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I am going to India (Delhi) from USA (California) for the first time. When talking about how many items (electronics, jewelry, perfumes, watches etc) we can take in luggage bags and/or cabin bags there is always confusion. Some people say you can't take more than two phones or at most four electronic items. Some other mention different numbers. I was never terrified with numbers until I came to this situation.

Can anybody provide me with an official link stating the amount of items I can bring to India? Or any authentic resource where I can find the exact answer?

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Relevant question: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/10990/… –  Relaxed Feb 4 at 7:27
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It apparently will mostly be on the way back to India that you will be concerned : travel.stackexchange.com/questions/10990/… but to go to the US it shall be fine: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/13504/… –  Vince Feb 4 at 7:28
    
I am myself a little confused by Indian rules but I think that value plays a role as well and the limit is not very high (a phone and a camera could easily be over it I think). –  Relaxed Feb 4 at 7:37
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are two entirely separate things here:

  1. How much you are allowed to bring on the airplane (which is up to the airline), and
  2. How much you can bring into India (which is up to Customs).

The airline part is fairly straightforward: thanks to the magic of the Piece Concept, for all international flights starting or ending from the US, you are allowed to bring 2 pieces of checked-in luggage of up to 23 kg each per person, total 46 kg, plus 1 item of carry-on luggage of up 7 kg (usually) per person, plus a "personal item" (handbag, laptop, etc). So that's a grand total of 53 kg per person.

The airline does not care what you pack, as long as it is not hazardous. Also, unless you buy extra insurance, per the Montreal Convention they will only pay you an absolute maximum of 1131 SDR (around US$1600 at time of writing) if they lose or destroy your bags by accident.

Then there is the complicated part, which is Indian Customs. Customs & Central Excise publish a "Baggage Rules at a Glance" guide for travellers, which is 20 pages long (!), but here are some of the main points for a returning resident who has been away from India for more than three days:

  • Unlimited amount of "used personal effects required for satisfying the necessities of life" (basically clothing, toiletries etc, but not eg. electronics)
  • Up to Rs. 35,000 duty-free per person
  • Additional limits for tobacco, alcohol, gold, silver
  • One laptop in addition is allowed
  • Up to US$5000 (or equivalent) in cash

All limits are per person and cannot be pooled (eg. two people can't bring back a Rs. 70,000 item for free). If you're a "professional" returning to India after at least three months working abroad, you get extra allowances for household goods and professional equipment; there's also an entirely different set of rules for visiting tourists.

All that said, Customs are a notoriously corrupt bunch and there are quite a few greedy sadists who appear to enjoy using real or imagined infractions of the rules to extract bribes or liberate people from their belongings. As ever, it's the poor manual labourers returning from years of toil in the Gulf who seem to get the brunt of this though, and they'll back off if you're confident and make it clear you know the rules (a copy of the official guide above won't hurt!).

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On page 6 of the cited Baggage rules at a glance it mentions the currency amount " ... 8000 ..." . Elsewhere amounts are shown in Rs (Indian Rupees). What does the symbol imply? It seems too small to mean Rs. –  Russell McMahon Feb 5 at 4:42
    
Presumably a mangled version of this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_rupee_sign –  jpatokal Feb 5 at 4:59
    
Ah. Like the double barred Y for Yuan/ RMB :-). [In the right circumstances Chinese engineers enjoy you labelling one of their number "Mr RMB" when his name is Yuan. The 1st one I so labelled still wore the name proudly some months later :-). In this case that amount is horrendously low. Page 6 effectively says that tourists may bring with them, apart from items listed in the annexes, personal property of up to about $US150 value. The cameras I intend to carry will be worth 20 x that and are not listed in any annexe. I need the opposite of the system at the bottom of page 13. . –  Russell McMahon Feb 5 at 5:25
    
Thank you very much jpatokalless for the reference and short notes. Its really helpful and exactly what I was looking for. +1 for this. –  Arfeen Feb 5 at 5:30
    
As i followed the given reference (cbec.gov.in/trvler-guide_ason22may2013.pdf) did not found about cell phone. Can anybody point out. People some time say that you should not pack the phone, just unpack specially in case of Apple product. –  Arfeen Feb 5 at 5:42
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