Customs and Duties
You're allowed to bring goods of a certain value back home without having to pay any duty or import tax. There's a limit on the amount of tobacco and liquor you can bring back duty-free, and some countries have separate limits for perfumes; for exact figures, check with your customs department. The values of duty-free goods are included in these amounts. When you shop abroad, save all your receipts, as customs inspectors may ask to see them as well as the items you purchased. If the total value of your goods is more than the duty-free limit, you'll have to pay a tax (most often a flat percentage) on the value of everything beyond that limit.
The customs process at the international gateways isn't difficult, although the line you have to wait in is likely to be long. If you're entering India with dutiable or valuable articles, you must mention this when you stop at customs. Officials may ask you to fill out a Tourist Baggage Re-Export Form (TBRE), as such articles must be taken with you when you leave India. You'll have to pay a duty on anything listed on the TBRE that you plan to leave in India. Depending on the attitude of the customs official, you may have to list your laptop computer, camera or video equipment, and cell phone on a TBRE form. It's a good idea, though, not to go searching for forms or a customs official unless someone questions you.
Among other things, you may bring the following into India duty-free: personal effects (clothing and jewelry); a camera, a video camera, a laptop computer, a cell phone, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, up to two liters of alcohol, and gifts not exceeding a value of Rs. 8,000 (about US$175). You may not bring in illegal drugs, firearms, Indian currency (although a small amount is unlikely to cause any trouble, especially if you don't declare it), pornographic material, gold or silver that's not jewelry, counterfeit or pirated goods, or antiquities. Consult India's Central Board of Excise and Customs website for complete details.
Rupees aren't technically allowed out of India; you must exchange them before you depart, although you are unlikely to be questioned or searched for a few small bills you may have kept for a coffee in the airport. Foreign-exchange facilities are usually in the same airport halls as the check-in counters, but there's no access to these facilities once you pass through immigration. Tourists cannot take out more foreign currency than they brought in. There is no limit on gold jewelry.
All animal products, souvenirs, and trophies are subject to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The export of ivory (unless you can prove it's antique) and the skins of protected species aren't allowed. Export of exotic birds, wildlife, orchids, and other flora and fauna is forbidden as well.
In general, items more than 100 years old cannot be exported without a permit from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which has offices in many cities, including Delhi and Mumbai. Reputable shops will provide you with the necessary permit or help you get it.
Information in India
Central Board of Excise and Customs. www.customs.gov.in.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 877/227–5511; www.cbp.gov.