This is India! 155

Welcome back to This is India! I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them. This is just meant to be an honest portrayal of my life in India through short anecdotes. I also share here what I’ve been up to online outside Hippie in Heels.

What I was up to other than here:

  • So, I got back from Indonesia and was supposed to do work but instead spent way too much time doing everything but. We met up with friends, went to a reggae festival, and on Monday we took a trip up to Sindudurg to stay at a friends new resort (the same guy who owns Coco Shambhala) which was heavenly.
  • I decided to do some budgeting this week and see where my income comes from and where my money goes. Quite a few surprises in there, haha. My biggest income is from the annoying ads you see as you read my blog posts (so kind of have to keep them, ugh, sorry!) and my biggest expense BY FAR is food. Literally, 70% of my money is spent on food. Our rent is covered through Ben’s work so this is actually not an exaggeration. We go out for lunch and dinner most days and I was really surprised when I saw how much we spend. I can’t even tell you because it’s ridiculous. Erm, time to learn how to cook!
  • The budgeting came from the fact it’s time to do taxes again (boo) and I was looking over all my income and expenses from 2017. I used to use H&R Block India expat services but now I’ve shifted to using a US-based company; it’s actually another travel blogger’s sister. My taxes are kind of complicated and did you know self-employed people pay an additional 15% self-employment tax? My taxes are really high and I have no retirement fund so this year, I needed to get all that figured out, hence hiring someone to help!
  • We are actually going to go to Kuala Lumpur in a few weeks for Ben’s birthday to see his friends that live there. I’m really excited. I’ve been to Malaysia twice I think, but never KL.
  • I’m reading the Alice Network, a book about a spy in WWI then bouncing forward to WWII and whole other story that in the end will I guess come together in a big way (haha, fortune teller over here!).

Now your story,

Let me start with the fact that I feel like this story is pretty boring, but in my reader survey you guys were all saying you want more stories from India and that find even what has become mundane to me, a little interesting.

Living here as an expat comes with challenges and there are small things that remind you YOU’RE IN INDIA, not the USA and that often comes along during times you are dealing with sometimes customer service and things that involved paperwork (banking, etc).

As a blogger, I sometimes have items sent to me in India to try out, review, or wear on Instagram. I tell brands to send what they want but that I only promote it if I actually like it. I also tell them if they use the regular post, it might not show up. When items come into India, they then use tracked services like DHL and FedEx and usually send it “express” which costs a FORTUNE to make sure it actually arrives.

I deal with this importing packages a lot, and it’s always as annoying as this story is – but since this happened this week, I thought I’d tell you about it.

Getting items through customs and delivered is basically a battle. I do it at least once a month and it’s the worst. So, here’s how it goes down.

You have something sent to India with FedEx (let’s say), then once it reaches Mumbai, FedEx calls you to say it’s in customs and you need to submit “KYC” docs to clear it. So, you email them, the package clears, and it comes to your doorstep where you pay a customs fee in cash.

It never works like this, though!

So, I knew I had a package coming which was sent from California. It arrived the next day in Mumbai.

But, I never got a phone call. So, I asked the company sending something for the tracking number, they replied with the number and said FedEx had called them two days prior asking for my phone number, which the company gave them. The package had been sitting in customs in Mumbai for days. I called up FedEx India who said they didn’t call me because they didn’t have my number – I told them that they did because they called specifically to requests it from the sender. They said, “Oh yes, I do see we have it…”

Okay, so not a huge deal. Realistically when you pay hundreds of dollars in shipping costs for express shipping, they should probably be on top of telling you when it’s reached customs and you need to take further steps.

So, the next step is to send KYC docs. These mean “Know Your Customer”. I have done this so many times, yet there are always issues with my documents. Years ago, I sent them in my name but I needed to show a lease with my name on it and couldn’t so the package was “auctioned off” in Mumbai. Another package was already coming with the same scenario but this time with a letter from “Ben my husband allowing me to accept a package in his home” (could only be permitted from a husband or father) which had to be NOTARIZED I was allowed to the package.

I learned from that and started putting Ben’s name since his name is on the lease. Well, Ben is not the same as Benjamin, so that next package was declined. So, I have to submit Ben’s passport, driver’s license, visa, photo ID, and lease.

After a couple days of back and forths and a letter to the customs agents, my KYC docs were accepted.

The FedEx tracking said the package would arrive the following day, after all, I’m only a 45-minute flight from Mumbai.

Two days later, no package and I called on a Friday saying “what’s going on, when is the package coming?”. They said 1000% it will come on Monday, madam, as they are closed on the weekends.

Monday nothing. Tuesday nothing. I called Tuesday to the Panjim, Goa office where the package had been sitting for two days asking why they didn’t bring it. They explained what should have been obvious to me:

They start work at 11 am, they have to stop at all the places before my house which is an hour away. They have lunch from 1-3PM. Work ends at 8 PM. They don’t have time to make it as far as my house because every day there are more packages to take which are closer to their office before they reach my house.

I asked: “but my package is express – doesn’t that take priority?” They said they just did things this way and no priority ones didn’t matter because how could they get the truck to me faster?

I was told maybe Friday they could bring it but it wasn’t guaranteed (and I was headed to Mexico) so they said it’s best I come to the office and pick up the parcel.

I had to drive almost an hour to the capital to pick it up in person and pay the customs fee. So, hundreds of dollars in express shipping and you get to pick it up yourself.

This has happened before when a package took two weeks to arrive from Panjim (also express) because they didn’t have enough people to deliver to my area of Goa.

Basically, this is just a small thing – getting a package isn’t a huge deal. But imagine this is how most offices are run… from the internet people to the gas and water company making paying bills a lot of fun!

This is India!


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Katy January 27, 2018 at 1:28 am - Reply

    Super surprised that FedEx won’t subcontract to a delivery service like EComm or ExpressBees or GATI so your package gets to you “Express”!!! I would definitely be Tweeting at FedEx about this one.

    Everything else you’ve described is hilariously “India”. Gotta be on that lease! Not “Ben” it has to be “B-E-N-J-A-M-I-N” and nothing less! Kindly do the needful!

    • Rachel Jones January 27, 2018 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Lol, “kindly do the needful!” The best little saying is when Indian companies email me for promotion (with no budget for advertising) and ask for the MOON and they sign off with “look forward to your immediate positive reply”. Lol, okay then!

  2. veena January 27, 2018 at 3:31 am - Reply

    You have so much more patience than I do. I pretty much just told everyone not to send me packages while I lived in India, or to send them as inconspicuously as possible to my uncle’s house and I would get them as and when I could. And the whole needing a husband or father drove me crazy — I had to get a letter from my father – who was in the US – giving me permission to rent my apartment on my own, even though I was paying the rent and utilities myself.

    And yes, please keep these stories coming. I know what you mean about them feeling mundane to you these days, but they’re pretty golden.

    • Rachel Jones January 27, 2018 at 10:55 am - Reply

      I had patience looking back and writing it lol but at the time not so much – I was on the phone like “what is this nonsense!?” but then when I picked up the package, I had it in my mind I would tell them how unfair the whole thing was, but then when I got there I reconsidered and didn’t say anything because there’s literally no use!

  3. vinod January 27, 2018 at 7:12 am - Reply

    Consider using EMS speed post next time. It’s govt owned but super efficient. Once you have the parcel no you can track it on their website. I use it all the time , not had a issue as yet

    • Rachel Jones January 27, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

      I’ll look into it – I haven’t heard of them. Usually when I work with brands as a blogger, they have a company they only ship with and it’s usually DHL and FedEx as they are mostly USA companies.

      • Alan February 4, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

        EMS is though the Postal Service. But not sure that the India Post would be up to much?

  4. Katie January 27, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Ughhhh! This is the worst! I’ve just been through the same thing with FedEx with a gift from a friend in the US. She spent hundreds of dollars to ensure it reached me – and quickly… It took a month, 10+ phone calls and just as many excuses, things from her about the item, things from us –
    requests for leases, Aadhar cards, passports, letters, etc. Then they wanted me to pay Rs 4000 in Customs clearance fees! Nightmare. All my friends and I have an agreement now we’ll stick to electronic communication only

    You have so much patience to grin and bear it repetitively! And interesting to know “priority” doesn’t matter.

    • Rachel Jones January 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      Lol- that sounds about right! haha, kind of good to know it’s not just me! But yeah, now with Aadhar card becoming the thing you need for EVERYTHING I have a feeling it’s going to get even harder to receive a package.

  5. Haley January 28, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Wow. I’m currently living in Japan, and I can’t get a package (from abroad or in Japan) delivered here without having to sign for it. They always come while I’m at work, they leave a paper, and I have to go online to have it redelivered at the one time of the week when I’ll be home during their delivery hours. Just that has frustrated me in the past, so I can’t imagine going through all of this to get a package. I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to deal with customs when receiving packages.

    • Rachel Jones January 28, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Customs makes it really annoying – luckily once you have the paperwork cleared here they can just drop it at your house even if you aren’t home (unless you have to pay a customs fee)

  6. HarHar Mahadev January 31, 2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    It is so strange when I read these travel blogs by foreigners that the Indian system puts you through so much trouble. I haven’t had the slightest iota of a problem receiving a shipment from any part of the globe to any place I have lived in India. The bit of making you spell out your husband’s name is ludicrous. There is a Hindi word for all this they make you go through. It is called “pangaa”. They are simply trying to deliberately make things hard for you. People get a secret pleasure out of doing this. Very unfortunate. We Indians really should stop taking so many pangaas with foreigners!

    • Rachel Jones January 31, 2018 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      I also feel like they do it just to mess with us, not so nice! Now with aadhar cards it’s all going to get more difficult I think. even to get gas for cooking!

      • HarHar Mahadev February 1, 2018 at 9:15 am - Reply

        Most foreigners who are here are not trying to create trouble, foment dissent, or do other things inimical to the Indian state. So we Indians should not gratuitously make life difficult for them. The colonial past is over. We cannot take that out on the whites who are here today. That is wrong and nothing is gained by doing that. So we should not take so many pangaas with them, and just let them get on with their lives in peace. What the FedEx man said to you actually implies that the parcel may never ever get to you if they have to make a lot of stops every day before your house and the shift ends before reaching your house. This is such a classic pangaa! The man ought to be ashamed of himself. Hopefully, the Better India will emerge some day, but it will take a lot more time.

  7. Thomas September 30, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Hey Rachel,

    Hoping for some help! Have spent the last few days trying unsuccessfully to send KYC documents. I have a package at Mumbai right now in import delay. Sent copy of passport, authorization letter, trying to send declaration letter. Feedback from KYC is awful. Just the same copy and paste message with no personalized help.

    I had the package sent to a hostel, which I often do while traveling. This hostel doesn’t want or can’t help with a declaration letter. KYC doesnt like any of the letters I try to send them. I feel stuck. Any suggestions would be great. Can I somehow change where to send it in Delhi? Its Fedex Express, but certainly doesn’t feel like it.

    • Rachel Jones October 1, 2018 at 4:04 am - Reply

      Hi Thomas, FedEx India should be able to help you with what paperwork you need directly – you need to call the FedEx India number but yes it can take some time. I’ve never done it from a hotel, I’ve always had to show my lease.

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