If you’re prepping for a trip to India, then you’re in the right place! This complete guide will cover all the things to take to India and also includes an India packing checklist (it’s a printable PDF). We also cover things that you shouldn’t take to India to ensure you don’t overpack. From clothing to toiletries, we cover all bases! This guide is also tailored to both men & women!
Things To Take To India
As with pretty much every trip, it’s better to pack as light as possible to avoid heavy bags and airline charges. India is a pretty unique country so there’s some things you may need that you may not have realised.
In general in India, people dress modestly. This goes for both men and women. A general rule to go by is to try and always cover your shoulders and knees.
Clothes – It’s best to take clothes that cover your shoulders and knees when visiting as this is seen as being respectful to the culture of India and will also help as you’ll get a lot less unwanted attention from the locals. It’s really hot in India all year round (check out our guide on the best time to visit India) so the best options tend to be long, flowy skirts or loose-fitting trousers and airy t-shirts. Whilst on my trip to India, I spent a day wearing skinny jeans and it was quite uncomfortable due to the heat!
If you’re heading to a beachy destination like Goa, it is more common to wear swimsuits or shorts, especially whilst on the beach, but elsewhere in India it is seen as more respectful to cover up.
Scarf – Any scarf will do but just bring something you can use to drape over your head or shoulders if necessary. You don’t need to do this on a daily basis but certain temples require you to cover yourself so it’s handy to keep a scarf in your bag. Most temples will have spares that you can use but it’s always nicer to have your own that’s not been worn by others. You can also buy a scarf whilst you’re in India – they have so many beautiful designs and they’re all made from light and breathable material.
Clothes – Men also tend to cover up more in India so again you should bring clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. Loose t-shirts and trousers will be best for the heat. The rules are more relaxed for men but it’s uncommon to see men wearing shorts so it’d be better to wear longer trousers that cover your knees.
For Both Men & Women
Clothing – If you’re wanting to purchase clothing whilst you’re in India, why not buy a kurta? These are Indian-style tunics – there are versions for both men and women. They’re super comfortable and loose, perfect for Indian weather and will help you blend in with the locals.
Shoes – Another thing to pack is comfy shoes that are easy to slip on and off. You’ll probably be walking around a lot in India so comfy shoes are a must. It’s also handy if they’re easy to take off and put back on as in many of the temples, you will be required to take them off. If you’re walking around the cities, the streets often aren’t well constructed and can sometimes feel like an obstacle course so purchasing good quality shoes are also important! I’d also recommend wearing closed toe shoes as the streets can be a little dirty.
Long pyjamas or night-wear – I would suggest wearing long clothes to bed as mosquitoes always bite during the night. It’s hot in India but if you’re laying with your skin exposed, the mosquitoes will take you as an easy target and you’ll likely wake up covered in bites (even if you use mosquito spray – I did).
A small bag – During the day you’ll need a bag to keep your belongings in. Beware of pickpockets, especially in crowded places – it’s best to have a small side bag and put the strap across your body. Keep it on your front at all times. Try to avoid backpacks as they’re easy for pickpockets.
Warm clothing – If you’re planning on visiting North India such as the Himalayas or Kashmir then bring something warm, such as a jumper, as it can get colder up here. Check out our complete guide on the best time to travel to India – it breaks down the weather and temperatures in different regions of India. It’ll be useful to help you decide what clothes to pack.
Many toiletry items can be bought in India e.g. shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste etc. I’d say it’s better to buy these when you get there to keep your case light unless you have a specific brand that you like to use and don’t want to miss out on in India. There are some specific items that I’d recommend taking with you.
Toilet paper – This is something you want to have on you at all times! Many toilets in India are ‘squat toilets’ and most won’t have toilet roll! Whilst out and about in India, you’ll likely come across at least one so it’s best to take some toilet paper with you and keep a little spare in your bag at all times as you never know when you’ll need it. If you’re staying in a hotel or visiting restaurants, you’ll often find they have Western style toilets and toilet roll but occasionally you’ll be desperate for the loo and have no toilet paper available. Alternatively you can just take a small pack of tissue in your bag.
Dry shampoo – This one isn’t a necessity but can come in useful especially as a lot of the time in India (depending where you’re staying) you won’t get hot water so you’ll have to take an icy shower. Dry shampoo can be a great alternative. If you’re staying in a nice hotel then it’s likely they’ll have a great shower with hot water so you may not need this but if you’re backpacking and spending a lot of time of sleeper trains or buses, this will be your best friend.
Hand sanitizer – India is quite polluted and can be dirty at times so bring some hand sanitizer just in case you get yourself in a sticky situation. As mentioned before, whilst out and about, you’ll often find unhygienic toilets so you’ll be happy you brought this.
Lip balm – It’s really hot in India so bring a lip balm to avoid dry or chapped lips. I’d recommend buying one with SPF.
Tampons – These are hard to come by in India. You’ll easily find pads, but tampons less so. If you do find them, they won’t come with an applicator either so I’d suggest bringing your own.
Mosquito spray – Depending on when you visit, mosquitoes may be more or less of a problem. During my visit, I was bitten quite a lot! My legs were covered in bites so ensure you bring the best mosquito spray you can find as it’s really uncomfortable if you do get bit.
Other – Also don’t forget to bring suncream, make-up (if you want) and contact lenses if you wear them. These things can be bought in India but you will often find a reduction in quality.
Adaptors – Nobody likes to arrive in a foreign country with an almost dead phone or laptop, go to plug it in, only to realise you don’t have an adaptor! Avoid this situation and bring one in your bag. 3 main plug types are used in India – C, D & M. Type C has 2 round pins whilst D & M have 3 round pins. It’s best to bring a universal adaptor to ensure you can always charge your phone.
Portable charger – This one is important for any long trip but especially if you’ll be doing a lot of travelling around whilst in India. Many of the sockets you’ll come across won’t work and if you’re travelling on sleeper trains or taking long bus rides, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a socket to charge your phone so bring a portable one.
Medicines – Bring along a pack of Imodium. It’s good to have these to hand, just in case you get the so called ‘Delhi Belly’. On my trip, I was lucky enough not to experience this so you’ll probably be fine but just in case bring some with you. It’s also a good idea to bring along any prescription medicines that you need as well as a pack of paracetamol.
Vaccines – This is more something you need to get before your trip. Consult with your doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended – I had to have about 3 shots before my trip – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A padlock – It’s a shame this has to be on the list but definitely purchase a padlock for your suitcase – I know this from personal experience as items were stolen from my suitcase after checking them into the airport.
Sleeping bag – This is only needed if you’re backpacking and going to be spending a lot of time on sleeper trains or buses. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable in a sleeping bag especially if you end up sleeping somewhere that’s not the cleanest.
Paperwork – This one is definitely an essential as you won’t get very far without it. Make sure you have your passport, visa, photos and ID packed as you’ll need it! Ensure you have at least 2 copies of your passport photo as you’ll need this e.g. you need one to purchase a SIM card at the airport.
Notebook & pen – It’s nice to remember your trip and it can be super fun to write a journal whilst you’re out there. I actually took my MacBook with me and wrote a journal on there – I’d generally avoid taking a laptop as it was a little annoying travelling around with so a notebook would have been better.
Your phone – This one is pretty obvious but your phone will have many uses on your trip. You can also buy an Indian SIM card when you arrive – the best place to get one is the airport and I got one with lots of data. Your phone can also double up as your camera so you don’t need to carry round an extra bit of tech – unless you’re wanting to take more professional photos then bring your camera along – don’t forget to pack spare batteries and spare SD cards. Your phone will also act as a flashlight just in case you experience a power cut (which you might, I did).
Headphones – This is essential if you’re travelling around a lot within the country. India is also super loud so it can be nice to just block out the noise and listen to your favorite songs or podcasts.
Sunglasses – These are always helpful to block out bright sun. If you’re constantly squinting, it can give you a headache so remember to bring a pair of sunglasses. Depending on when you’re visiting, you may not really need them. I visited New Delhi in September and, although it was really hot, it was often overcast so I didn’t really need my sunglasses.
Hair ties – This is for people with long hair – it’s really hot and humid in India so sometimes you’ll want to tie your hair back in the heat.
What NOT To Take To India
Valuables – Try to avoid bringing expensive, flashy items that you don’t need. If you do, then try to keep them out of sight as much as you can. For example, I took my MacBook to India when I visited but whenever travelling, I kept it in my backpack and had it covered in a plain, black case. Having lots of flashy valuables could make you a target to thieves and you’ll always risk losing it.
Jewellery/watches – For the same reason as above, avoid flash jewellery where you can. Even if it’s not that expensive, it may look it and could make you a target for theft. Costume jewellery is really good these days and thieves often won’t know the difference between a diamond ring or a fake one.
Excessive cash – Again for the same reason as above, try to only take out the amount of money you’ll need and try to keep your cash out of sight. There are plenty of ATMs in India so try to just take out money as you need it.
Excessive clothes – It’s better to rewear clothes and pack light. You can also get your clothes washed in India – most hotels will offer a laundry service. As your clothes for India will likely take up a lot more space (as they will be longer etc), it will be more beneficial to take less. You can also buy super cheap clothes in India that will help you blend in with the locals.
India Packing Checklist – Printable PDF
To help you pack, we’ve put together a complete India packing checklist which includes everything you need to pack. Check it out below:
I hope this guide was helpful in letting you know all the things to take to India. Check out our India travel guides for more useful information to help you plan your trip!