The Complete India Packing Guide — Everything you need to pack for an India trip

The Complete India Packing Guide — Everything you need to pack for an India trip

By CarolUpdated Dec. 3, 2021

When traveling to a new country, it is easy to accidentally overpack and overprepare for your journey. While being prepared isn't a bad thing, lugging around your suitcase that has double the amount of stuff you actually needed on your trip can get tiresome.

To help you figure out what to bring and what to leave behind, we've created this guide on what to pack for India for the more discerning traveler. We've also included some information about how to prepare for seasonal and regional differences as well as what not to bring with you on your trip and some packing tips for female travelers.

Keep reading to the end to check out our traveling to India checklist so that you can make sure you haven't forgotten to do anything before you go.

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Bags to Bring and India Packing Tips

The first step in packing for your trip to India is to choose the right luggage and bags to bring with you. Your bags need to be big enough to have plenty of extra room for souvenirs.

You'll also want to carry a day bag, cases for valuables, and a money belt or a small pouch where you can safely store your credit cards and cash.

Luggage

When choosing which suitcase to bring with you on your India adventure, the first thing you should look for is that it is sturdy and lightweight. You should also make sure that your suitcase has plenty of extra room to hold any souvenirs or clothes you may buy. Goods in India are very affordable so its easy to buy a lot.

You will be allowed to bring two suitcases and one carryon on your international flight so if you are worried about space, feel free to bring an extra bag. Most mid-range and luxury clients travel via private car from city to city once they reach India, so having an extra bag will not be that big of a hassle.

If your itinerary includes a domestic flight within India, you may want to keep your luggage to one suitcase per person to avoid extra baggage fees at the airport.

Day Bag

Once you have chosen your luggage, it’s time to pick the bag that you will carry when exploring. This bag will need to be large enough to hold your camera, water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and any extra items you want to carry with you.

It is best to choose a bag that cannot be easily accessed by others without your knowledge. Petty theft can be a problem in some areas of India, so make sure your bag zips closed. It is best to choose a bag that can be worn across your body so that you can see it at all times.

Backpacks are convenient ways to carry items but can be easily accessed by people behind you without your knowledge. We DON’T recommend bringing a backpack unless it comes with a lock to protect your valuables.

Decide How to Carry Your Valuables

You will need to protect your valuable items while traveling in India. It's a good idea to bring waterproof cases for your phone, passport, and camera in case of surprise rain or mishaps with your luggage.

To protect your credit cards and cash, you might want to purchase and money belt which can be worn under your shirt so that pickpockets can't get to it without your knowledge. Although some money belts can look a little dorky and uncomfortable, a few companies have come out with better styles that on the outside look like normal belts but contain hidden sleeves for storage.

No matter what you buy to hold your money. The general rule is that it should be easy for you to access but difficult for everyone else.

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Essential Clothes to Pack for India

Now let's get into the most difficult aspect of packing: What should you bring with you to wear on your trip to India?

India is a conservative country when it comes to clothing styles and most locals tend to dress modestly. When packing, it's a good idea to only bring shirts that cover your shoulders and bottoms that are long enough to reach your knees.

Shirts

When choosing which shirts to bring with you, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you are packing for hot and dusty weather. It's a little counter-intuitive, you'll be more comfortable traveling in India with loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts.

Long-sleeved shirts protect more of your skin from the heat of the sun and the loose fit will help keep your upper body cool. We highly recommend buying shirts made of natural fibers like cotton as they are often cooler than synthetic fabrics.

Feel free to also bring short-sleeved shirts but its a good plan to carry a light cardigan or jacket with you in case you need to protect your skin or cover up to enter a temple.

In India, most men and women wear Kurtas on a daily basis. Kurtas are long, loose tunic-like shirts. These shirts come in colorful designs and can be purchased all over India for affordable prices. Kurtas are great ways to be modest and fashionable while traveling in India.

Pants

For India, you'll want to leave the blue jeans at home. Although you'll see some locals wearing jeans, westerners who haven't adjusted to the hot climate often find them too thick and uncomfortable to wear.

If you bring a pair of jeans with you, you can wear them at night or out to dinner when the temperatures cool down a bit.

For your daily travels in India, we suggest bringing loose fitting and light pants. For women, maxi skirts and long dresses are a great idea. Men may want to bring shorts or khaki pants.

Scarves

Scarves are a great way to make any outfit look interesting and are commonly worn in India. Scarves can help make one of your favorite travel outfits modest enough to enter a temple by covering your shoulders or they can be worn wrapped around your head to keep the sun out of your eyes.

Especially if you are traveling to India in the summer (March to May) you should consider bringing a light scarf to help protect your neck and chest from the sun.

Athletic Clothes

If you plan on spending time doing yoga or trekking in the mountains, you'll need to bring some athletic clothes with you. In general, it's a good idea to avoid tight unbreathable materials. Wearing quick-drying clothing is a good way to stay comfortable during outdoor adventures.

People spending time in at a serious yoga retreat will want to bring loose-fitting and comfortable clothing. Yoga pants aren't really a thing in India as they can often make difficult poses uncomfortable and aren't very modest.

Travelers who are spending time in a yoga holiday resort should be fine wearing yoga pants and tighter athletic clothing.

Check out our complete yoga guide to get more advice on the differences between yoga retreats and yoga holidays.

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Practical Shoes for India

The shoes you bring to India depends on the activities you want to participate in when you arrive. Most travelers will want a pair of sandals and a pair of walking shoes. Adventurers will likely need some hiking boots for trekking or other outdoor activities.

Sandals

It is a good idea to bring a pair of sandals with you to India because of the warm weather and the fact that you may have to remove your shoes to enter temples and other religious sites.

Since you will be walking in these sandals, you may want to consider investing in a good pair of travel sandals such as Chacos, Tevas, or Keen. Make sure to break them in before you arrive!

Walking Shoes

Along with sandals, it is also a good idea to bring some proper shoes for days that will be filled with exploring markets or walking through ancient ruins.

Lightweight tennis shoes should get the job done for most travelers.

Trekking Shoes

If you are headed to the Himalayan foothills in Ladakh, Sikkim, or Assam and are planning to hike, then you should bring some good hiking shoes. Although they are clunky and can add weight to your suitcase, having a good pair of shoes can make a huge difference when hiking.

Also, bring a few good pairs of long socks to prevent blisters.

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Other Essential Items to Bring to India

Now let's talk about some other essentials to pack for your trip.

Camera

If you like taking pictures on your phone, then don't worry about bringing a camera with you and just stick to the picture taking method you enjoy.

If you plan on bringing a professional camera to India, you should also consider buying some protective gear. India is quite dusty in the winter and summer months and rainy during the rest of the year.

Power Adapters

Power adapters allow you to plug in your devices in a foreign country and also protect them from an electrical current that may be different from the one your electrical devices have been built to accept.

India uses the same voltage (230 Volts and 50 Hz alternating current) and power outlets (type G) as the UK. So if you are from the UK, you won't need a power adapter when traveling to India but people from most other countries will need one in order to charge their devices.

If you are from the US, you run the risk of frying your devices if you don't use a voltage converter or adapter. Most adapters have voltage converters built-in.

Power Bank

This is important for your international flight or long drives to make sure your gadgets stay charged when you are on the go. No one likes to see a great photo opportunity only to realize their phone is dead.

Foreign Currency

India's currency is the Indian rupee and India is still a largely cash-based country. It's a good idea to exchange money in your home country before traveling to India just to make sure you have a little bit of pocket money on you before you arrive.

You don't need to exchange too much money because India is full of ATMs that accept both Visa and Mastercard.

Travel Documents and Copies

When outside exploring, you should leave your passport and other original travel documents in your hotel room safe. It's a good idea to make copies of your passport, visa, and other documents and carry them with you when you are out and about.

Medication and Safety

Always bring any prescription medicines that you will need during the duration of your travels.

Some other good medicines to bring include basic cold tablets, Ibuprofen, medicine for stomach aches, and tablets for motion or car sickness.

It is also a good idea to carry a small first-aid kit with you in case of minor scrapes or cuts. Make sure to bring hand sanitizer and wet wipes because you may have to use a restroom that doesn't have soap.

Probiotics and Electrolytes

Probiotics are a good way to get your digestive system more prepared for a change in cuisine. Indian food is delicious but is very different from western food. This can throw your digestion off and cause stomach problems. Taking probiotics and preemptively help you body’s ability to cope with the new cuisine.

It is also a good idea to bring electrolytes to help you stay healthy and hydrated in India's dry heat.

Sunscreen and SPF Lip Balm

Sunscreen and SPF lip balm are necessary to protect your skin year-round. While they are most important to carry in the hot season and monsoon season, you may also get sunburned in the winter depending on where you are traveling.

In the hot season, it will be very important to apply sunscreen well and often to any exposed areas of skin.

A Few Good Books

For when you have some downtime in the evening or while traveling between cities.

If you would like to read books about India while exploring this beautiful country, then you might like Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo to learn about life in India's largest slum, The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen for information about India's history and cultural identity, or Siddhartha by Herman Hesse to learn about the spiritual journey of Buddha.

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Packing Essentials For Female Travelers in India

As all women already know, packing is more difficult for female travelers. Not only do we have more toiletries to bring, but we also have to deal with expected norms and cultural values in the country we plan to visit.

Dressing Conservatively

In India, women are often expected to dress and behave very politely and conservatively. Although you don't have to, most female travelers find it easier to wear more modest clothes in India. 

So what do we mean by modest?

Indian women are often expected to cover their knees, shoulders, and chest. Foreign women can also pick up this practice in order to be respectful and avoid unwanted attention.

A great way to dress more modestly while still wearing your favorite outfits is to dress in layers. If you love a tank top go ahead and wear it, but you may feel more comfortable covering your shoulders with a scarf or light cardigan. If you want to wear a cute short dress then feel free to do so, but you can make it more modest by wearing leggings or tights underneath.

In Goa, it is perfectly okay to wear shorts and tank tops while walking around town. In larger cities, such as Delhi and Mumbai the modest dress code is also less strict.

A good way to know how to dress is to observe what the local Indian women are wearing. If many are wearing western clothing then you don’t have to be so modest, but if many are wearing traditional saris you may stand out and get stares in your western vacation wear.

Bathing Suits

You should be fine to wear your bathing suit on any beach that has been developed for tourism. In Goa, you'll see foreigners all over the beaches wearing bikinis.

If you are planning on heading to a more secluded beach with fewer foreign tourists, you may want to consider packing a one-piece bathing suit in case you don't feel comfortable in your two-piece. 

One-pieces are back in style now, so you can find them everywhere for great prices.

Makeup

Whenever you go outside you'll want to be wearing something with SPF under your makeup to protect your skin. 

Other than that, feel free to bring whatever makeup you love wearing! If you want to always look picture-perfect in India's hot climate you can invest in some waterproof and smudge-proof mascara and eyeliner. You may also want to bring your long-lasting all-day products for times when you will be out most of the day exploring.

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Pack for India’s Different Seasons and Weather

India is overall a warm and tropical country but the weather here varies greatly depending on the region you travel to and when you would like to visit. If you want to learn more about how India's weather, you can check out our article on the best time to visit India and which goes into more detail on the different seasons and what to expect.

Winter: December, January, February

Winter in India is the peak season for travel because it has the most comfortable and driest weather.

If you are traveling in North Indian cities such as Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra during December, you can expect comfortable days and cool nights.

What to add to your bags for winter in India:

  • A few sweaters or cardigans
  • A light jacket or fleece
  • Warm pajamas

South and Central India still experience relatively warm weather in winter with high temperatures around 30-32°C (86-90°F).

Summer: March, April, May

Summer comes early in India and is very hot and dry with temperatures reaching up to 40°C (105°F) in certain areas. In the summer, it’s a good idea to plan tours in the early morning and late afternoons to take advantage of the coolest weather.

What to add to your bags for summer in India:

  • A sunhat and scarf to protect your skin from the sun
  • Long-sleeved loose shirts
  • Loose pants or long flowy skirts
  • Quick-dry clothes
  • Sunglasses
  • High SPF sunscreen
  • Electrolytes

Monsoon Season: June, July, August

The monsoon season is the best time to visit India for affordable prices on yoga and Ayurveda retreats. Check out our monsoon season article to learn more about what to expect and where to go.

What to add to your bags for the monsoon season:

  • An umbrella and rain jacket
  • Protective cases for phones, passports, cameras, and important documents
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Waterproof shoes
  • Quick-dry clothing
  • High SPF sunscreen

Post-Monsoon Season: September, October, November

The post-monsoon season is the start of the tourist season in India. During these months, the rains get less and less frequent and the weather gradually gets cooler and more comfortable.

What to add to your bags for the post-monsoon season:

  • An umbrella and rain jacket
  • Insect repellent
  • Quick-dry clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • High SPF sunscreen
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What Not to Bring to India

Now that we've discussed what to pack, here are somethings that you definitely won't need in India.

White Anything

India is a very dusty and dry country except during the rainy season when everything is wet and muddy. With that in mind, it's best to avoid wearing white clothing as it may get stained or ruined during your travels.

Too Much Clothing

When packing for your India trip, it's better to bring too little clothing than too much. Stylish, colorful, and affordable clothes can be easily found and purchased during your travels so if you didn't pack enough it won't be a big problem.

Wearing Indian-style clothing will also help you fit in and will make for beautiful travel photos.

Your Collection of Essential Oils

India is the birthplace of Ayurvedic medicine and where the idea of essential oils and their health benefits originated from. If you are into holistic health, don't worry too much about bringing your essential oils with you. You will be able to find plenty of fresh herbs, oils, and other natural remedies for affordable prices while traveling in India.

India Before You Travel Checklist

Besides packing your bags, there are a few other things you need to prepare before your trip to India. Take a look at the checklist below to make sure everything is in order and you are ready for your trip.

Talk to Your Bank

Before you travel, you'll need to let your bank know where you plan to visit so they can put a note on your account. This will allow you to use ATMs in India without your card getting a hold put on it.

You should also double-check your bank's withdrawal fees as some banks charge steep rates for withdrawing in foreign countries.

Print Travel Documents

Make sure you print out your plane tickets, itinerary, travel information, and guide’s phone number so that you have a physical copy with you in case your phone dies during the international flight.

Arrange Transportation

If you are traveling with an Asia Highlights private tour, then all your transportation will be pre-arranged and included in your tour cost.

If you have planned the trip yourself, make sure you book transportation from the airport to your hotel before you arrive. At the airport, taxi drivers often swarm foreign travelers which can be an overwhelming and confusing experience.

Get your Indian Tourist Visa

Most travelers will need a tourist visa to travel to India. Luckily, India makes getting a tourist visa pretty easy. All you need to do is fill out the form on the official website, pay the visa fee which differs depending on your home country, and wait a few days to see if you are approved.

Once your visa has been approved, print out your visa form and approval document as you will need to show them to the immigration officer once you land.

Buy Travel Insurance

Buying travel insurance can help put your mind at ease during your trip. When buying travel insurance, make sure it is a reputable company and covers medical emergencies, theft, and lost baggage.

It is likely that you will not encounter these problems, but having the insurance is a good way to make sure you can tackle these issues smoothly if they do occur.

If you want some advice on which travel insurance to buy, check out this Forbes article on the best and worst travel insurance companies.

Ask Your Doctor for Medication

Lastly, before visiting any foreign country you should make an appointment with your doctor to get their recommendation on any medications you should bring on your travels or any vaccinations you should take before you go.

There is a risk of malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever present in India, but these diseases are really only a threat during the monsoon season.

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Explore India with Asia Highlights

If you want to see the best sites in India and have meaningful cultural experiences along the way, then look no further than Asia Highlights. At Asia Highlights, we make tailor-made tours that are specifically created to fit the needs of each individual customer. Let us plan your trip for you so that you can just relax and prepare for your dream vacation.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Every step of your trip, you will be looked after by your 1:1 travel consultant based in Asia.
  • No-risk booking: We refund as much as we can and adapt flexibly to unexpected changes.

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