What to wear in India is one of the first questions you’ll probably have when planning your trip to India, for a few reasons.
The clothing needed for a trip in India will depend on your trip type – are you going to the beach, cities or the mountains? What month are you going in? India can get very hot so you’ll need the right clothing for India for the heat.
Finally, you probably want to know how to dress in India so you can respect the culture, and, especially as a woman feel safe and comfortable without getting too many stares and harassment which is probably something you’ve heard is common in India!
What to Wear in India
I’ve been to India multiple times for months on end and I’ve travelled from North to South, mostly on my own or running group tours where I’ve told people what to pack for India!
So, in this India blog post, I’m going to tell you what to wear in India to help you feel comfortable in the climate you’re going to, and how to feel comfortable as a tourist, especially as a female because clothing is key for feeling comfortable as a female in India!
RELATED INDIA POSTS
I have so many India blog posts on my blog, especially for backpackers to India, view my full India archive here and here are my most read posts:
Dress Code in India
Technically, there is no dress code in India for tourists. You can wear whatever you like in India except for some places of worship like Mosques and Temples where you will be required to cover your hair and wear clothing that covers shoulders and knees, like in the Sikh Golden Temple in Amtritsar.
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What to Wear in India as a Female
When it comes to what to wear in India as a female, my main advice is to wear clothing that is modest.
Meaning wearing trousers and dresses that cover past your knees and are baggy / flowy and wear tops that do not show off your chest.
Foreigners in India will get stared at by Indians and whilst most of the time the people staring are just interested and doesn’t meat any harm because staring isn’t considered rude to them, if you are seen to wear revealing clothing then men in India might get the wrong idea, will catcall, take photos and in some cases might try to take advantage.
What to Wear in India in Winter
The best time to visit India is in winter and the late Autumn / early spring (November-March) because of the cooler temperatures in popular cities like Delhi, Mumbai and in areas like Rajasthan, Goa and Kerela.
However, do not be mistaken, India gets cold in winter!
In southern areas like Goa, Kerela and Mumbai, the winter will be hot all day and pleasant. I spent Christmas in Goa and New Year in Kerela a few years ago and the temperatures were hot all day here so usual beach and summer clothes are what you’ll need to wear here in India in winter.
However in Delhi and anywhere further North like Varansai, Rishikesh and the mountain area of Himachal Pradesh it will be cold!
I was in Delhi, Rishikesh and Varanasi running a group tour one January and we needed jeans and our down jackets in the mornings and evenings especially! In the middle of the day it got warm enough for a t-shirt but only for a few hours. However as we got further south in Jaipur and Pushkar, it was much warmer.
I ran the same tour just 4 weeks later in March and the temperature was much warmer in all of the places and a down jacket was not needed.
Essentuially, if you are visiting India in winter, unless you are going to South India, you will need a range of clothing like jeans, trousers, hoodie, down jacket, t-shirts, dress, leggings in materials that will keep you warm when you need it like in the early mornings, but keep you cool in the middle of the day and when you visit warmer places.
What to Wear in India in Summer
Summer in India is extremely hot, humid and sweaty. I spent a few days in Delhi in August and I sweat more than I could have imagined!
In the summer in India, you really need to pack super light-weight clothing and materials so you can get air to your body!
Packing List for India
I have a full guide on what to pack for India HERE, this includes clothes for India, toiletries I recommend, electronics and extra bits that helped me be comfortable in India. Below, I have summarised what clothes to pack for India as a female based on a trip where you’ll be visiting a range of places from cities, beaches and the mountains!
3 – 4 x Pairs of baggy trousers – full length or 3/4 length
Personally, I prefer 3/4 length pants when I pack for India 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 as I’ve said in this guide of what to wear in India, India does get cold!
Baggy trousers are much better to pack, not only for the heat but because they are 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.
4-5 x T-Shirts / 3/4 length tops
With my baggy trousers, I mostly wore t-shirts in India or baggy 3/4 length tops. If you are backpacking India for a while it makes it easy to mix and match these tops and trousers to create more outfits.
Having your arms showing in India as a woman, is fine.
1 – 2 x Tank Tops
There is nothing wrong with wearing tank tops in India so if you’re thinking about what to pack for India in Summer, you can wear these and take a shawl in your bag for when you need to cover your shoulders although I find that in hot places 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 chest.
Related Post: Are you still working out where to visit in India? Here are 24 places in India perfect for your first trip and a Golden Triangle India Itinerary for 1 Week in India!
1 – 2 x Dresses
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.
A bright and flowy dress is the perfect thing for what to wear at the Taj Mahal!
1 x Sweatshirt / Hoodie
India gets cold and you’ll want a jumper (or sweatshirt) or hoodie in India whether it’s because of the cold air con on bus journeys or in the early mornings if you’re in India during winter.
I wouldn’t go for wool unless you know you’re going to the mountains and it will be cold. A normal hoodie material will be fine.
1 x Long-sleeved thin top
Again, a long-sleeved top is great for India for the cold mornings and for an extra layer and it doesn’t take up much room.
1 x Packable Coat
When you’re thinking of what to pack for India, a coat may not be on your travel essentials for India but for the same reasons as above I recommend taking a coat to India too, I know it might sound crazy but I have taken a Uniqlo Packable Ultra Light Down Coat like this twice to India with me and I wore it so many times!
1 x Packable Rain Jacket
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, pack some activewear.
You can wear gym pants, a sports bra and a 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.
1 – 2 x Shawls
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 materials 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!
1 x Sturdy Sandals
These are the best shoes to pack for India! Unless you go somewhere that is cold in India, you will likely want your feet out, however 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 Sandals like this which have survived over 1 year of full-time travel and full-time use.
1 x Flip Flops
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 it’s a shared or questionably clean bathroom, but this item is of course up to you whether you pack them or not.
1 x Trainers / Walking Shoes
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.
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 to take unless you’re happy for them to get dusty and dirty!
BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA
India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA
I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.
GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA
Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!
What to wear in Goa and Kerela
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.
Bikinis are fine, dresses are fine and 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!
I hope this helps you with what to wear in India and your India packing list!
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