Cost of Moving from USA to India: Relocation and Cargo Shipping Charges

India is a beautiful and vibrant country admired for its storied history, diverse melding of cultures, and scenic geography, which encompasses jungles, beaches, and sprawling countryside as well as several major urban hotspots.

It’s no wonder, then, that people from all over the globe flock to India each year in the tens of thousands.

But those aren’t the only reasons. The affordability factor is also a gleaming attraction for thrifty travelers, especially those coming from cities where the cost of living is through the roof. In fact, the cost of living in India is estimated to be roughly 65% cheaper than that of the United States.

If you’re eager to experience the many benefits of living in India for yourself, you no doubt have questions about how to put your plan into action. And many of them no doubt have to do with how much it would cost to relocate you and your stuff.

Read on to get information about how to move from the United States to India without going bankrupt before you ever set foot in the country.

Traveling to India

A photograph of an old map with a white pin placed in India

If you’ve decided to immigrate to India, your top priority will of course be to get yourself there.

There are a couple of ways to do this, depending on where you currently live and your preferred method of conveyance. However, the most practical option for most people will be to fly. A one-way plane ticket to India will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000-1,800, which is a steal considering you’ll be covering close to 9,000 miles of distance all told.

Generally speaking, the best time to travel to India is between November and January, when the price of airfare plummets by as much as 40%. Be sure to book your flight at least 7 weeks in advance if possible to take advantage of early-bird discounted rates.

Assuming you don’t like planes, you may also have the option of taking a boat.

Many container ships offer accommodation to passengers for daily fares of around $65-130. Just be aware that you could end up spending significantly more money by going this route than you would by flying. Additionally, you may find that your choice of destinations is limited, and you’re likely to make many stops at intervening ports along the way.

That said, voyage by sea can be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and is also a good way to ensure that you and whatever personal possessions you’re shipping arrive at the same time. More on that later.

Comparing Your Shipping Options

A photo showing a large container ship docked in port with a crane loading cargo. A road is parallel to the ship and a large cargo truck is travelling along it

Securing passage to India for yourself is the easy part. What on earth are you supposed to do with your furniture, appliances, clothes, and all the other necessities of life?

It may not surprise you to learn that your options for transporting your belongings are the same as your options for transporting yourself. But there are some key differences between air and sea travel when it comes to getting your stuff from Point A to Point B.

Let’s look at a few of them.

Sea Freight

As a rule, it’s a lot cheaper to send cargo by sea than by air.

The average cost per cubic foot to ship via ocean is $80-160. By comparison, the average cost per cubic foot to ship via air is 

If you’re intent on saving as much money as possible, it will therefore be worth your time to look for freight companies to ship cargo via ocean.

Keep in mind, however, that it may take several weeks for your belongings to complete their course this way. As such, it’s not the way to go if you’re on a strict timetable, like you might be if you’re facing a family emergency or have recently accepted a new job.

Air Freight

If you just want to get the moving process done as quickly as possible, you may prefer the speed and simplicity of having your belongings shipped by air. Air freight will ensure that your items will arrive at their final destination in days rather than weeks.

It takes an average of three to five days for freight companies to ship cargo via air from a major U.S. city like Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, or New York to a major Indian one like Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, or Mumbai. The same journey might take four to eight weeks on a sea-faring freighter. For those of you keeping up, that’s a difference of about one-to-two months.

That said, air freight is more expensive—a lot more expensive. By some estimates, moving goods by air costs a whopping 12-16 times more than shipping by sea!

Estimating Cargo Costs

The figures quoted here are just ballpark estimates To get a more accurate sense of what you’ll be paying to relocate your possessions, it’s recommended that you use a freight calculator.

There are plenty of free freight calculators online that you can play around with to get a quick quote. Most shipping companies also have cost calculation tools on their websites to help their customers coordinate expensive shipping ventures.

To run the numbers on your cargo, simply enter the approximate dimensions and/or weight of your shipment (or number of containers, as the case may be), then plug in the postal info for its pickup location and destination. The calculator will tell you what kind of rates you can expect for your specified shipping method.

Different freight carriers also have different rules concerning what types of items you can ship and how they must be packed and loaded. Be sure to spend some time reading up on shipping policies and cargo regulations for moving your household goods from the USA to India, particularly those that pertain to the company you’ll be using.

Shipping Your Vehicle

At this point, you’re probably asking, “Can I ship a car from the USA to India?”

The simple answer is yes: you can ship just about anything anywhere provided you’re willing and able to pay for it. Whether or not you are is another matter.

As for the question of how much it costs to ship a car to India, a cursory search reveals that the average rate is somewhere between $2,000 and $6,000. These rates are likely to change based on the size and type of vehicle you’re transporting, your exact destination, and the time of year you consign your shipment, so plan ahead and budget accordingly.

Other Cost Considerations

An image of the cityscape of Mumbai. It is shot from across the water and shows dozens of skyscrapers, large homes, and unit blocks

What other financial demands will you face upon completing your move to India? Nothing big—only finding a place to stay, buying food to eat, and having some way of getting around.

How much is all that going to set you back? Perhaps not as much as you might think.

Housing

The average cost of rent in America is $784 per month, or around $9,400 per year. In India, it’s a mere INR 20,448-33,600 ($275-450). And that’s for a furnished accommodation in an “expensive” city like Mumbai or Nagpur.

For a simple studio setup in an out-of-the-way area, you’re looking at closer to INR 11,785-18,324 ($158-245) per month. All told, that’s about $2,418-4,350 per year.

If math isn’t your strong suit, that means you stand to save as much as $7,000 per year on the cost of lodging alone. Those international shipping rates don’t look so bad anymore, do they?

Food

Ordering a meal at a mid-range restaurant in the U.S. costs about $10-13, as reflected by recent national averages. The most expensive item on the menu might only be $5-8 in a city like New Delhi, and a typical lunch or dinner might be priced as $2-3 in rural areas and at smaller mom-and-pop eateries.

In other words, you could eat out three times a day and still probably pay less overall for food than you’re paying now.

Similarly, you can procure fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from local markets and stock up on packaged foods at supermarkets for a fraction of the amount these items would command in the U.S.

At a mean of IR 468 ($6.28), India has some of the lowest daily food costs in the entire world. That figure includes both groceries and meals eaten outside the home.

Transportation

If you’ve already got a vehicle you want to keep, the biggest expense you’ll be on the hook for is having it shipped. After that, it will simply be a matter of keeping gas in it and getting routine maintenance done.

Paying an arm and a leg to have your car to you may not be all that practical, though.

The majority of Indian commuters rely on motorbikes, scooters, bicycles, taxis, or rickshaws to get around since almost everything they need is only a short ride away. For longer trips, there are trains, buses, and passenger ships, all of which operate during prime travel hours.

City-dwellers can catch a ride using the first two transit methods at any time by purchasing a renewable monthly transport ticket for about IR 1,165 ($15). You also have the option of summoning a chauffeur via a rideshare service like Uber within city limits for a variable per-trip rate.

Checklist for Relocating from USA to India

Hopefully, you’ve now got some idea of how much it will cost to move from the USA to India, and what all is involved in the process.

To begin formulating a more precise budget, review this checklist and make sure you’ve taken all of the most pressing projected expenses into account.

  • I’ve compared average air and sea fare rates associated with traveling to India
  • I’ve used a freight calculator to estimate the cost of shipping my belongings
  • I’ve estimated the cost of shipping my vehicle or planned an alternate mode of transportation
  • I’ve budgeted appropriately for housing, food, and other necessities
  • I’ve adjusted these estimates for each member of my household moving with me

Conclusion

Let’s be real—moving always comes with a cost. This is especially true when you’re spanning oceans. The important thing is to consider what you’re gaining in return.

In this case, the decision to relocate from the US to India promises not only to save you loads of money on your annual expenses but potentially to expand your horizons and leave you with memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether that’s worth the difficulty of taking on such a complicated logistical challenge.