17 Things Cheaper in India Than the USA

Many things are cheaper in India than in the USA, so if you’re planning a trip to India and want to go shopping… you are going to find a “shopper’s paradise,” according to my enthusiastic aunt.

But there are some goods that are significantly cheaper and in this post, I’ll show you which ones to look out for.

Planning a trip to India at some point? Check out my free ebook to help you save time and money, and avoid headaches. After +4 years in India, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and this guide shares what I’ve learned so you can have a smoother trip.

How Can You Tell If a Product Will Be Cheaper in India Than the USA?

I’ll make this quick and simplify the economics a bit, but it comes down to a theory named after two economists… It’s called the Balassa-Samuelson Effect.

It basically states that if incomes are low in a specific place, then prices are low. If incomes are high, then prices will be high.

I wrote a post with lots of details about the cost of living in India versus the USA, but to summarize…

The average income in India is $152 per month (11,594 rupees) per person and less than $2000 USD per year. With this income, you can bet the average person cannot afford to buy an iPhone or Macbook. They are not worried about the latest Louis Vuitton handbag. They are spending most of their money on food, clothing, rent and other essentials. Therefore, these items are going to be cheaper in India.

This custom-made chair that my friend is delivering came at a low low price

The average income in the USA is $4012 per month (305,992 rupees) per person and more than $48,000 USD per year. On this income, someone can spend more on food, rent, and other essentials… therefore, these services will be more expensive in the USA.

Here are 17 things you can find cheaper in India than the USA…

Read more: Best Gifts To Buy In The USA And Bring To India

1. Tailormade Clothes

India has some great textiles and cloth. You can buy high-quality swaths of fabric for low prices.

In the city I live in, I can buy organic cotton cloth for a few dollars a meter. There are also plenty of tailors in town that I could hire to make a custom-fit long sleeve collared shirt for 1000 rupees ($20 USD).

If I wanted regular cotton and was willing to hire a less experienced tailor, I could buy short-sleeved shirts made for 350 rupees ($5 USD).

In the USA, tailor-made clothes are a luxury service. For instance, on this site, long-sleeved shirts start at $59 (4500 rupees). For luxury-quality cotton, you will spend over $99.

One cool thing about India is that you can find a lot of craftsman and artisans. Since there is a large supply of workers and lower incomes, you can find great low prices.

In the USA, there are fewer tailors and higher incomes, so prices are much higher.

Read more: Best Travel Shirts for Men

2. Custom Furniture

cane furniture

Cane furniture is one of the common types of furniture found in homes where I live in South India.

When I needed furniture for my apartment in India, there wasn’t an IKEA nearby. Instead, I went to the local cane furniture stores and had a chair custom-made by a local craftsman.

For $50, they made me a chair with extended armrests to put a lap desk on… which is where I am writing this post from right now 🙂

There are nice furniture stores in big cities and some near me. However, you can’t find prices as low as what you can have custom made.

I also bought an aluminum frame couch and it was $75 but is poor quality and terribly uncomfortable.

I was also looking for an inexpensive bed frame, yet I couldn’t find one for less than $150 in the stores. The quality was very low for what they were selling.

So I had some local craftsmen make a custom wood bed frame for 6000 rupees ($79 USD). They built it to my specifications and completed it in less than a week.

Custom furniture in the USA is a luxury service. Prices start around $2,600 for basic items, according to Unruh Furniture.

Read more: What is the cost of living in India versus the USA?

3. Wooden Toys

Channapatna toys are a uniquely Indian wooden toy made in the town by the same name in the state of Karnataka.

You can find colorful dolls, trucks, cars, turtles with wheels for legs, and much more.

Of course, since the toys are made here in India, they are priced under $20 for most toys. If you wanted to buy them in the USA, you could only find them at high-end toy stores.

These toys would make a great souvenir for a young boy or girl!

4. Artwork

To buy custom Indian artwork in the USA, you would need to find a custom store or website.

To import the paintings or artwork, you are going to pay higher prices. However, in India, you can find a lot of locally-made artwork for reasonable prices.

There are three main styles of Indian paintings:

Tanjore art: It is unique because it often uses 22-carat gold foil and is decorated with semi-precious gems. These paintings will catch your eye with bright colors!

Madhubani art: These paintings are known for their wild primary colors and scenes from mythology. They are sometimes made with cow dung or mud to provide texture. They often completed with matchsticks, twigs or fingers. Recently pen tips have been used.

Warli art: Warli art resembles cave paintings with prominent tribal stick figures and basic geometric shapes like triangles. The paintings originated in the state of Maharashtra.

Read more: Best Virtual Museum Tours in India

5. Books

You can find reprints of classic English literature for great prices in India.

I bought a bunch of classics for reduced prices:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: $5.90 USD in India. $12.99 on Amazon in the US.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: $3.92 USD in India. $9.99 on Amazon in the US.

You can buy newer books by Indian authors for good prices as well.

  • The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: $4.89 USD in India. $13.50 in the US.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: $5.48 USD in India. $12.27 in the USA.

Now, if you want to buy brand new books by US authors you will pay the same price or higher prices than in the US.

Read more: Best Books To Read Before Traveling India

6. Indian Spices

Saffron and cardamom are some of the most expensive spices in the world, but you can find them for reasonable prices in India.

The best saffron in the world is grown in India’s northern state of Kashmir. The prices of Kashmiri saffron range from 79 to 520 rupees per gram in India.

The prices you can find on Amazon in the US start at more than 700 rupees.

You can buy common Indian spices used in curries and masalas for rock-bottom prices in shops. Kerala is one of the largest exporters of spices in the world as well. You can find fresh spices on plantations near Thekkady for higher prices but with the quality is exceptional.

In local markets across India, you can find plenty of spices such as:

  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Mustard seed
  • Fenugreek
  • Garam masala

If you’re looking for food souvenirs in India, these are great options.

7. Prescription Medicine

In India, you don’t need a doctor’s permission to buy prescription medicine. This and the lower healthcare costs makes prescription medicine much cheaper in India.

Some examples include:

MedicinePrice per Pill in India (USD)Price per Pill in the USA (USD)
Ciprofloxacin, 500 mg$0.05$0.17
Orneprazole, 20 mg$0.04$0.50
Atorvastatin, 10 mg$0.08$0.43
Nexium, 40 mg$0.15$1.33
Levothyroxine, 0.112 mg$0.03$0.13
Source: US Prices from GoodRx, Walgreens, Costco, & Walmart

Read more: Recommended Travel Insurance for India Trip

8. Doctor & Dentist Visits

The healthcare costs in the USA are some of the highest in the world. Whereas India has some of the lowest costs.

India ranks as one of the most popular medical tourism destinations in the world with an industry worth $3 billion. That number is growing as well. In 2016, 234,000 foreign tourists obtained medical visas… while in 2017, that number grew to 495,056, according to CNN.

My friend went to the dentist here in India to save money and he only paid $70 for each crown. He had a partial denture to replace 5 teeth and he paid $346. This is dirt cheap!

I paid more than $3000 to get 3 crowns done in the USA before coming to India. My dentist in the USA was actually from Mumbai and warned me about Indian dentists, yet I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends.

In the Stat News, some medical professionals have even been researching how India can provide such top-quality treatment at low prices.

Other common medical procedures have big differences in price as well:

Medical procedureUSAIndia
Heart Bypass$123,000$7,900
Heart Valve Replacement$170,000$9,500
Hip Replacement$40,364$7,200
Hip Resurfacing$28,000$9,700
Knee Replacement$35,000$6,600
Spinal Fusion$110,000$10,300
Dental Implant$2,500$900
Lap Band$14,000$7,300
Gastric Sleeve$16,500$6,000
Gastric Bypass$25,000$7,000
Breast Implants$6,400$3,000
Face Lift$11,000$3,500
Tummy Tuck$8,000$3,500
IVF Treatment$12,400$2,500
Source: Trabug

9. Eye Glasses

Another aspect showing the lower healthcare costs in India would be the cost of eye glasses.

In the USA, the median price of eyeglasses is $369, according to the Consumer Reports.

In India, eyeglasses go for as low as $6 and high as $170 at the online retailer, LensKart.

10. Beer

If you compare prices of beer at restaurants in India versus the USA… you will spend 163% more on domestic beer in the USA than in India. You will spend 69% more imported beers in the USA.

The average price for a beer at a restaurant is:

Types of beerIndiaUSAPrice Difference
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught)145.00 ₹
(1.90 $)
381.52 ₹
(5.00 $)
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)270.00 ₹
(3.54 $)
457.82 ₹
(6.00 $)
Source: Numbeo

The USA does have a larger selection of beers across most of the country though. For instance, where I live in Tamil Nadu it is difficult to find beer and there aren’t any bars or restaurants that serve alcohol.

However, alcohol is allowed Pondicherry and you can find plenty of places to drink on rooftops overlooking the ocean. Of course, Goa and Bangalore also have a thriving pub scene as well.

Read more: Why is Alcohol Taboo in India?

11. Cigarettes

If you compare prices of cigarettes in India versus the USA, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes is 103% more expensive in the USA than in India.

TypeIndiaUSAPrice Difference
1 pack, Cigarettes (Marlboro)300.00 ₹
(3.93 $)
610.43 ₹
(8.00 $)
     +103.48 %
Source: Numbeo

If you smoke domestic Indian cigarettes or beedi cigarettes, you are going to pay even less.

12. Mobile Phone SIM Card

SIM Card Cell Phone Closeup

Getting a monthly phone plan in the USA cost me 16 times more money per month that what I pay in India.

In the USA, I used Verizon and paid $50 a month for unlimited texts and calls. I was on a family plan with 3 other relatives and we only got 8 gbs of data per month.

In India, I paid 600 rupees ($7.88 USD) for an 80-day plan with 4 gbs of data per day.

Read more: Using Your American Cell Phone in India

13. Restaurant Meals

You will pay as much as 615% more for a meal at a cheap restaurant in the USA as you will in India. You will pay about $2.10 for a low-priced restaurant in India and about $15 for a low-priced restaurant in the USA.

Mid-range restaurants will cost you 424% more in the USA than India. You will pay $10 in India and $55 in the USA for two people and three courses.

At a fast-food restaurant, the prices are more even. You will pay 121% more for a meal at McDonald’s in the USA than you will in the USA.

Type of mealIndiaUSAPrice Difference
Meal, One Person, Budget Restaurant160.00 ₹
(2.10 $)
1,144.55 ₹
(15.00 $)
     +615.34 %
Meal for Two People, Mid-range Priced Restaurant, Three courses800.00 ₹
(10.48 $)
4,196.68 ₹
(55.00 $)
     +424.59 %
Combo Meal at McDonalds 275.00 ₹
(3.60 $)
610.43 ₹
(8.00 $)
     +121.97 %
Source: Numbeo

Before coming to India, I would go out for chicken fajitas at a low priced restaurant near my house in Austin, Texas. I would never leave without paying more than $13. This would be without anything to drink, no appetizers, and no dessert.

Here in India, I would go to a nearby restaurant for a typical local meal of: 1 masala dosa, 3 eggs, 1 parotta, a bottle of lime soda, and a cup of chai… which would cost me just over $2.

13. Hotels

Accommodation in the USA is 550% more expensive than in India.

You can easily find good hotels in India for $16 a night. In the USA, good hotels are more like $104 a night.

For budget accommodation, I found you can spend as little as $3.30 for a hostel bed in a dormitory room that has an average of 253 good reviews. For a private hotel, the price is $7.60 from hotels with 583 good reviews.

Major Travel ExpensesAverage Price Of The Lowest-Priced Yet Well-Reviewed Places Per Night (USD)Average Price Of The Lowest-Priced Yet Well-Reviewed Places Per Night (Rupees)
Lodging – Hostel Bed in A Dormitory*$3.30253
Lodging – Private Hotel Room*$7.60583
Source: ChaiNomad

Read more: How To Easily Check Star Rating of Your Hotel

14. Rent

Check out what house you can get for $167 a month

You are going to pay between 500% and 1009% more for rent in the USA than you will in India.

Rent Per MonthIndia[ Edit ]United States[ Edit ]
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre12,249.84 ₹
(160.54 $)
105,079.21 ₹
(1,377.13 $)
     +757.80 %
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre7,568.39 ₹
(99.19 $)
83,959.29 ₹
(1,100.34 $)
     +1,009.34 %
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre27,936.77 ₹
(366.13 $)
167,848.44 ₹
(2,199.75 $)
     +500.82 %
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre17,162.72 ₹
(224.93 $)
132,280.92 ₹
(1,733.62 $)
     +670.75 %
Source: Numbeo

For example, I paid $825 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Austin, Texas.

Now in a small city in India, I pay $160 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

Read more: How To Rent A House in India & Not Get Burned

15. Utilities

Internet Speeds Computer India - Large

You will pay between 328% to 1072% more for utilities in the USA than you will in India.

Utilities Every MonthIndiaUnited StatesPrice Difference
Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for Normal-Sized Apartment2,849.92 ₹
(37.35 $)
12,216.34 ₹
(160.10 $)
     +328.66 %
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local 0.87 ₹
(0.01 $)
10.23 ₹
(0.13 $)
     +1,072.15 %
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)814.98 ₹
(10.68 $)
4,970.23 ₹
(65.14 $)
     +509.86 %
Source: Numbeo

For example, in the USA I paid:

  • $70 for WIFI internet
  • +$50 for gas heating and cooling
  • +$100 for very cold or very hot months for gas heating and cooling

In India, I pay about $20 to $30 for my average bill. My most expensive month for utilities in India was during the summer of 2019… I paid $80 per month because I ran my inefficient air conditioning unit for 23 hours a day.

In India, I pay $13 a month for WIFI internet.

16. Taxis

pre paid taxi stand delhi airport

You are going to pay a lot less for taxis in India than the USA.

Type IndiaUSAPrice Difference
Taxi Start 50.00 ₹
(0.66 $)
244.17 ₹
(3.20 $)
     +388.34 %
Taxi 1km 16.00 ₹
(0.21 $)
128.01 ₹
(1.68 $)
     +700.09 %
Taxi 1hour Waiting 100.00 ₹
(1.31 $)
2,289.10 ₹
(30.00 $)
     +2,189.10 %
Source: Numbeo

For example, I got an Uber from Chennai’s airport and paid 342 rupees for a 19 km trip. That’s $4.49 for an 11.8-mile trip.

Whereas in the USA, I spent 410% more on Uber rides! On a trip to the 9-mile trip to the airport, I paid $18.39. Which would be 1409 rupees for 14.4 kms.

Short rides in a rickshaw will cost less than $1 USD in India. In the USA, short rides in a taxi will cost $5 USD.

Read more: How To Avoid Rickshaw Scams

17. Cleaning Service

In the USA, you will pay at least $40 per hour and up to $80 for a cleaning service, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

In India, you will pay 125-250 rupees per hour ($2-$3.50) in a small city.

Things That Are More Expensive in India than the USA:

Of course, while many things are cheaper in India there are a number of products that are more expensive.

For 36 products that you’d be better off buying in the USA, click the link to my post: India Trip Gift Ideas


There are a lot of products that are cheaper to buy in India than the USA, because incomes are much lower in India. If you’re heading to India on a trip, you might want to save extra space in your luggage so you can bring some gifts back.

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Benjamin Jenks

Traveler, Filmmaker, and Lover of India. I've been living, writing and sharing what I've learned about traveling in India since 2018. Learn more about me here or Youtube.

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