After booking a trip to India and the planning gets underway, most people’s first question is “but what should I wear?” Fortunately it’s actually pretty easy for women to pack a slim suitcase for the average sightseeing trip, since India isn’t the type of place you’ll need to be dressed to the nines in.
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The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a conservative country, which means avoiding bare shoulders, cleavage and lots of leg. Here’s a complete packing list for what to wear in India.
What to Wear in India: Clothes
Flowy dresses and skirts: Pack dresses and skirts that are loose, and long enough to cover the leg to at least mid-calf. Dresses that cover the shoulders are best, but if you’re having trouble tracking one down then simply cover up with a light scarf.
Pants: One pair of jeans and a couple pairs of pants should be enough, and you can buy colourful, flowy bottoms in the markets which are great in hot weather.
Shirts: Leave the tank tops at home, and instead pack a handful of breathable t-shirts and a couple of light sweaters.
Leggings: Bring along a pair to wear with the tunic or saree you’ll inevitably end up buying once you get to India.
Jacket: Mornings and evenings can be surprisingly cool, so pack a cute bomber or thin down jacket.
India Packing List: Accessories
Shoes: Unless you’re there for a fancy event such as an Indian wedding, leave the heels behind and only pack comfy, sturdy shoes.
A couple pairs of closed-toe shoes such as Converse sneakers or ballet flats will keep your soles happy during long days of sightseeing, and you’ll want one pair of sandals as well. Those planning on trekking in areas like Ladakh should pack a pair of hiking boots.
Sunglasses: One pair will do just fine, and it’s also easy to pick up a cheap pair in the markets should yours end up breaking at some point.
Bathing suit: India isn’t much of a beach spot, but those heading to areas like Goa will want to bring one along. Leave the thong bikini at home though, in lieu of a more conservative one-piece.
Scarves: Scarves are one of the travel essentials for India, as they’re so versatile. Pack at least a couple of pashminas (or buy a few while you’re there—they’re everywhere!) as these come in handy in many situations. Most women end up draping them over bare shoulders, over their head when entering a mosque, or pairing with a t-shirt. Scarves also add a nice pop of colour in photos—hello Instagram!
Travel hack: Wear one scarf and keep another tucked in your day bag. That way, you can swap them throughout the day so it doesn’t look like you’re wearing the same outfit in all your photos.
Travel Essentials for India: Miscellaneous
Visa: A visa is the most important thing on your traveling to India checklist, as all foreign visitors are required to get a visa—unfortunately the process is notoriously painful. The online e-VISA program is a welcome change from when you used to have to submit an application in person, but can be quite buggy so be sure to submit your application as soon as possible to ensure there’s enough time to submit it and get approval (which usually at least a few days).
It’s extremely important to print off a copy of the visa form once it shows as “granted”, since most airlines won’t allow passengers to board the plane to India without seeing confirmation of a valid visa.
Camera gear: Chances are you’ll take about 500 photos a day—the photo-ops just never end in colourful India! Ensure your camera kit has multiple batteries, an extra SD card and a portable charger to keep your smartphone juiced up.
Toiletries and Medicine: Delhi-belly is a real thing, people, so be sure to have medicine on hand should that street meat you enjoyed end up sending you straight to the bathroom. A bottle of probiotics is handy for prevention, as well as pills to treat diarrhea.
Hand sanitizer and wet wipes: Hand-washing is key to keeping away germs, especially in a country of more than one billion people.
Insect repellent: As there are many areas throughout the country where malaria is present, protection is crucial.
Vaccinations: Depending on what country you’re arriving to India from, certain vaccinations such as yellow fever may be required. Check out this list of recommended vaccines.
Kleenex: Keep a packet in your bag, since chances are you’ll find yourself in a washroom without any toilet paper at some point.
Adapter: Travellers from places like North America, Australia and the UK will need a universal travel adapter to keep their electronics charged.
Luggage lock: Be sure to keep a TSA approved luggage lock on your bag for added security, especially if you’re staying in hostels.
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