bad…worth a shot…

  3. Nagendra. VS

    i suggest students to carry all items they need for their day to day living. It is cheaper in india. In many remote locations in US u may not find indian stores or even if there, they keep time barred items . be careful while buying items like oil, atta or any food grains.

  4. Jeet

    Article is very informative however you may need to modify or add few points.
    I agree that everything is cheap here in US and you can get most of the Indian stuff here but it’s cheap only if you are earning here in dollars. Relative income vs expense ratio here in US is way better than India. But Students need to convert INR to USD and will be transferring funds from india to buy stuff here. So even 2$ masala pack will cost them Rs.130, which they can get for much cheaper price back in India.

    Nowadays many airlines companies are allowing 3 bags for students, so i would suggest them to pack as much stuff as they can but make sure to prioritize. I would recommend author to consider my points and include in original article as it may help wider audience

    1. administrator

      Agree with you, if you are a student and have spare space to carry stuff, it does not hurt to put in those in your extra bag. It all depends on airlines and allowed baggage.

      1. Jeet

        Yes Kumar, my point was regarding point mentioned in article tht “everything is cheap here in US” however it is not much relevant to students until they start earning here. They literally have to convert INR to USD for their regular expenses. I am sure this article is written by taking inputs from someone who is working here not from recently graduated student. I would love to provide my inputs if you wish to modify it.

  5. hakunamatata

    Well, for most students, their parents will be paying for their living expenses. And they live in India and they earn in Rupees and not in Dollars. So it makes sense to multiply the cost by 65 until the students start earning in Dollars there.

  6. Goldenfairy

    Very informative article with reasons..Unloaded the burden from the mind.

    Just one question….
    Same things to carry if coming from Pakistan???

  7. Naveen

    What if some one have a habit of indian food..can i cook there..?? I know cooking but problem is how can i get indian rice or pulsus in usa,,,can I carry from here ??

  8. RKJ

    I will be travelling to US with infant (one year old). Can you please guide me for the things require to carry with infants.
    Also can i carry bottle sterilizer?

  9. Avi


    Your normal prepaid sim card works fine. you can receive SMS for free(all bank otp works fine 95% of time, some time it gets delayed). Usual roaming charges are rs. 70 for incoming per min, 150 for outgoing and 15 for outgoing SMSs. I have been using for last 4 years. You need to keep balance 200 min for not getting disconnected out of service and some regular transactions. for that i keep my balance around this(200-300 rs) and and send out a sms around every 80 days. for post paid numbers you need to get international roaming activated.

    1. Vis

      Hello, i live in Houston my tata docomo sim is not receiving any messages for past one month or so. Are you facing the same problem? Is something changed about roaming? I always used to receive SMS for free, but for past one month or so, it seem to have changed!

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