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‘What to pack for a trip to India as a woman?’ This is by far one of the biggest questions and worries females to India are going to face and ask before going to the colourful, crazy country of India!
In this India travel blog post, I detail a practical packing list for India of what is needed to travel to India which will cover you for all the must-see places in India like Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kerala, Goa and even the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Basically, the places you’re likely to visit on your first time in India!
TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR INDIA
First up, have you got travel insurance for India yet? I am covered with World Nomad’s who I really recommend! They are designed by travellers, for travellers with excellent customer service and a range of cover options.
Get a free quote here while you’re thinking about it:
SIM CARD FOR INDIA
I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but things are changing and now it’s not so hard! Read this post on how to get a sim card in India as a tourist!!
If your phone is locked or you don’t want to go to the hassle of getting a sim card, I suggest getting a portable wifi device for India which you can get delivered to your home free of charge 2-3 days before you leave for India!
Remember you need a visa to enter India. Luckily, these day’s the visa for India can be applied for online and they give you a 1-year visa straight away! Here’s my step by step easy guide on how to apply for an e-visa for India.
Personally, I prefer 3/4 length pants to let some breeze in rather than full length but I do pack at least one pair of full-length trousers for overnight journeys and in places where it may get chilly, especially in the evenings, because India does get cold!
When it comes to what to wear in India as a female, my main advice is to ensure these trousers for India are light, airy and baggy. Firstly, to keep you as cool as possible, India isn’t always hot but generally, in many places like Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan it is hot and / or humid for a lot of the year. Secondly, baggy trousers are much more modest. Skintight trousers will attract a lot more male attention to you as a foreign woman in India and I personally only wear skintight gym pants in certain parts of the country like Rishikesh, Dharamshala and Goa where a lot of foreigners visit and where yoga in India is popular. Thirdly when visiting religious monuments you will need to have your knees covered and if you only have long pants for India or 3/4 length ones then you’ll never need to worry that you are not appropriately dressed.
Baggy trousers are pretty easy to find in the markets and shops in India so if you can’t find suitable ones at home you can go shopping in India. Many travellers will also wear the iconic South East Asia Elephant pants which make up the perfect outfit in India due to the light material and how baggy they are.
I say that t-shirts are your best friend in India. Like needing to cover your knees, in India you need to cover your shoulders to enter religious monuments and they are much more modest than tank tops which not only show your shoulders but may show more back and chest too.
Although there is nothing wrong with wearing tank tops in India so if you’re thinking what to pack for India in Summer, you can always take a shawl in your bag for when you need to cover your shoulders, I find that in hot places although having a tank top on is a bit cooler, with a shawl on top it becomes hotter than just a t-shirt which is why on my second trip to India when deciding what to pack for India as a female, I opted to carry way more t-shirts this time.
Modesty wise again, I notice that I feel much more comfortable in a t-shirt in India as the best tops to wear in India with short capped sleeves and a baggy fit so I know my shoulders are covered and probably, most importantly, that all of my chest is covered too and the t-shirts are not too tight over my boobs.
That said, 1-2 tank tops should also be on your packing list for India too in case it is very hot somewhere and in some places, it’s totally ok to wear them.
If you’re a woman who likes to wear dresses and skirts instead of trousers then put these in your bag when packing for India, as long as they aren’t too short, or pack some cheap simple black leggings to wear under them if they are short. I find that it’s possible to wear a nice dress with leggings and / or a t-shirt underneath which looks nice but is modest too and perfect for female travel to India.
Some days you’ll be sweating in India and wondering why you’re carrying a jumper and long-sleeved warm top because ‘does it get cold in India??’ yes it does and it’s likely you’ll need them. People love air-con in India which is understandable but what’s not is how cold it can get. Night buses and night trains, which are are the best way to travel around India can get particularly cold in the middle of the night with the air con on, and so can some cafes.
If you decide to head North into the mountains or even to Varanasi in the late Autumn / Winter months the mornings will be pretty chilly before it heats up for the day and in some cases, these Northern places will remain cold all day in Winter, sometimes with snow!
When you’re thinking of what to pack for India, a coat may not be on your travel essentials for India list but for the same reasons as above I recommend taking a coat to India too, I know I know it might sound crazy but I have taken a Uniqlo Packable Ultra Light Down Coat like this twice to India with me. I’ve worn it multiple times and always thanked myself for packing it, it’s light, doesn’t take up much room and is warm when I need it. So add this to your India packing list!
This will depend on when you visit India, if you are visiting during the summer monsoon seasons then pack a waterproof rain jacket as you’ll probably need it. I have a packable rain jacket like this, to be fair I’ve barely used my rain jacket in India but I hold onto it because of the other places I’ll visit in Asia and it’s very small and lightweight, so unless you know it will be wet when you visit India, you could risk going without this.
If you think you’ll do yoga in India, do a lot of hiking in India or just want to work out in your room (something I’m trying to do but tend to fail at) then pack some activewear because you can wear gym pants, a sports bra and gym top to a yoga class in India in most places so pack this as you please but I’d say 1-2 outfits max is enough because I would not recommend wearing tight sportswear in India unless you are hiking or going to a yoga class. This is not an outfit to wear in the cities of India as a female.
Related Post: My One Week Yoga Holiday in Goa!
At least one shawl is a must-pack item for India to cover yourself up, in some areas you’ll feel like you need it more than in others. If you like to mix up the colours then two shawls are a good idea to add to your travel checklist for India but if you’re trying to pack minimally for India, one is enough. Just make sure these are light material and will be comfortable in the heat. If you can’t find appropriate ones at home, wait until you get to India and go shopping in the best markets in India. These are also great if you go somewhere colder as they then act as a scarf!
It’s your choice of how many bra’s you pack for India but personally I find two bra’s enough (plus a sports bra) and I have recently switched to these non-wired bra’s from Marks and Spencers which are not only much more comfortable to wear all day but when it comes to packing the one I’m not wearing, they are so tiny and fold away much easier than underwired bras. I think the best bra for travelling is non-wired and a bralette design!
I live in sandals in India, more on that below, so socks are only needed when I wear shoes, for the odd overnight journey to keep my feet warm or if I suddenly end up in a cold place and need them which is why I only pack a few pairs.
I usually pack about 10 pairs of underwear as this means I don’t need to do washing too often but the amount you pack is up to you and may change whether you’re on holiday in India for a short time or backpacking India for a longer time. I find black underwear the best when travelling long term as often things can get stained and dyed in the wash so you’re safe with black!
For me, my PJ’s in India are a tank top and shorts which does me well. If I go somewhere colder then I have many t-shirts, a long-sleeved top and long trousers I can wear. I don’t pack extras for pj’s as this takes up too much room!
I know this is general but if you are going to the beaches of Goa or Kerala on your trip to India and you’re wondering what to wear in Goa? Well, you can wear the same clothes as you would wear on a beach in Thailand or Sri Lanka. Bikini’s are fine, dresses are fine, shorts are fine. You may get more looks on the beaches in Goa than in Thailand from the Indian people who are also on holiday there and may not be used to seeing women with as much skin on show, but it is very normal to wear normal beach clothes in Goa so add these to your Goa Packing List. The same with the beaches in Kerala, for example, Varkala.
Unless you are going to Goa or the beaches in Kerala it’s unlikely you’ll need shorts or more than one piece of swimwear elsewhere in India so to help you pack light for India, leave these at home!
Related Post: Female Packing List for Thailand
Have you got travel insurance for India yet? I am insured with World Nomad’s who I really like because they designed by travellers, for travellers, you can even purchase insurance with them once you have left for your trip. Whilst you’re thinking about it, get a quote from them here!
India has some great Airbnb options, especially like these gorgeous houses in Jaipur! To get $30.00 off your Airbnb stay (which is 1-2 nights accommodation in India!), open a new account using this promo code!
These are the best shoes to pack for India! Unless you go somewhere that is cold in India, it’s likely you will want your feet out, but the traffic is crazy in India, there’s always people overtaking, there’s mostly no pavements and your feet can feel very vulnerable. Not only that, but you also need to watch where you step as there’s a lot of cow dung around!
I never wear flip flops to walk around outside in India whereas I always do in South East Asia. In India, you need sandals with a thick sturdy base, a good grip and straps so they don’t fall off or cause you to trip as you rush across the road. Birkenstock Sandals are a good idea. I personally live in Keen Kaci Sandals like this which have survived over 1 year of full-time travel and full-time use.
I also recommend packing good travel sandals on an India packing list for males as well as on an India packing list for females.
I always take a pair of flip flops with me and I’m a Haviana’s girl even when packing for India. I like to wear them around my accommodation, and into the bathroom, if its a shared or questionably clean bathroom, but this item is of course up to you whether you pack them or not.
A pair of covered shoes which you can walk far in is a must-pack item for India. There are so many opportunities to hike in India and if this is what you want to do here then walking shoes will probably be best. I again live in Keen walking shoes like this. If hiking isn’t on your radar I’d still recommend packing a pair of trainers, but leave your fancy white converse at home! A packing tip for you is that black trainers are the best colour trainers to take backpacking as they go with every outfit and don’t show the dirt!
The important thing to note when thinking about what toiletries to pack for India is that you can buy all toiletries in India. In fact, I prefer buying my toiletries in India because I love their Himalaya Wellness Brand which is made from Ayurvedic herbs.
I personally pack shampoo, conditioner and soap bars rather than bottles as a way to pack sustainably for India because the bars reduce my waste, they last much longer and are much smaller to carry. I carry all 3 bars in a lunchbox like this which keeps them together.
I use this hanging toiletry bag which is so helpful and my top backpacking essential as in most bathrooms you don’t have much space to put toiletries, it’s also really good quality. In here I pack facewash, toothpaste, toothbrush, eye contact solution, face and body moisturiser.
Again, all of these things you can easily buy in India so don’t pack huge bottles as they will take up too much space.
Regarding travelling on your period, I use a Menstrual cup which I love, you can get sanitary towels in India and I think you can get tampons but they’re harder to find. I just love menstrual cups for helping us reduce our one use waste, and you can keep them in for so much longer than a pad or tampon which is great if you end up on a long journey on your period in India. If you’re not yet a menstrual cup convert, here’s the travel menstrual cup I use and recommend!
I do carry a small bottle of suncream but apart from when I’m on the beach I don’t wear it much in India, it often feels like the sun doesn’t get through the polluted city skies! But that’s just my personal preference.
Mosquitos can be bad in some parts of India and during certain times of the year so strong mosquito spray like this is good but you can just get it in the shops in India if you need it.
I pack a very small bag of make up when I’m backpacking. The 3 make up items I use the most are foundation, eyebrow pencil and blusher.
Other helpful items I pack for India are a reusable water bottle as many hotels and hostels in India provide filtered water which is great meaning you don’t have to buy bottled water, and packing some metal straws is also a good idea so you can say ‘no straw please’ when you order a drink.
I did use a filtered lifestraw bottle in India on my first trip so I didn’t have to buy any plastic bottles. I have seen many other travellers use these in India too. Personally, after I got a bad stomach in India which lasted a long time, I decided to stop using it to be on the totally safe side, but if you want to reduce your plastic use, a filtered water bottle like Lifestraw is good. Here’s my full review on the bottle.
All hotels in India will give you a towel, some hostels will too but I always take a quick-dry, foldable towel with me as part of my ultralight backpacking gear, so add this to your India packing list for backpacking.
*I also pack all of these 20 Backpacking Essential Items which are things like a washing line, portable charger, good locks etc so check this list out too I pack all 20 items for India!*
I pack a few medical items for India like sickness and diarrhoea tablets, charcoal tablets (also for a bad tummy but are not as strong as the likes of Imodium) plasters and paracetamol. Keep in mind though that in the cities and the tourist towns there are pharmacies everywhere and the tablets are much cheaper than buying them at home so I don’t carry too many as I know I can stock up in the pharmacies in India when I need to.
Additionally, because I got rather ill with Delhi Belly during my first visit to India I now take probiotic tablets daily. I started taking them before I got to India and still take them in India and I think they are travel essentials for India. I take S.Boulardii which I got from Amazon. They are great because they do not need to be refrigerated (like most probiotics do) and are really good for general gut health which is important for how to stay healthy in India.
You don’t really need to think about food to pack for India as the food in India is so good, but if I’m visiting a country from home I always like to take some cereal bars to snack on whilst I get used to where to buy food in a new country and what to eat!
One big misconception is that’s it’s not safe to pack technology and electronics for a trip to India incase they get stolen because I can tell you that it is safe! Theft is not in the culture in India and once you’ve been here for a while you’ll think it was crazy you ever doubted whether your phone, camera and laptop would be safe.
I remember thinking maybe I shouldn’t carry a fancy camera in busy places in India like markets but in reality, no one cares, nearly everyone here has a smartphone and you’re totally safe with a laptop in India and getting it out in a cafe or hostel in India.
So what electronics to bring to India? Well, pack all the technology for India you usually would for another trip. Don’t leave anything because you’re worried it might be stolen. Drones can also be used in many places in India if you’re into photography or videography and want to get another look at the country!
For your technology, an important India packing tip to know is that plugs in India do not always fit the usual Asia plug type, although many will in hotels and will also accept the two-pin European plugs. This is the type of plug adapter you need in India.
Should I take a backpack or suitcase to India? That’s the question many will have, and my answer is a backpack.
I mean, you can travel to India with a suitcase and most Indian people that are travelling the country themselves take a suitcase which means there is plenty of room for them on trains and tourist buses (not so much public buses) but depending on the type of accommodation you stay in you may need to walk upstairs with no lift or down small tracks and in my opinion a backpack is best for this.
I use the Osprey Farpoint 70L Backpack and have done for over a year and I’m happy with it (it says it’s a mens backpack but it’s fine for me!). I particularly love the attached day pack which I use as my general day pack all the time so I recommend this as the best travel backpack for India.
If you want to take a smaller backpack to India, Osprey does a Women’s 40L Backpack which will be great as you can take it on the plane as hand luggage only too which is another recommended backpacks for women India.
I also love this 45L Pacsafe Carry On Backpack which has extra security but is also just a great size and design for backpacking India with!
I use this waterproof cover over my backpack in India which fits the Osprey backpack perfectly and I actually use it more so that the bag doesn’t get too dirty or ruined in transit.
One of the all round top packing tips to help keep your clothes to pack for India tidy and keep all of your backpacking gear together, is to use packing cubes like this.
I also carry a canvas bag and a bum bag in case I need to take a smaller bag out for the day or evening, these really don’t take much space and come in handy when I need them.
And that’s your packing guide for India and travelling to India checklist.
I hope this list helps you understand what to pack for a trip to India and what to take to India.
If you haven’t got a visa for India yet, here is a step by step guide of how to apply for an India e-visa online, aka the only way to now get an Indian visa. And this is how to get a sim card in India!
If you’re worried about visiting India as a female or have some extra questions, I offer a travel planning service where we can speak about your concerns or any questions you have on the phone or via email. Read more about how to book this in with me here as I’d love to speak to you about your India Trip.
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
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