Top 5 items to bring from the West to India

With many people coming back and forth from the West to East, there are items which one cannot find while here. Since I find myself asking these questions on a regular basis, I thought I’d share my knowledge and what I’ve found.

Top 5 Items to Bring 

1) Safety items for kids – The best thing I brought from the US was a helmet for my 2 year old. With all the riding on scooters and motorcycles, this has served us well. Child helmets are just breaking into the Indian market, but they are often awkward and hot. I brought a bicycle helmet with holes for ventilation and it has probably been one of the most used items we brought with us. Carseats are also limited since they are not required here by law. Carseats here are often imported and extremely expensive. My advice is to bring your own from North America.

2) Food items -This is a biggie. I’m going to break it into three categories.

  1. Baking- people doing their own personal baking is just catching on in most homes in India. If you have certain molds or ingredients you really like, I’d advise to bring your own. Other specialty and gluten free items really don’t exist here. Cacao powder, almond flour, coconut flour are not available in most places. You may also be surprised to find the quality of vanilla, active yeast and chocolate chips to be less than stellar.
  2. Grains and health foods- Quinoa and other grains sourced from North and South America are very costly in India. Goji berries, real maple syrup, maca powder, spirulina and nutritional yeast are not readily available. Certain herbal teas that are sourced from other parts of the world are not available- matcha, jasmine, etc.
  3. Firmented foods are not really a thing in India (except for achaar and dahi). For those who like kombucha and water kefir- bring  your own starter and brew at home.
  4. Cheese- High quality and certain varieties of cheese like gouda, feta or cheddar are only found in import quality and very expensive. HimalayanCheese.com does source, produce, sell and ship in India.
  5. Coffee- if you’re a coffee snob, most of the Indian brands will leave you unsatisfied. Starbucks is newer in India, but unless you live in a major metropolitan city, you won’t have access to those dark roast kind of beans. There are a few place doing their own roasting like Blue Tokai in Delhi.

3) Kids Books- Unless you are in a big city with Oxford Books, you won’t be able to find specialty kids books in English. There are a lot of general things out there for older kids, but the collection before age five is limited. Also, if you speak another language like Korean, Spanish, you won’t be able to find children’s books here. Books for small children in local languages are starting to make an entrance in the market. Publishers like Tulika have Hindi, Bengali and a few South Indian languages are available.

4) Holiday sentimental stuff- American holidays like Thanksgiving, 4th of July and even Halloween are non-existent here. So bringing your own cornucopia and candy corns are probably necessary if you’re sentimental like that. Up until the last few years, Christmas was even hard to find. However, Indians have taken a great liking to the secular meanings of Christmas. Christmas trees and Santa Clause stuff is not so hard to find anymore. Kirti Creations in Delhi’s Khan Market is one of the few carriers of quality Christmas garb in Northern India. Other holidays where there aren’t large communities represented (like Rosh Hashanah or Chinese New Year) don’t have a large representation here either.

5) Ladies specialty items- Topics like menstruation, pregnancy and breastfeeding are taboo in most of India. Anything having to do with these normal passages of life do not have the representation of goods in the market. Ladies undergarments I find are not as high quality in India and have limited variety, particularly for nursing or for plus size women. Nursing pads, breast pumps, etc are best to be brought from abroad. Ladies menstrual hygiene goods are very limited on choice as well.

Worst 5 Things to Bring 

1) Water filter- Water filters are widely available in India and quite necessary. Carbon based countertop filters like Brita are actually dangerous in India due to the quick bacteria buildup inside sitting water. Save yourself the trouble and buy a Reverse Osmosis mountable filter upon arrival. They come with warranties and often have guys come along to do regular servicing.

2) Most Electrical Appliances – Save yourself the headache and heartache (when it burns out) and just buy stuff here. Ovens, microwaves, blenders, etc are all available. I have still not been able to find an affordable Vitamix or SodaStream India, but other than that, everything is available here in 220 Voltage.

3) Toys, Markers and crayons- Kids coloring and drawing stuff is widely available in India. I find the quality to be pretty much the same. Many of the plastic toys are available here, but not as many educational type creations. There are new companies like Flintobox in India that are making a splash.

4) Clothes and shoes for kids- Clothing for kids here in India is exceptionally good. There are certain things which we North Americans love like baby onesies which aren’t as widely available here in non-urban areas. But if you look on the tag of many of your kids clothes a lot of them are actually made in India. Also, most of the clothes here are made for the climate here.

5) Food items which are found here – My advice to people is to eat local. You can burn thorough a budget pretty fast by buying all imported foods, most of which aren’t that good anyway. There are several fad foods which are consumed in the US which actually originate here- coconut oil, chai, certain spices and anything with turmeric. No need to bring any of these items with you. Just buy the original when you arrive!

This is just my starters list! Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

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