Home Destination Abroad What to Carry while travelling to USA?

What to Carry while travelling to USA?

What to carry while travelling to USA? List of things to get from India to USA. Documents Required for immigration. About important Things to carry like Phones, Books, Kitchen Items, Food, General Wear. All about things while travelling to USA and to cover initial stay in USA as a student.

First of all some common questions and their answers which will solve your major doubts about the things to carry to USA.

What to carry while travelling?

What to carry, what not to carry – Here is a consolidated list of things to bring while travelling to USA. Remember to maintain your baggage within the weight limits as required by the airlines you travel. Otherwise you may have to pay huge sum after you arrive here (at the port of entry). Usually, the limit is 23 kg (50 pounds to be exact) each, in two suitcases, and 8 kg in a cabin bag. (There are fixed standards for the size of this bag too!) It is always recommended that you should check with the airline authorities to know about particular luggage limitations, since these are frequently changed by several regulations.

Remember always: BE CAREFUL with ALL your documents all through your travel. The following documents are quite important for a peaceful stay in the U.S.A:

  • Original Form I-20.
  • Original Passport with valid F-1 Visa.
  • Original Form I-94 (Do not ever remove it, it is stapled to your passport! This document is more important than the passport itself!).
  • Demand drafts, Travelers’ Checks, and currency.
  • Any sealed documents that the US Consulate gave you.
  • Other important documents, such as previous academic records.
  • Vaccination Certificate.
  • Letter of admission/financial aid (if applicable).

You must keep them with you at all times during the flight. Also, make copies of the relevant documents and keep one set at home. Carry one set and the originals with you along with essentials including a pair of clothes in your carry-bag in case the luggage is delayed at the airport. Carry some money in your pocket while travelling. You might need some money to buy things like food items in airports.

Q: I plan to get my mobile phone from India. Is that advisable?

Do not plan to bring your mobile phones here! Please be informed that not all mobile phones from India work here since the operating frequency might not be supported! Also, in the USA, prepaid mobile is a lot expensive, and limited, option, while post-paid plans are generally available with decent and state-of-the-art phones for low cost or for free! In any case, getting a mobile in India is not recommended, though some iphone and Andriod phones will work here.

To be eligible for a post-paid mobile connection which does not need a deposit, you will need to have sufficient credit history. You can get a mobile phone on a senior’s or a relative’s Social Security Number (SSN) and later transfer the phone when you build your own credit. Another option would be to get a credit card as soon as possible and do all your purchases on it for one month. After you pay your first month bill, you should be able to get a mobile (without any deposit) on your own SSN. You can check whether you need a deposit by trying to order a phone online by filling out all the required details. It will inform you if you need to pay a deposit. If your order is accepted, then you do not need a deposit.

Q: Now, how do I make a phone call?! Is there someplace in the airport that I can call from?

All airports have public telephones at various locations. You would need money in small change (coins) to make a phone call. If you have currency notes, you can probably get some change in any store in the airport or at counters that sell foreign exchange. Some airports also have wall-mounted machines that give you coins if you deposit currency notes – look around, or ask someone. Even if it might cost you a bit, please understand that you would save a lot more money (see above) if you call! If you have friends/family in the U.S.A, you may ask them to buy you a calling card for calling within the United States, and ask them for information on using the same to place a call. Remember to get the calling card before you leave India, and carry the details of the calling card with your essential documents (and do not just leave it stored in an email!)

List of things to carry to USA while travelling

The following list has been generalized to meet the requirements of students hailing from various geographic locations of India. Specific comments are made as and when necessary. Needless to say, our family can be a good guide for us in such matters as this.Remove the batteries from all your electrical appliances such as calculators, clocks, shavers or you will be forced to do it at the airport.

Where to put stuff:

All your original documents must be in your carry-on luggage in a harmonium folder.
Photocopies of all original documents must be in each of your check-in bags.
Expecting the worst, you should have enough stuff in your carry-on luggage to survive for a day if both your checked-in bags get lost.

Leave sufficient photocopies of all documents especially i20, passport and mark sheets at home.

Most important – Textbooks

Fill up all your text books first before anything else.
These are the most important and also very expensive here.
Don’t compromise by leaving your books behind..
Most students here prefer to borrow books from their school/department library in order to cut down on costs. In the US, many universities also have tie-ups with other schools, and you can borrow books from other universities through thsi system. This is called as an Inter-Library Loan in most places.
Even so, if you feel the need to buy a book for some reason, and are staying with people from the same course/program, buy a book in common. Not recommended, but can be done to save up on costs. That way, if there are 4 books you need, each of you can get 1 or 2 of them and distribute the book load.

1) Kitchen & Food

In most cases, mothers would be the best judges for this section, fortunate for us.

a) Pressure cooker (3litres/5litres): If you have decided about your roommates in advance, plan to get ONLY ONE OR TWO (two being the maximum) pressure cookers for the apartment. Almost all students tend to buy an electric rice cooker in the U.S.A. soon after they land; it is not very expensive, and it proves to be a good and reasonable investment. A pressure pan/cooker which can accommodate an idly stand might be an ideal choice for students who might want to make idlies. Do not forget to get 2-3 spare gaskets and/or safety valves or other wearable/replaceable parts that suit the pressure cooker you may bring.

b) Utensils: You can buy a good set of steel/nonstick utensils (that can be used for cooking) in the U.S.A. for a reasonable price. If you prefer to get some utensils from India anyway, get at least some vessels of various sizes – to store and to cook food (1 small/medium kadhai), and (meals) plates (Melanin microwavable eating plates, important – can buy here also) and tumblers. You may also get at least, but not more than, a few spoons (2-3 small size, 2 big spoons/serving spoons), 2 wooden stirrers, 1 serving ladle, 1 strainer spoon for deep frying, plastic soup bowls, coffee mugs and some forks. If space/weight is a constraint, reduce the number of utensils you carry – you may buy them after settling in.
Avoid getting steel utensils since they are painful to clean, most students here use non-stick pans which cost about $20 here. Non stick utensils can be purchased from WALMART store at a nominal price of 10-20$.
It would be a good idea to get in touch with your future roommates and decide upon the utensils. Almost everything else is available and it would be a sheer waste of space packing in too many utensils.

c) Raw materials for cooking (ask your mother or whoever might cook):

(Please note: When it is said “as per preference”, it means that the items enlisted are unavailable except in Indian stores; see the note above.)

i) Do not bring rice, not even in small quantities.
ii) Sambar/Rasam powder may be brought as per preference, quantities ~1 kg each.
iii) Tamarind (1-2 kg, preferably seedless) and/or tamarind paste might be necessary.
iv) Haldi/Turmeric (250 gms), hing/asafetida (20-30 gms), etc. might be necessary for at least a few students.
v) Mustard seeds (raee), cumin seeds (jeera), etc., would be among the necessary commodities for a few sections of students. Around 0.5-1 kg of each should meet a moderate requirement.
vi) Dried curry leaves might be a good choice for some; they do not take up much space or weight. If you are bringing this, make sure the leaves are thoroughly dry before you pack them, as even little wetness can attract fungus. (Coriander can be bought locally!)
vii) Some students may also want to get coriander and cumin powder(s) (available as a mixture of both too), quantities ~1 kg, and cardamom (elaichi), cloves, papads (2-3 packets), etc.
viii) Get all the pickles (if you bring this, make sure that the packing is good and leak-proof), chutneys, or edible powders and 5-6 packets of masalas (Garam Masala, Meat Masalas, whole spices or Khara Masala, Chole Masala – recommended, because chole is cheaply available here and is cooked frequently, Pav Bhaji Masala – recommended, because fast to cook) as you can. (There is always a risk of they getting left out at the port of entry or somewhere in the transit because of restrictions on the type of luggage you bring in, but that is really very rare – you do not need to declare any food items such as these.)
ix) Get rava/suji/poha and small packets of salt, sugar and red chilli powder, since they are very useful in the beginning.
x) Do not get noodles. Students following vegetarian diet might prefer to carry a few packs of masala (“Tastemaker” as referred to by Maggi®) though, as vegetable noodles are not common here (Maggi® or Top Ramen® noodles can be bought from Indian stores), but the masala can be added to any locally bought noodles.

Also Read:  Financial Documents for US Graduate School Application

d) Miscellaneous: 
Grater, a small chopping board, a pair of kitchen tongs, sieve (for atta/flour), tea/coffee filter (personal choice), and knives (good ones can be bought here as a set, esp. if you also use knives for non-vegetarian food) can be considered as optional stuff you might want to get. A peeler can prove to be useful anyway.

e)Make sure you do not carry any knives or peeler in your cabin baggage! Do not bring any electrical appliances, as they do not fit in the electric sockets here and do not work at 110 V.

f) You might need deep fry pans or flat pans for your use in the kitchen. (Nonstick cookware is the best choice!) Remember that all your cookware should be useful to cook for 4 persons at a time, without mentioning any “guests”. You may buy one after you land here, if you cannot accommodate one in your baggage.

g) Sweets & Savories:
Remember that you cannot really store such fast food for long, not because of the weather conditions but because of the temptation to eat them off. Of course, students might still want to get some, and more commonly parents might want to send some! Keep them coming, you would find many thankful souls too. But save your luggage space for something more lasting, say, pickles. And, also be informed that sweets or any foodstuff may be disallowed anywhere on the transit when your bags are scrutinized.

h) Bringing a cookbook will be of help.

i) Most of the spices and lentils (dal) that we use in India are available here at the Indian grocery stores.
j) It would be a good idea to bring with you some ready mixes (eg. Idli, dhoklas, gulab jamun).
k) Don’t go overboard in stuffing your bags with food items.

2) General Wear:

a)Get more casual dresses, like T-shirts, jeans, cargos, khakis, etc. (Regular fit is the best for guys. Avoid tight-fits/bell-bottoms if you do not want to stand out from others!). 10-15 T-shirts/casual shirts, and 5-8 trousers/jeans are a minimum suggested lot.

b) Students tend to buy more apparel locally over time, for nominal expense at clearance sales and/or discounted prices.

c) Formals are rarely worn! Plan on bringing full sleeved and half sleeved formal shirts depending on your personal choice. You need not get more than a few pairs of trousers. A suggested maximum is 5 pairs.

d) Get 1-2 ties; a blazer/suit is optional. (Either a blazer or a suit is recommended.) If you are getting a blazer, get a matching tie and suitable formal trousers that can go with the blazer. If you are getting a suit, get a matching tie. Take care that your formal shoes would look fine with the rest of the formal attire. A business-style black suit is recommended, if you are considering bringing one.

e) Shoe polish and shoe polishing brush for formal shoes.

3) Seasonal Wear:

a) A leather jacket is not suggested for protection from weather. Get a stuffed jacket, but without fur on the outside (rather, the “inner” outside)! (These might be bought from Nepali/Tibetan sellers by the roadside in bigger cities, or even in showrooms, of course!) The bottom line is “get something to serve for both cold and rain” cause here it rains and becomes cold. Not much snowfall (…unlike a not-very expensive leather jacket or a fur-covered jacket. Gents do not wear fur coats anyway, particularly in these parts of the country! Fur tends to get damp in winter/rainy climate.) Wear the jacket in the flight – it not only increases your luggage carrying space but also might be necessary for somewhat low temperatures you would feel inside the flight!

b) (Specialized) Thermal wear is NOT necessary. Get a sweater or two. Get a monkey cap that covers a majority of the face – it is definitely a requirement on some cold windy winter nights. Get a pair of gloves too; you may want them to match with your jacket (NOT woolen – You can buy them here for approx. $5).

c) Windcheaters may not be necessary, especially because rain/wind is generally cold and these can be substituted with the jacket you would bring.

4) Miscellany:

a) Get at least 1-2 pairs of traditional (Indian) dress. Remember that there would be more than a few occasions a year where you might have to represent your culture. And you might prefer not to repeat the same attire on all such occasions.

5) Most students do their laundry once in a fortnight, or even less frequently! Apply this estimate to all the garments you bring, including miscellaneous items like socks, kerchiefs, undergarments, etc.

a) Get a pair of formal leather shoes (black, preferably, but choose the color according to the shades of formals and/or blazer/suit you would get; we recommend that you bring it from India, they might be expensive here) and/or a semi-formal pair of shoes that can serve dual purpose. Apart from that, get a pair of sneakers/sport shoes for regular use. Sprint shoes, canvas shoes, or other special purpose shoes may be bought here as per personal preference. We suggest you get 1-2 sets of slippers/sandals to be worn on your ethnic dress, and 1-2 sets of regular slippers.

b) Get 2-3 belts that might be necessary for all your pants/trousers – broad ones for jeans, narrow ones for formals, black, brown, etc. as per preference. Offering a comparison, good leather belts in U.S. cost a minimum of $10 each!

6) Assorted Hobbies:

a) Do not neglect your hobbies; you would regret later when you feel bored, and that is going to happen too often, particularly when the school is not in session!

b) Get any portable (literally as in “able to be carried”) sports/games-related items like chess board and coins (Chess boards and coins may also be bought in the U.S.), swimshorts/swimsuits and swimming goggles (absolutely essential if you want to swim – chlorine in the pool is in higher content than in India) and swimming cap, table-tennis/tennis racquets, etc.

c) For other hobbies like painting or music, bring stuff that you cannot get here easily or inexpensively, which includes the likes of paintbrush set, paints, mixing template, charts (yes, if you can roll them up in a carrying case!), etc. (You can buy pencils and erasers here, of course!) or flute (a set of flutes, rather – which flutist would carry only one flute?), a small violin, etc. Collectors of stamps, coins, currency notes and the likes may want to display some Indian stuff to foreign friends you might soon make here. You may also put the collection to display on more than one occasion a year, when there are international events on the campus.

d) If you have any certificates pertaining to your hobbies, at least get a few prominent ones; sometimes, they might fetch you some kind of funding in remote places such as the School of Art.


a) Get Reynolds pens or any pens (in bulk quantities, and remember to preserve them!) that you might prefer to use. (Reynolds might be called “The pen that the world prefers” but is not seen much in the U.S.A, unfortunately!) If BiC or PaperMate are your choices, you would, of course, not need to get any, as they are U.S-based brands!

b) The punching used for papers (for filing) is of 3 holes here unlike 2-hole punching in India. Thus, avoid getting files and punches, and you can buy the corresponding things here! Of course, you may get zipper folders in which you do not necessarily punch and file your documents!

c) Stapler, staples, glue stick, adhesive tape, bonded/clutch pencils, lead box (0.5 mm), erasers, steel ruler, etc. may be carried or may be bought here for a comparable price.

d) Notebooks would not be necessary to be brought from there, unless you prefer for some reason; they are reasonably priced here. Plain papers for fair/rough work are absolutely unnecessary. You would get them for comparable prices here.


a) Get a mug for use in the bathroom. You may not need a bucket anyway, and if need be, you may buy a pail here.

b) Get soapboxes. Soapboxes are not very uncommon in the stores here, but the soapboxes in the U.S.A. do not generally have drain outlets for remnant water after use!

c) Tongue cleaners may be classified among things that are not available in the U.S.A. Get about a half a dozen to dozen tongue cleaners, depending on the type/material of tongue cleaners you prefer to use. Do not carry metal tongue cleaners in the cabin baggage – if it is sharp, it can be considered as a “security threat”! (Yes, there were such cases in the past!)

d) Talcum powders and hair oils are among the rare commodities here, unfortunate for some! Get your choicest ones, even if it is the seemingly “most common” Parachute Coconut Oil or Denim Talc. (Well, actually, you would not get coconut oil for your hair anywhere than in an Indian store, though something similar might appear with a strong odor in local stores!)

e) One can buy one’s bath soaps, shampoos/conditioners, toothpastes, toothbrushes, shaving foam (or a shaving gel/cream), razor/cartridges, nail cutter (don’t forget this!), talcum powder, deodorants/perfumes, etc. here or there. The costs are not very different (Though in most cases, prices for all these might be just a bit cheaper in India even if for U.S-based brands!). If you have been loyal to particular brands, you might want to carry a few numbers of each of those for initial use. You may not ever need a detergent cake while you are here, though you might want to carry one. Do not carry detergent powder; liquid detergent is cheaper here!


a) Get at least 2-3 pairs of prescription spectacles if you use them; as a comparison, prescription glasses cost about $100 per pair in the U.S.A.!

Also Read:  FAQ's on Working in Germany for International Students

b) Get any portable (literally taken) relics/memoirs that might represent your culture, which can be useful for display on relevant occasions. As mentioned above, stamps and/or currency can be a part of these too. The items can be specific to a remote place in India or to a remote culture, or even common culture or place, of course! Almost anything is welcome, but do plan to get something at all. Statuettes of gods and goddesses, photographs of interesting places to visit, handicrafts, etc. may also be brought for this purpose.

c) Get general medication that can serve as a makeshift first-aid kit. The best guide would be a medical shop attendant or a general physician (or a family doctor, of course). A sample list of medication that you might find useful is presented here:
Crocin/Disprin/Erythrocin/Sporadix/Cosovil/Febrex Plus (*****, and related ailments such as cough, cold, and body-/head-aches), Baralgam (abdominal colic pain/backaches), Avomin (air sickness), Avil (general allergies), Eldopar (to prevent loose motions), Zandu Balm/Amrutanjan (body-/head-ache), Soframycin (superficial wounds), Lotomil/Digene/Eno (digestion/gastric trouble), Band Aids, nasal inhaler (Vicks), pain relief spray, antiseptic lotion (Dettol), painkiller tablets (Combiflam/Brufen), burn ointment (Burnol), B-complex tablets and moisturizing lotion (Vaseline/cold cream – highly recommended for winters).

d)International credit cards might be carried as a financial backup, but might not be useful for all your purchases and payments. American Express card cannot be used to pay fees, though it can be used for other purchases and expenditure. Please note that a Visa Electron card (such as “Viswa Yatra’ from State Bank of India) is not regularly usable here, since there is a pay-per-use transaction fee for the same. Some may still see the card as a safer way of carrying money; you may use it only once – to transfer all the money into your local bank account that you open here.

e) Do not bring any electrical appliances because the appliances here run with a different electric socket/plug and at 110 V @ 60 Hz.

f) You may get as many audio/video CDs (of Indian movies or music) for your use. This includes mp3 CDs that you might have burnt on blank CDs. Copyrighted or not, CDs are not generally questioned about (by the U.S. Customs). However, do not declare them unasked, and be informed that you may have to forego the collection if questioned (You may try to convince them that is just a collection of all your “legally owned” music/software.) Audiocassettes are okay, but videocassettes have a different format in the U.S.A, as you may already know.

g) Get a headset (headphone, preferably stereo, with microphone) for voice chat with parents and friends back home or just to listen to songs (even if you do not plan to voice chat, get one with a microphone). Offering a comparison, a similar appliance may be bought here for prices $12 and up.

h) Get 2 wallets that have enough pockets to hold credit cards that you have to carry in future.

i) Get a college bag to suit your daily needs. Remember that the bag might have to accommodate bulky books that you may carry from/to library or even large quantities of printed out papers sometimes! College bags cost $10-$20 here. A wiser idea might be to get a laptop bag instead, so that it can serve the purpose of a college bag, and it can help you carry a laptop when you might eventually buy one. Make sure that the bag can fit a 15.4” laptop (though you might prefer a 14.1” laptop anyway).

j) Get your photos. I do not mean passport-sized photos that you might seldom need while you are here (until the time you are applying for jobs). You might want to cherish the memories of home and family (and get nostalgic, sometimes).

k) You may want to get trivial things like extra buttons for your clothes, needles and threads (black/gray, white, brown, etc. – “universal” colors are enough), safety pins, nail-cutters, scissors, mirror (a classic hanging mirror – a small one, about 8” x 4” should do), etc. Except the buttons, most other things can be bought locally too.

l) Get a couple of bed sheets/ pillow covers. Get slippers to wear around in the house. DON’T get rugs/ thick blankets. You get good blankets (comforters/ rajais) here for reasonable prices.

m) DO NOT carry hangers (they occupy a lot of space and anyway they are available here for almost no cost)

n) Whether you plan to transfer or not, get extra sets of transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. that you might need if you need to apply to a different school.

o) Please bring all your original certificates of your Bachelors degree (and above). If you have a consolidated marks memorandum, you may not need to bring individual marks memoranda. Similarly, if you have your original degree certificate, you need not bring your provisional degree certificate. You would not really need the certificates prior to your Bachelors degree, but you may want to carry them anyway just so that you do not forget where you put them in India.

p) Photocopies of books is piracy. Get them at your own risk.

q) Copy of address book/telephone book/diary and contact list.

r) Medical history file.

10) Money:

a) Get travelers’ checks (travellers’ cheques, to sound more “Indian”, or TCs) totaling to around $2000. A suggested breakdown is as shown below.
$1000 x 1 = $1000
$500 x 1 = $500
$100 x 4 = $400
$50 x 1 = $50
$20 x 1 = $20
$10 x 3 = $30

b) Get currency of $500; you would not need more than this amount initially, before you open a bank account. If you will, you may carry some more money in travelers’ checks, which is as good as cash most of the time.

c) Try to get as many $20’s, $10’s and $5’s as you can. They don’t take $100 bills at some places. And lower denominations will help you convert them to quarters (25 cents), dimes (10 cents) and nickels (5 cents) at the airport. It will also be easier to pay at your transit airport (London/Paris/Frankfurt), in case you want to buy some food, or call up your parents using a pay-phone.

d) There, apparently, is no practical limit of any kind on the amount that can be carried in various forms, except as currency. However, if you are carrying more than $10,000 in all currency and other “monetary instruments”, you are required to “declare” it when you land. Do not forget to ask the flight attendants and/or the Department of Homeland Security about it, if you are carrying amounts larger than $10,000. There could be similar requirements set forth by the Reserve Bank of India, in order to allow you to carry the same – ask your bank about it.

11.The Day of the Flight:

· As it is going to be a long flight, wear something comfortable – preferably cotton – a full-shirt and trousers. Wear your shoes and a jacket.
· Be at the airport at least 2 hours before check-in time.
· Relax during flight, sleep as much as possible.
· For vegetarians, watch out before you eat – for you may get non-vegetarian food even if you had asked for vegetarian. Always ask about the food before eating – if you are particular.
· It you want something vegetarian specify that you want “No Meat”. They may not understand if you say “Vegetarian” or “Veggie”.
· Never hesitate to ask questions. People are friendly and helpful.
· But Trust No One. Be wary of strangers who appear to be extra friendly.
· Drink lot of fluids to get over with the jet lag as soon as possible.
· Walk around the aisle every two hours to prevent leg cramps and deep-vein-thrombosis.
· Do not joke irresponsibly on the flight.
· In case your baggage does not arrive when you landed, do not waste too much time hunting for it. Mention it to the airline representative and give them a forwarding address with phone number where you can be reached. They will take care of your luggage. In any event, do not miss your connecting flight.
· In case your flight landed late, or the onward flight is cancelled, it is the responsibility of your airline to arrange for another flight. If the delay involves an overnight stay, the airline will pay for your stay as well as for your meals.

Note: Please don’t panic if it so happens that your flight arrives late and the time for the connecting flight is too near (say, within the next 10-15 minutes) for you to make it due to Immigration and Customs delays. Simply follow the same actions outlined above and get your airline to arrange things for you. Don’t be rude, but be firm while dealing with the airline representatives.

12.Things to be carried in cabin luggage:

  1. Original I-20, copy of passport, copy of ticket, financial documents (CA certificate, Bank Statements), admission letter, affidavit of sponsor, all college or school mark sheets and related certificates.
  2. Original documents except (passport, tickets) (see below).
  3. A book for in-flight reading.
  4. Portable hard-disk (if required).
  5. Address book/phone book.
  6. Copies of your photo (passport size).
  7. Once complete set of clothes, in case you need to change.
  8. Distribute your money – keep a certain amount in each piece of luggage, rather than keeping it all together. In your cabin baggage, keep clothing for 2-3 days, just in case your checked-in baggage arrives here later than you do.
  9. Have your name and destination and route and flight and date in all bags. Have them prominent and bold enough so that you can identify them easily from an ocean of similar ones. Some guys even put fluorescent labels, ribbons.
  10. Do not get too many clothes hangers (you might get a couple for starters, but they are of a different size here, and are available very cheap).
  11. Do not overload your baggage with blank notebooks, file folders etc.

13.Things to be carried on your person (pouch):

All your money, change, travelers checks, etc.
Original passport.
Original boarding pass.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here