- Read our essential packing checklist for a holiday in India – including what to wear in India with advice on male and female attire when visiting.
- What to pack in your suitcase, how to dress demurely as well as stay cool and comfortable when exploring in the 40°C heat.
- How to embrace bright colours and patterns, get creative with a scarf and useful footwear advice – including flip flops for the monsoon season.
Holidays to India are exciting and unforgettable adventures. However, when visiting for the first time, one question keeps arising – what do I wear in India? Fortunately, this is easy to answer and by following a few useful tips you can look forward to a trip of a lifetime without worrying about your wardrobe.
What to wear in India – male and female attire
Two things are important when it comes to knowing how to dress in India. You need to feel comfortable in your clothing, and you also need to respect the local cultures. India is a conservative country, and while the dress code may appear a little more relaxed in some large cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, elsewhere it’s appropriate and polite to dress modestly, keeping your shoulders and knees covered. This applies to both male and female visitors and is especially imperative when visiting a mosque, temple, mausoleum or any other religious building.
Shop when you arrive
If you’re concerned as to what to wear in India as a woman tourist, the simple solution is to pack basics and buy more clothes when you arrive at your destination. It’s a good excuse to go shopping and it’s perfectly acceptable for Westerners to wear Indian attire. You’ll find plenty of modern designs, many of a good quality. Fabindia is often recommended. Look out for loose-fitting genie or harem pants and consider buying long tunic-style tops that are easy to wear with trousers or leggings. Loose collarless tops called kurtas are also versatile, fashionable and suitable for both women and men.
What to pack in your suitcase
Female travellers on India holidays can easily avoid attracting unwanted attention by dressing demurely. Follow the example of Indian women and keep covered. Bare legs are more risqué than a bare midriff, so pack long and cropped trousers, perhaps chic culottes, as well as a midi dress and long skirt. They will offer sun protection during the day and keep mosquitos at bay in the evenings. Men should opt for long trousers, chinos or three-quarter- or knee-length shorts – anything shorter can be considered disrespectful unless you’re in a beach resort such as Goa. Bring full-length and short-sleeved shirts and pack a few polo shirts.
Stay cool and comfortable
It’s also worth considering the type of clothing you pack for your India trip. Cotton lightweight garments will keep you cool and comfortable, as will clothes made from other natural fibres such as silk and linen. During the summer months, from March to June, temperatures in New Delhi can soar to 40°C so it’s best to wear loose-fitting clothes made from breathable fabric. You’ll notice locals wearing jeans but these are often too hot for visitors unless you’re travelling in the north of the country or in the mountains, or visiting during the winter season between October and February.
Embrace bright colours and patterns
Whether it’s the clothes you bring with you, or the ones you choose to buy in India, don’t be afraid of wearing vivid shades of your favourite colours and bright bold patterns – you’ll fit right in. India is a colourful nation. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is known as the Pink City, Jodhpur is the Blue City, and in markets across the country you’ll see row after row of vibrant spices in all hues of red, orange and yellow. Colourful tops and tunics look stylish with neutral basics, such as navy trousers or beige chinos, so mix and match.
What not to wear
What you don’t wear in India is every bit as relevant as what you do. Be considerate and courteous and you shouldn’t go far wrong. Ladies, leave strapless tops and vests with spaghetti straps at home. You should also avoid wearing plunging necklines, sheer see-through fabrics or clothing that’s figure hugging. If wearing a shirt or blouse with a pair of leggings or trousers, it’s better to let them hang out. Don’t be tempted to neatly tuck in a top, keep your bottom covered. As for swimwear for a hotel pool, choose a one-piece bathing suit rather than a bikini.
Get creative with a scarf
When thinking about what to wear in India, remember a scarf can be a girl’s best friend. Even if you don’t tend to add one to outfits at home, you’ll find either a scarf or pashmina invaluable while on holiday. Ideal for using as a cover-up when visiting places of worship, a scarf can also jazz up your wardrobe and keep you warm if you’re in an air-conditioned hotel or restaurant. Similarly, a sarong is versatile and can be creatively worn as a dress, shawl or cover-up.
Bring sensible footwear
Comfortable shoes are a must on any holiday, and in India you’ll want to bring sturdy footwear that you don’t mind getting dirty and dusty. As visitors are required to remove shoes before entering mosques and religious buildings, sandals or shoes that are easy to slip off and on are a good idea – and avoids you having to keep tying laces. If you don’t like walking around barefoot, pack a pair of socks. Note that India’s monsoon season lasts from July and September, during which time you could get caught in an unpredictable, torrential downpour. Flip flops are ideal for walking in floods.
Don’t forget the travel essentials
When travelling to a hot destination, it’s always wise to remember to bring a sun hat and sunglasses. For a trip to India, also pack plenty of sunscreen. It’s expensive to buy in the country, though you should be able to find cheaper mosquito repellent. First-time visitors are sometimes shocked to discover toilet facilities are very basic away from the main hotels, therefore you’ll be grateful of toilet roll and antibacterial handwash. A first-aid kit can be handy too. Fingers crossed you’ll avoid ‘Delhi belly’, but it’s best to come prepared.
As you can see, it really couldn’t be easier packing your suitcase for a memorable holiday to India, and you can even travel light, leaving space for a few souvenirs, clothes and perhaps a scarf or two to return with you on the journey home.
Embrace a life-changing experience with a trip to India. Explore our collection of holidays in India, including travelling the heart of India by luxury train and experiencing Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal and Amritsar’s Golden Temple. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.