What are the essentials to pack when you travel in India?

18 September, 2018

Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Cochin, Mumbai, Amritsar and Dharamshala – a private tour of India can take you from north to south and everywhere in between. You might visit a mosque, a temple, the beach, the mountains, or one of Rajasthan’s most popular cities. There are many possibilities for a private tour of India that we can custom make for you.

But once your trip is planned and you are about to start packing – what should you pack to take with you for a tour of India?  Shorts, sneakers, sandals, leather jackets, hiking boots, tie and jacket for dinner?

When you book an India Unbound private tour of India we will give you some tips and information before you go – tips for what to pack, visa information, immunisations for India and weather tips.

Many of our clients call us once they have their suitcase out and start packing with additional questions about what to wear in India. People often wonder are there dress restrictions on what you can wear in India as a foreign visitor, what should women wear in India and any other tips we can give on things to carry during their India travel.

Here are some of our tips on what to pack to travel in India.

#1 Tips on what clothes to pack when you travel in India?

Most important is clothing. What you need to take will also depend on the time of year you are travelling and the region of India your private tour will take you to. For example, while December and January is a popular time to travel in North India, especially for tours of Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle, the weather at this time of year is starkly different to say just a few months later in April. While December and January is pleasant during the day in Rajasthan, the evenings tend to be cool – so a jumper and warmer clothes are required. April/May in Rajasthan is exceptionally hot. Before you start packing – read our information on when is the best time to travel in India and guide to the weather in India at various times of the year and in the different regions of India. You can find this in the back of our latest India travel brochure. Contact us today to receive one in the mail.

So once you know what time of year you are travelling and the weather in India at that time – then you can decide what to pack. Do you need jumpers and a jacket, or only summer attire?

Women – The biggest thing to remember when you pack for your holidays in India is that you need to be comfortable in your clothes. So don’t go out and buy `new travel clothes’  (cargo pants or quick dry shirts) if you don’t like them, don’t feel comfortable in them or are only buying them because you think that’s what you should wear when you travel. Stick to your own clothes and your own look. That being said, we still advise our travellers, especially women travelling in India, to keep in mind local customs and in particular modesty. While India is modernising and changing rapidly and in big cities like Mumbai and Delhi you’ll notice more Western fashion and more contemporary looks, outside of the cities many Indian women still stick to traditional Indian clothing and by and large this means legs covered and shoulders covered. Generally we tell our clients going to India that women should avoid shorts or skirts that aren’t knee-length when out and about and not wear singlet tops or tight fitting shirts.  At resorts and hotels, shorts and skirts of shorter lengths can be ok at the pool.  We recommend light-coloured, cotton or linen tops and shirts that cover the shoulders – for modesty and to avoid the sun.  Capri pants or long cotton pants or skirts are ideal. Longer pants are also suitable at dusk and dawn in terms of covering up for protection from mosquitos.  In the evening if you are dining out of the hotel, we also recommend applying the same rule if you are wearing a dress – knee-length skirts and covered shoulders.

At some places you might visit during a tour of India, you may be required to cover your head. Some temples and mosques will provide a cloth or scarf, though we recommend always carrying a shawl or scarf with you as they often come in handy.

You’ll notice that Indian women dress in beautiful, brightly coloured cottons – rich in patterns and colour. Don’t be surprised in you suddenly find yourself looking at your wardrobe and thinking it very dull – you can easily purchase some comfortable India tops and clothing when you are there! We can give you our tips on the best places to shop in India also once you have booked a custom made tour with us.

Men – For men travelling in India the same rules also apply – be comfortable and modest. No singlet tops and no `short-shorts’ ! Men also need to be aware that at some temples in India they will also be required to cover their legs to enter if they are wearing shorts. (Usually your guide will provide you with an India cloth that’s like a sarong to wrap around your waist and cover your legs if you are wearing shorts before you visit some temples. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to if you have shorts on. ) Lightweight full-length pants are ideal for men to wear when travelling in India.

Footwear – Comfortable shoes are a must, especially as you are more than likely going to be out and about exploring the sights and cities of India during your holiday. Indian footpaths are often uneven and in need of some attention, so comfortable, sturdy walking shoes preferably with covered toes will make your trip in India much more enjoyable. Sneakers or runners are also ok. Personally, we wouldn’t be caught dead in thongs or flip-flops and don’t think they are suitable for wearing in India. Comfortable, sturdier walking sandals may be ok. We love to include city walking tours in our custom made India holidays, which means being out and about exploring cities on foot. To do this, you need comfy shoes! We also suggest packing a pair of dress shoes for the evening to wear to dinner either in your hotel or if you are visiting one of India’s top restaurants.  Ladies – again remember that the footpaths are uneven so leave your heels at home.

Hats – Yes, yes, yes – pack a hat. Depending on the month of year you are travelling India can be hot or very hot. A hat provides you some protection from the heat and the sun. You don’t want to ruin your trip by getting heat stroke or sunburn. Again you might be out and about all day visiting forts in Rajasthan or exploring the great colonial monuments of Calcutta, and you don’t want to have to cut short your sightseeing in India because of the sun and heat.

Swimwear – if you are including a beach stay in India in your trip don’t forget your swimmers.  Ladies – buying a pair of swimmers in India is not so easy so carry yours from home. Also, at some beaches in India our personal experience has been to cover up more than less. At hotel swimming pools, bikinis are fine and common.
Golden Temple Amritsar


#2 Technology

Let’s be honest, very few of us can live without technology in our daily lives anymore. And for a lot of us, our smart phones are our cameras, our access to email, our contact book and our access to our family and services like banking. Don’t forget to take your chargers with you. In India, it’s very common for people to charge their phones in the car and you will also be able to do this on your tour of India as you will have a private vehicle and driver. To do so – you just need your cable with a USB connection. IPhones aren’t as common yet in India as other devices so drivers won’t necessarily have the IPhone cord in their vehicles, though they are always happy to lend you their cords of other makes. Take your charger with you and charge as you go.

Most of the more upmarket hotels will have universal power plugs or will provide you with an adapter. It is good to have an adapter with you though in case you need one.

If you are a photography enthusiasts then India will present you with an endless source of inspiration and great images to capture. Take your camera with you, but make sure to check whether you need to list it individually on your travel insurance if it is an expensive piece of equipment and be aware that many monuments in India do charge a camera fee.

City Palace, Jaipur, rajasthan, India
#3 Toiletries

When packing to go to India we are also particular about the toiletries we take. If you aren’t fussy about shampoos, face wash etc., then you probably don’t need to worry too much. But there’s also the issue of medicines, first-aid etc. Here are some of the things we pack.

We are particular about shampoo and face products and prefer our own. From experience we have found that the Indian toiletries are of a lower quality so we prefer to take ours from home. Having said that, if you are on a luxury high-end tour of India, you will find the top hotels in India use better products.

Other toiletries we pack include our personal vitamins and medicines (what do you normally take and what will you need while you are away?), rehydration salts which can be handy in hot weather or if you get some travellers tummy,  Vicks chest rub (yes every time – maybe it’s a comfort thing or maybe it’s always just a back up in case any of us gets a cold, but we always pack it!) a basic first-aid kit (we take this as we are often on the road for more than a month), children’s panadol, plus a prescribed medicine for travellers tummy as a back up. Sunscreen, hand sanitizer, mosquito repellent with DEET, wet wipes.

I know that sounds like a lot – and often our toiletries bag is very large – but that’s just us. These are just some tips on what you can consider packing for your trip in India. Don’t forget your glasses, contact lenses and cases and reading glasses.

On a personal note we will add that you may prefer to take your own women’s sanitary products from home as you may not like the ones available in India and some products that are readily available in Australia and other western countries are not necessarily going to be available in India. The same goes for contraceptive devices. We recommend taking those with you too.


Kerala, Alleppey, backwaters, house boat, India

#4 What to pack if you are travelling with children in India

If you are planning a holiday with children in India or taking your whole family on holiday in India – be sure to read our other blogs on family travel in India, which will give you some tips on what to take and where to go. (We have travelled with our son extensively throughout India over the past seven years.)
You’ll find extensive tips there on what to take with you. We do suggest a journal or scrap book which your children can colour or draw in, where they can write a daily diary of what they have seen and done and stick in treasures or mementoes they find along the way. We also take a few books, talking books on our phones (great for long car drives or train journeys), healthy snacks your kids like (see the snack section here below), some easy travel games (cards, Uno, travel Connect For). We usually have a ball like a tennis ball and a few marbles and a bit of lego in our bag of tricks, and inevitably buy a soccer or beach ball every trip in India and a cricket bat. (These things aren’t very expensive to buy in India and easy to carry in your private vehicle so you can have it with you and then win some hearts by giving it to a local kid before you leave.)

Again in terms of kids clothing and what children can wear in India – we also recommend avoiding short skirts, dresses or shorts and to wear t-shirts and not singlets.  And sneakers or sturdy walking shoes are also best on children.  And a hat for your little ones, naturally.

As per our suggestions with toiletries and medicines – make sure to pack all the regular things your children need or take.

Read here for some more tips for travelling in India with children.



#5 Snacks

We like really healthy food and good snacks, especially for our children. When we are on the road we love fresh dal and chapatti and the home cooked meals we find in homestays in India. But at times we are travelling for more than a month and so we do tend to carry some healthy snacks with us.  (While there are healthier meals and restaurants in India, we still find that snacks tend to be lower quality and full of sugar etc.) We do buy nuts such as almonds and cashews and fruits like bananas from local markets in India when we are travelling – they are good healthy snack options.  Other snacks we have carried include – Vita Wheat or a plain savoury crackers, museli bars, vegemite (of course!) healthy nut butter, healthy sweet biscuits, instant miso soup, good quality chocolates, herbal tea bags. We fully believe in eating local and we do eagerly – but we know the quality of snacks in India and we know that hungry kids are cranky kids and having a good snack up your sleeve when you are driving or waiting for a plane can stop a melt down! While we don’t suggest taking a suitcase full of snacks, a few of your preferred or favourite items can go a long way when travelling.



Generic_Train Station_[Carol_Mitchell]
#6 Luggage – what are the luggage limits on domestic flights in India

What sort of luggage you pack is up to you – whether you prefer a hard or soft suitcase, or a soft large backpack type bag. If you are taking any overnight train travel in India keep in mind your bag needs to fit underneath the train seats – so if it’s too big or packed too tight you may have trouble. Most regular suitcases fit under the train seats in India.

What’s worth noting is that there are very strict limits on luggage allowances on domestic flights in India – 15kgs in just one bag per person. You can buy more before you go for approximately $45 for an extra 15kgs.  Some Indian domestic airlines even charge $85 for a second checked in bag. So be prepared to get whacked with hefty excess baggage charges at India’s domestic airports if you are over that 15kgs and haven’t pre-purchased the extra allowance. We say pack light and leave room for shopping at the end of your trip, or add the baggage allowance before you go. Laundry is relatively inexpensive compared to say Europe and most hotels will turn around your laundry in a day, so you can pack light and wash as you go.

We also suggest taking a small backpack/day pack. This can be useful for carrying your shawl, water bottle, camera gear, snacks etc. during the day It’s easy to carry on your back if you are out and about all day.

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
#7 Travel Journal

India is a place of colour, of energy, of incredible people and impressive sights. You don’t want to forget any of it, and carrying a travel journal is a great way to write a few notes or long entries as you travel. If you like to draw or paint, it can be a place to sketch your memories as you go. After many decades travelling in India ourselves, the country is also a place that can cause self–reflection and show you things you can’t even imagine before you go – and sometimes it’s nice just to be able to write those down as you go.

These are some of the things we pack for our holidays in India. You might also like to read our other blogs which can give you some tips on the top places to visit in India, tips for travelling in India as a female traveller and sending mail from India.

Varanasi, North India