Asia | Travel Tips & News

The essential India packing list: What to bring, and what to leave behind

No need to chase rainbows when you can make sure they’re on your India packing list and you have a firm grip on what to wear and not wear in India. Here’s your opportunity to stand out by adding a kaleidoscope of colour to your India wardrobe, just like your vibrant Indian hosts.

Add a pop of colour to your India packing list

Whether your travels take you to the sacred sites of the Golden Triangle or the swaying palms of Kerala in the south, your travel wardrobe should feature an array of modest yet colourful outfits that will reflect the radiant and rich culture you’re about to discover for yourself.  

They don’t call India a sub-continent for nothing. This sizeable country (the seventh-largest in the world in fact), stretches from the great heights of the Himalayas in the north, to the tropical and wet south.

It goes without saying that what you pack will depend on where you’re travelling to and when, but generally speaking prepare yourself for heat. But that doesn’t mean strappy tops and short shorts should be your go-to options if you want to fit in with the modest locals. 

RELATED CONTENT: From Rajasthan to Mumbai: An introduction to India  

What to wear in India 

Your India packing list should include modest attire

The rule of thumb for what to wear in India is typically to keep your legs and shoulders covered. This is especially the case when visiting smaller cities, villages, religious or spiritual grounds and temples.  

Of course, there are some exceptions in larger cities, but you’ll find that it’s also practical to keep your legs and shoulders covered to protect your skin from the searing sun. Beat the heat by wearing loose-fitting clothes, preferably natural fibres which are quick to dry. 

If you choose to add a strapless top or shorts to your India packing list, make sure you’ve included a light button-down shirt and sarong in your bag which you can throw on if it gets too unbearable, or you need to cover up because you’re visiting a religious site. It’s important to note that you have to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting temples, whether you’re male or female. 

Your India Trip Planner and packing list should include modest attire

Resist the urge to fill up your India packing list with an outfit for every day as you’ll want to stock up on some local favourites, which are very affordable and will be a great reminder of your epic journey through India. Even if you’re not a keen shopper, you’ll be thrilled with the addition of a stylish and comfortable kurta (tunic) or perhaps a colourful sari to your wardrobe.     

EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: Uncover India: Delhi to Kerala 

What not to wear in India 

Include cultural experiences on your India trip planner

Leave behind anything tight, revealing or expensive. Not only will the inappropriate attire attract unwanted attention, but the climate in India also isn’t forgiving of anything that clings to the skin. If you are planning on wearing tight-fitting trousers like leggings, make sure you’re wearing a long shirt and avoid anything that shows cleavage, shoulders and knees.  

Also remove high heels from your India packing list. You’ll need comfortable shoes such as sandals that absorb moisture and provide sufficient support for the walking you’re likely to do. You’ll also be grateful for footwear that is easy to slip on or off when you’re visiting holy sites which require you to remove your shoes before entering.  

Dress modestly at religious sites

Lastly, and although this bit of advice on what not to wear in India isn’t mandatory, you’ll fit right in if you follow it. Don’t be afraid of adding a pop of colour before you zip your luggage up. The locals love bright colours, so beige is out and bright pink is in.    

RELATED CONTENT9 reasons why you’ll fall in love with the culture in India  

Your India Packing List 

Scarf 

Don’t pack one, pack two! You’ll be glad you have a spare at all times whether you use it to cover your shoulders when entering religious sites, shielding your face from the dust or simply to keep you covered when the sun sets and it gets chilly.  

Water bottle with filter 

India’s tap water is certainly not drinkable and you’ll need to stay hydrated in such a hot climate. Don’t leave home without a water bottle that has a filter so that you can drink the local tap water with peace of mind and of course, help to keep your environmental footprint low.  

Over-the-Counter Medication 

Make sure you’ve added over-the-counter medication to your India packing list, such as painkillers and charcoal tablets for the dreaded Delhi Belly, plus rehydration sachets should you get sick.    

Small towel, hand wipes, tissues and hand sanitiser 

Don’t get caught in a public restroom without access to toilet paper, soap and paper towels. Nip that in the bud by adding tissues and hand wipes to your India trip planner so you can navigate India’s sometimes unhygienic public spaces with peace of mind. 

Sensory support 

India Holi Festival - Trip Planner

You may well want to experience the full-on sensory experience that India delivers without dulling these. But, if it does get too much, you’ll be grateful you packed your earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones and sunglasses to take the edge off, even if just for a short time-out.  

Your India trip planner is complete. All that’s left is to double-check that your packing list is intact and start dreaming about your epic trip. Tell us in the comments below what you’re most looking forward to seeing. We’d love to hear from you! 

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