Shipping from China to India: Customs, Cost, Transit Time and More [2024]

Modern India is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world since the radical economic reforms in 1991. Alongside the major metropolitan areas like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai, there has been an unprecedented expansion of tier two and tier three cities across the nation.

India is scaling up its road, rail, ports and airport infrastructure to support the growing volumes of international trade. Keep reading to explore how to ship to India from China.

shipping from china to india

India Customs Entry

Over the last decade, India has steadily made the process of importing products easier. Most items fall within the scope of India’s Open General License regulations. This means that products are deemed to be freely importable without restrictions and without a license.

Typically, the import procedure involves:

  • ensuring licensing and compliance before the shipping of goods
  • getting customs clearance and paying taxes before the release of goods

Import-Export Code (IEC)

In India, prior to the import, every importer must first obtain an IEC number (a unique 10-digit alpha numeric).

The Import Export Code (IEC) is a permanent account number (PAN) with lifetime validity and is required for clearing customs, sending shipments, and sending or receiving money in foreign currency.

Application fee to get IEC is Rs. 500, and the registration process takes about 10 to 15 days.

To import in India, IEC Code is mandatory. No person or entity shall make any import without the code.

Indian Trading Clarification (IDC)

To determine whether a license is needed to import a particular commercial product, an importer must first classify the item by identifying its Indian Trading Clarification based on a Harmonized System of Coding or ITC (HS) classification.

ITC (HS) is India’s chief method of classifying items for trade and import-export operations. The ITC-HS code, is an 8-digit alphanumeric code representing a certain class or category of goods, which allows the importer to follow regulations concerned with those goods.

India Import License

An import license may be either a general license or specific license. Under a general license, goods can be imported from any country, whereas a specific or individual license authorizes import only from specific countries.

Import licenses are:

  • used in import clearance
  • renewable
  • typically valid for 24 months for capital goods or 18 months for raw materials components, consumables, and spare parts

India Import Documents

It is required to submit a set of documents to carry out import activities in India. These include commercial invoice and regulatory documents that deal with various regulatory authorities such as the customs, excise, licensing authorities.

  • Bill of lading or airway bill
  • Commercial invoice and packing list
  • Bill of entry

A Bill of Entry gives information on the exact nature, precise quantity, and value of goods that have landed or entered inwards in the country.

Additional documents may be required as per the case such as:

  • certificate of origin
  • inspection certificate
  • insurance certificate
  • import licence
  • letter of credit
  • General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT)/DGFT Declaration
  • Registration-cum Membership Certificate (RCMC)

India Import Duties and Taxes

India has a de minimis value of INR 0, indicating that there is no minimum threshold for duty tax exemption on imported items. Every item imported into India is subject to import duty and tax.

All imports into India will primarily be levied 4 duties and taxes, including Basic Customs Duty (BCD), Customs Handling Fee and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) and Social Welfare Surcharge.

india duty and tax

Sea Freight to India

China-India route is very competitive. Almost all carriers can handle shipping from any loading port in China to Nhava Sheva directly. The frequency for each carrier is once a week. But for one specific destination port in India, the frequency will be every day. There are always some vessel leaving China and heading to India in one day.

Top Container Ports in India

Surrounded by water on three sides and is flanked by the Bay of Bengal on its east coast, the Arabian Sea to the West, and the Indian Ocean to the South, India has many major and intermediate ports.

Known as Nhava Sheva, JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) is the largest container port in India and one of the most essential subcontinents harbours on the Western coast. It processes more than half of container cargo passing through India.

Other major ports are:

  • Port of Mundra
  • Port of Chennai
  • Port of Kolkata
  • V. O. Chidambaranar Port
  • Port of Kandla
  • Port of Mumbai
  • Port of Vishakapatnam
  • Port of Cochin
  • Port of Hazira

Sea Freight Transit Time to India

Different steamship carriers, different loading port, different destination port, make the transit time hard to be summarized.

You can simply take it as 20 days for your schedule.

Please note before the vessel departure, 3~5 days at the FOB port needed, and the same situation at the port of destination. Add this to your considerations.

We have a reckon chart below, for reference only.

Nhava ShevaMumbaiKolkataChennai

Sea Freight Cost to India

Let’s take Shenzhen as POL and Nhava Sheva as POD for example.

The rate range is from US $1,000 to US $2,000 for a common 20 feet container. And $1,500 ~ $2,500 for 40 feet. 40HQ is the same price as 40GP.

As for LCL charges,


Please note it’s a rough idea only. You can get a free fresh quote from us by filling our form online.

Air Freight to India

Air freight is another option to ship goods from China to India, compared with sea freight. This is because air freight cargo is:

  • Faster
  • Safer
  • Effective

Top 10 Airports in India

Airport CodeAirport NameAirport City
DELIndira Gandhi International AirportNew Delhi
BOMChhatrapati Shivaji International AirportMumbai
MAAChennai International AirportChennai
BLRKempegowda International AirportBangalore
COKCochin International AirportKochi
HYDRajiv Gandhi International AirportHyderabad
CCUNetaji Subhash Chandra Bose International AirportKolkata
TRVTrivandrum International AirportThiruvananthapuram
AMDSardar Vallabhbhai Patel International AirportAhmedabad
CCJCalicut International AirportCalicut

Top Express Companies

  • DHL
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • BlueDart
  • DTDC
  • Shiprocket

Air Freight Cost to India

The costs related to air freight shipment depend on the volume and weight of goods that you plan to ship. Air freight is, in general, costlier than ocean freight but is a much safer option. Besides, you would be saving up on insurance costs that usually go with ocean freight.

It also depends on whether you are considering normal air freight shipping or high priority shipping, the latter of which is quicker but substantially costlier. If you do plan to get the shipment insured, you can expect to pay about 0.5% of the total value of the goods.

Cargo is transported from China to India in either regular passenger planes (non cargo) where it is packed with other packages or dedicated cargo planes. The latter is usually reserved for heavier and bulkier cargo due to higher costs.

Air Freight Transit Time to India

Generally the air freight cost about 5-7 days.

If you wish to have your goods transported as soon as possible, you may also choose the high priority delivery option, which ships your goods within 2-3 working days but costs higher than general.

Most air freight shipping services provide some value added features as well, such as online tracking along with email notifications.

What CFC can do for you?

Are you looking for a method of goods transportation to India from China? Do you know how
to reduce freight costs in the premise of on-time and safe delivery?

You do the sourcing, and find us as your freight forwarder. Then you can rely on us and pay more attention on your other important things.

We provide cheap shipping charges with one-stop reliable freight services. A really good China freight forwarder can be your close business partner. We are big enough to provide discount freight shipping rates and small enough to care about your shipment.

Get a free quote from us now. If you are looking for cheap freight quotes, our rates and service are second to none!

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