What to Pack for India: The Five-Step Solution

What to Pack for India: The Five-Step Solution

Written by Caila Ball-Dionne on

Caila Ball-Dionne is a freelance writer and full-time travel enthusiast. You can find more of her writing at CailaBall.com.

What to Pack for India: The Five-Step Solution

What to Pack for India: The Five-Step Solution


Its chaotic streets and serene temples; its colorful market stalls and dusty urban streets; its snow-capped mountains and its arid desert expanses: India is a land of diverse contradictions. A visitor may start the day engaging in a Zen yoga practice, continue by haggling — quite heatedly — with a local street vendor, and end by enjoying a deliciously spicy meal. A supremely active adventurer may spend his trip hiking the Himalayas, an altruistic wanderer may volunteer in a remote village, and a luxury-focused traveler may take in the amenities of a five-star resort.

One thing is certain: Anyone traveling to India has lots to consider when packing their bags. Though there may not be one master packing list to cover every trip itinerary in this colorful, cultural, and spiritual destination, these five tips will help any traveler prepare for a vacation to India.

Step 1. Prep Your Personal Care.

For first time travelers, a trip to India can be a shock to the system. For all the beautiful sites there are to see and delicious food there is to eat, there is also pollution, rough winding roads, low quality water, and staggering differences in food quality among establishments. Prepare for these challenges by adding a travel first aid kit to your bag, to supplement any vaccinations or anti-malarial medication recommended by your doctor. Fill your travel first aid kit with antacids, motion sickness medicine, sleeping pills, allergy medicine, cough drops, insect repellant, sunscreen, and heat-resistant probiotics. Take preventative measures against communicable diseases by packing — and using — hand sanitizer and tissues.

Prep Your Personal Care Tip: Multitask by packing a multipurpose soap that you can use for your body or for laundry. Avoid checking your liquids, and use a TSA-friendly 3-1-1 travel bottle kit — which can also keep out any bugs — instead.

Step 2: Dress for the Climate and the Culture.

Within India, there are six major climatic subtypes, so layers are your friends. Fill your bag with a raincoat, light jacket, quick-drying undershirts, loose pants, long skirts for women, and lightweight pants for men. Bring a bandana or scarf to provide a layer against air pollution, and women should pack scarves to cover their hair when touring temples. As a sign of respect for the modest culture, women should avoid wearing short or tight clothing, and men should consider loose, lightweight pants instead of shorts.

Dress for the Climate and the Culture Tip: When planning to take your trip, keep in mind that the weather is ideal between October and March.

Step 3: Mind Your Feet.

In general, we like to abide by the “less is more” approach to packing shoes. Though this sentiment mostly applies to packing for India — it’s unlikely that you’ll need heels or dress shoes — there are a few must-pack pairs. Bring comfortable shoes for walking on uneven terrain for hours (slip-ons that can be removed at temples or when entering a host’s house are ideal), hiking shoes if your trip includes trekking, and flip-flops for any questionable public showers you may encounter. Remember: For all of the beauty that India has to offer, there is also an element of jagged sidewalks, unsanitary waste, and treacherous streets, so protect your feet accordingly!

Mind Your Feet Tip: Protect the rest of your luggage from wet or dirty shoes with a shoe sac.

Step 4: Be an Intra-India Travel Expert.

For many, traveling to India is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so they visit as much of the land as possible while there. Traveling within India isn’t always easy, and both bus and train travel can take many hours without creature comforts. If you’re planning to travel within the country, fill your pack with items to make your trip easier, like a roll of toilet paper, a travel reading light, e-reader, eyeshade, and earplugs.

Be an Intra-India Travel Expert Tip: Organize all of your important travel tech in an eTools Organizer.

Step 5: Travel With the Right Resources.

You shouldn’t load your bag with too many electronics, but there are a few devices that will make your trip easier. Wi-Fi is accessible in many city areas, so if you have your smartphone, you can upload photos and check e-mails as you go. Just be sure to bring a converter and adapter for the things that need to be plugged in. And, though it’s important to keep hard copies of your passport and visa in a separate area of your suitcase, it can’t hurt to have a digital copy on hand as well. US currency is accepted at many tourist attractions, but change some money into rupees (INR) for ease of travel in more remote locations. That said, only bring a small amount of cash with you each time you leave your hotel: Pickpocketing is a problem in many areas of the country.

Travel With the Right Resources Tip: Keep your items secure on the trips with a luggage lock, and always keep your valuables — like your money and passport — on your person in a money belt or neck wallet.

Before you even start packing for India, make sure that you have the appropriate bag for the trip. We recommend a bag with a backpack or wheeled backpack option, especially if you plan to venture away from major city centers or luxury hotels.