Traveling to a country like India can be nerve-racking. There are so many things to consider including visas, transportation, and accommodation. And if you haven’t been to India before, you may be unclear on what to pack for India. As somebody who visits fairly often, we have made this India packing list for ladies to take one worry off your shoulders. Particularly if you are a bigger girl like me or just generally tend to turn into a hot and sweaty mess 😉
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What to Wear in India as a Woman
Unfortunately, India has a reputation for being dangerous for female travelers. While that is not necessarily true, as a foreigner, you will indeed attract attention in India. Although bigger cities are very modern and perhaps even “westernized” in many ways, women still tend to dress more modestly than in the west. Personally, I would never wear hot pants or mini skirts in India, no matter how hot the weather. I also avoid showing too much cleavage, although at a certain bra size that can be difficult 😉 Bare shoulders are fine, although it’s nice to carry a light scarf in case you are visiting a temple (or mosque or church). I still tend to wear form-fitting cuts intermixed with flowy cuts on hot days.
Suitcase or Backpack for India?
That’s a tough question for me, personally. The reason is I absolutely loathe carrying backpacks and how all your stuff is bunched up and unreachable in the bag. I always take a suitcase, no matter where we go, including India. The truth is, however, as we have family living there we don’t need to struggle with transport. In reality, it is much more convenient to bring a backpack to India. Between rickshaws, overcrowded trains and unpaved streets, a suitcase will probably make you miserable.
What to Pack for India in Summer and Winter
The first question you need to ask yourself when you’re packing for India is, where in India are you going? The climate can vary significantly between arid Rajasthan and tropical Kerala.
Another thing to consider is whether you are going in summer or in winter. While winters are still very mild, you may want to pack a few layering options for chilly evenings or cloudy days. In the summer it can get very hot and humid. Leave your heavy jeans at home and pack some lightweight palazzo pants instead. It is not fun to peel off skinny jeans after getting caught in a monsoon shower (speaking from experience 😉 ). Indians love air conditioning, though, so it’s always worth to bring a few light layers even in the summer.
India Packing List for Ladies
Below I have compiled what I personally pack whenever we go to India. I tend to pack a little bit of everything to be prepared for any kind of weather. This list is designed in a way to accommodate for high humidity as well as dry heat (you’re gonna sweat no matter what) and can also be adapted for winter months by replacing shorts with full pants or maxi skirts.
This list is designed to dress you for sightseeing and light physical activity, e.g. walking in the mountains or countryside for a short while. It is not designed for trekking or adventure sports.
In terms of duration, this India packing list is meant for stays in India of more than one week. You will need to have access to a washing machine if you are staying longer. Also, do not panic if you forget anything as at least all basic things are easily available in stores.
- 8 pairs of underwear
- 8 pairs of socks
- A few comfortable t-shirt bras
- 2 sports bras
- 1 pair of thin leggings
- 2 pajama sets
I know this is not the most glamorous thing to start with, but at least it’s an essential part. I recommend that you have a set of underwear per day. This is simply because you will be sweating a lot and changing your clothes frequently. That’s also why I recommend bringing some simple undies made from cotton rather than synthetic materials. I also pack a thin pair of leggings to wear as “underwear” on cooler days.
If you are staying somewhere with a washing machine, you may get away with bringing fewer pieces, but I think 8 is just a good number in general. Of course, most girls could buy underwear when they arrive, but in my experience, it’s not as easy for bigger girls. Larger sized bras aren’t very easily available in India. So better bring a spare!
Additionally, pack whatever you are comfortable sleeping in. Bring two sets so you can change halfway through the week (particularly if you are traveling in the summer).
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 mid-length skirt
- 3 palazzo pants
- 2 yoga pants
When it comes to bottoms, it very much depends on when and where you are going. While skinny jeans are perfectly fine in milder temperatures, they will make you want to kill yourself during monsoon. Personally, I tend to wear loose lightweight fabrics in India, particularly palazzo pants. Many go for harem pants, although I find that they lead to uncomfortable chub rub if you have bigger thighs. I like palazzo pants because they can either be casual or dressy, depending on how you combine them. They also come in more straight cuts these days if flare is not your thing!
It’s also worth packing one or two yoga pants for hiking or other physical activity. Throw in a pair of shorts or two and you’re good to go!
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[one_third_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Yoga pants
If you are going to be out exploring in nature, stretchy yoga pants come in handy. These are not only great value for money, they also come in size XL.
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- 7 t-shirts
- 2 tank tops
- 1 blouse or flannel shirt
- 2 dressy tops
- 2 light sweaters (or cardigans)
- 1 warm sweater or denim jacket
- 1 jacket
The secret to traveling for a long time with a limited wardrobe is to pack a good mix of tops which can be both, practical and dressy. I aim to only pack tops which I can combine with any of my bottoms which gives me dozens of outfit possibilities. For t-shirts, I like simple cuts, perhaps with a cute pattern, primarily made of cotton. Tank tops are great for physical activity or even layering under your t-shirt if you need it.
The reason I carry a blouse or flannel shirt is that you can either wear it as is or wear it over your t-shirt like a light cardigan. Personally, I’m not a big fan of cardigans (they never seem to fit right around my bust), so I prefer to pack light sweaters for layering. Combined with a warm sweater and a jacket, you won’t be cold even in the colder months. Ideally, the jacket should be water resistant so you have something to keep you dry in the rain.
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→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Denim Jacket
This denim jacket is perfect if you are visiting India during the drier winter months. Available in sizes up until size 18!
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- 2 maxi dresses
This is of course down to personal taste, but I love to pack one or two dresses in case I want to take some nice photos or go out for dinner with Mihir. Maxi dresses are conservative enough to wear in India without attracting too much attention, but still enough of a dress to feel cute. Alternatively, you could also pack a jumpsuit, but I imagine the combination of jumpsuits and squat toilets to be rather painful.
→ Buy now![/one_half][one_half_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Casual Maxi Dress
This casual maxi dress is not only comfy, it’s also available in sizes up until 4XL! Perfect for exploring the city.
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- 1 pair of flipflops
- 2 pairs of sneakers
- 1 pair of dressy sandals
When it comes to shoes, you’ll want to pack light. While I’m out in the city, I exclusively wear my trusted Havaiana flip-flops. I swear I’m not affiliated with them, their products are just great! In addition, I pack 2 light sneakers as well as a pair of dressy sandals I can wear in the evenings.
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Walking Sneakers
These Nike Free sneakers have been my sightseeing and work sneakers for a while now. They feel like clouds on your feet!
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Cute Sneakers
I’m partial to Converse myself. They simply go with anything and come in dozens of colors and sizes!
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- Sun hat
- Polarized Sunglasses
- Mix & match jewelry
I tend to keep it very simple when it comes to packing accessories for India. Keep in mind that you will probably buy some jewelry there (it’s impossible to resist!). Some people recommend that you leave your valuables at home. Personally, I would never go anywhere without my wedding ring. Gold jewelry is also VERY commonly worn by women (and men) in India which means you won’t stand out with a few pieces as much as in other places.
Apart from that, you will need two things to protect you from the sun: a sun hat and polarized sunglasses. I don’t recommend that you bring a floppy sun hat. As cute as they may be, they are also impractical in India. I recommend polarized sunglasses because the sun can be pretty intense and normal sunglasses create sharp contrasts which can make it difficult to see. Lastly, carry a pashmina to throw on when the AC is too cold or when you’re about to enter a temple.
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Polarized Sunglasses
Ray Bans are iconic, sturdy, and in this case, even polarized. What’s not to love?!
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Pashmina
This model comes in several colors and is everything you’ll ever need!
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- Toothpaste & floss
- Hair ties & pins
To be honest, the only two things I actually pack in this category are my toothbrush and my hairbrush. The truth is, you can get body wash or shampoo anywhere in India. That’s why it’s better to bring only small travel-sized bottles for the first one or two days until you have time to pick up something from the shop. If you usually use an electric toothbrush, leave it at home. Most electric toothbrushes are 100V which means they would get fried in India (that is, if your appliances are North American. European electronics will work just fine in India).
My favorite hairbrush for using in India is the Tangle Teezer. I tend to fiddle with my hair a lot when it’s hot and also wash it more often. All that leads to tangles and this hairbrush is the only one that can fix it. It’s also small and compact. In combination with the brush, I prefer to use the Invisibobble type of hair ties. As you sweat, these hair ties won’t leave any unsightly creases in your hair.
→ Buy now![/one_half][one_half_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Invisibobbles
The Invisibobble hair ties come in this handy 3-pack which will tie you over for most of your time in India.
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- Facewash & tonic
- Anti-frizz hair serum
- Anti Chafe Balm
- Beauty blender and/or makeup brushes
- Makeup setting spray
- Dry shampoo
Okay, this list obviously depends on your regular beauty routine. Personally, I have to use a face tonic every day or I will break out. I also use relatively little makeup (read: it all fits into a mini Ziploc bag). I recommend that you scale back your makeup in India if you tend to wear several layers at home. Not only does it take up space in your suitcase, it may also attract unwanted attention (sad, but true). I still love to wear blush, eyeliner, and lipstick, so what the heck. In order to make sure nothing moves I recommend to bring along a matte setting spray. I was skeptical about it for the longest time, but it truly works!
Some things you may not necessarily use at home, but will need in India, are: an anti-chafe balm, dry shampoo, and an anti-frizz hair serum. Starting with the anti-chafe balm, this thing is absolute magic. I didn’t wear dresses or skirts for years during the summer, because my thighs rub against each other uncomfortably. Painfully, actually. But after applying the anti-chafing balm I can explore in a dress for almost the whole day without reapplying it. It’s amazing! If you get a small roller, you can also stick it in your day pack.
Lastly, I don’t know about your hair, but mine suffers immensely in humid climates. I sweat a lot on my head (God, why me?!) which makes my roots greasy fast. Dry shampoo is a true lifesaver for me in India. I apply a little to my roots before going to bed (no, not in the morning) and my hair will be a little fresher the next day. Humidity also makes my hair frizzy which is why I always need to bring some kind of anti-frizz hair serum.
Ps: Speaking of hair, leave your hair straightener at home or it will suffer the same fate as your electric toothbrush 😉
→ Buy now![/one_fourth][one_fourth padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Anti-chafe Balm
This anti-chafe balm is water-resistant and feels comfortable on the skin. Also available as a duo-pack.
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This little bottle should be more than enough to tame your hair in India.
→ Buy now![/one_fourth][one_fourth_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Dry Shampoo
I love Aussie’s dry shampoos. They smell fabulous and touch up my roots nicely.
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Health & Hygiene
- Antidiarrhoeal (Imodium)
- Mosquito repellent
- Aspirin & Antacids
- Tampons and/or menstrual cup
Apart from all your regular medication, you should carry one or two things more with you. If you use a contraceptive pill, I strongly recommend that you pack an alternative form of contraception (i.e. condoms) as you may come down with diarrhea which can negate your birth control pill’s effect.
Speaking of diarrhea (I know, gross), no matter how careful you are, it will happen to you. It’s almost like a rite of passage for travelers in India (surely you’ve heard the term Delhi belly). The only thing you can do is to be prepared for it, i.e. by packing an antidiarrhoeal such as Imodium. (Please remember to seek medical attention if your diarrhea is very persistent).
Apart from that, it’s probably good to pack an aspirin or two as well as antacids (e.g. chewing tablets). The food in India can be very spicy which will eventually lead to acid reflux. While it’s not really a medical problem, it’s certainly uncomfortable. Don’t torture yourself 🙂
If you are going to be out in nature a lot, you should definitely pack a mosquito repellent. It’s unlikely you’ll contract a deadly disease through these suckers, but better safe than sorry!
Lastly, if you usually use tampons, pack them. Most Indian women tend to use pads and tampons can be a little difficult to come by (especially when you need them). Alternatively, you could pack a menstrual cup, but there isn’t always clean water available in public toilets to wash it.
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Antacid
This small pack of antacids should be enough to last you during your trip to India.
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Mosquito repellent
Stick this small bottle in your hiking bag and you’ll be good to go for the day.
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- Extension cord
- Phone + charger
- Power bank
- Camera + charger
- Laptop + charger
- Earphones / headphones
Okay, when we go to India, we travel with a lot of electronics. This can actually be a problem because none of our electronics have Indian plugs. That means we need to pack adaptors. And so should you. In addition, pack one extension cord to plug into your one adaptor. By doing that you can charge several of your devices at once (just make sure not to overload the circuit).
Apart from that, you can bring all your basics, such as your phone and laptop. Additionally to your phone, I strongly recommend that you bring a power bank for your phone (especially if you use it for taking photos or navigating). In Europe, I get away with just taking my phone charger as there are power outlets everywhere. In India, not so much (plus, you’d also need to carry your adapter). Power shortages can also occur, so it’s handy if you have a source of power on you.
If you are looking for a way to preserve your phone battery, you may want to consider bringing a separate camera with you. These days, you can get a pretty decent DSLR for very little money. With the “Auto”-mode you can take beautiful pictures and remember your trip forever 🙂
Naturally, I always travel with earphones or headphones as well. I particularly like the noise-cancelling kind as India can be a bit noisy at times 😉
→ Buy now![/one_fourth][one_fourth padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Power Bank
This power bank by Anker is a little more on the expensive side, but also one of the best on the market. It can charge a regular phone up to 9 times!
→ Buy now![/one_fourth][one_fourth padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]DSLR Camera
This DSLR camera by Canon is perfect for beginners and comes with a few useful accessories (although you won’t need all of them in India. Keep it simple!).
→ Buy now![/one_fourth][one_fourth_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Headphones
Sure, you could pay 300 USD for Bose headphones, but these cost a fraction of the price and will still cancel out any noise. Win-win!
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Comfort & Misc
- Cooling sleeping mask
- Wet wipes & hand sanitizer
- (Water bottle)
- Notebook & pens
- Day bag
Lastly, but certainly not least, we should talk about some basic comforts. Two things I never travel without are earplugs and a sleeping mask. Earplugs probably explain themselves, as does a sleeping mask. But wait, there’s more! 😉 Pick up a sleeping mask with a cooling gel insert and you’ll thank me on hot summer nights.
We usually travel with reusable water bottles in Europe in order to cut down our plastic consumption. However, tap water in India is generally not safe to drink. You can ask for filtered tap water at restaurants and such, but it’s probably still better to stick to bottled water.
I also like to carry a small pack of wet wipes for emergencies as toilet paper is not very common in many places in India. In addition to that, a small bottle of hand sanitizer is always a good idea.
In this digital age, it’s become rare to take notes on paper other than in a classroom, but it’s handy to carry a notebook in India. If you run out of power or power shortages occur, you can still write down all your impressions or important details you don’t want to forget. And in the end, it’s so much more personal than to type on a screen 🙂
Lastly, you’ll need a bag to carry all your possessions around with you. Because we never leave the house without a camera, we always carry a camera bag. Personally, I prefer those which don’t actually look like camera bags as they give me a feeling of security. I also don’t like to carry backpacks in crowded areas. Get one that’s big enough to hold your camera, a water bottle, phone, and small assorted items.
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This dotted notebook comes in several colors and makes the perfect travel companion!
→ Buy now![/one_third][one_third_last padding=”0 5px 0 5px”]Camera Bag
This camera bag looks inconspicuous but has the full functionality of a camera bag inside!
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What NOT to Pack for India
I don’t really like to tell people what to do, but there are a couple of things which I think you should avoid packing for India. Ultimately, this comes down to personal taste, of course. But there are some things that you should keep in mind when you’re creating your India packing list.
- High heels: Unless you’re planning on going clubbing every night of your stay, leave them at home. They are simply too impractical for Indian roads.
- Towels: Hotels almost always provide towels for their guests. If you are planning to stay in cheap guesthouses, you can pick up a cheap towel once you get to India.
- All your electronics: Take this time in India to scale back a little bit on your electronics. Perhaps you don’t need a laptop, tablet, and phone. In fact, only take the phone if you don’t need to get any work done along the way. Power in India can be a little unpredictable and may damage your devices. Only bring what you absolutely need.
- A month’s supply of toiletries: Most basic items are available in India. If you need a special brand of skin care, consider filling it into travel-sized containers.
- Your whole wardrobe: Clothes are cheap in India 😉 And even if you are a bigger size, you can always find something to buy here. Only bring what you absolutely need!
Now, what do you think? Do you have any insights on what to pack for India? Perhaps any India packing list essentials? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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