When I first visited India a few years ago, I had absolutely no idea what to pack.
I ended up way overpacking, taking tons of things I didn’t need and I forgot several things that I really did need. A list like this would have helped me so much!
In this ultimate India packing list, I’ve included literally every single thing you should take to India. It works for both men & women.
Let’s jump straight in…
Packing List For India
India isn’t like any other country that I’ve been to before so I had to buy a lot of stuff for my trip.
I also found that there were a lot of things that I wasn’t able to buy when I got there and I wished I’d brought them with me (I explain alllll of that below).
Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing
In India, people tend to dress more modestly than we do in the West. That means no shorts, no short skirts, no tank tops and no skimpy dresses.
As a general rule, I’d say try to cover your shoulders and knees at all times.
The thing is, it’s not like you can’t wear things like shorts (there’s no law against it) but you’ll get a lot of attention if you do.
You’ll have hundreds of people staring at you and taking photos of you all at once (I’m not joking) so avoid this unless you wanna know how Ariana Grande feels for a day.
Here’s exactly what I’d pack in terms of clothes:
- 3 x long skirts
- 5 x loose t-shirts
- 1 x loose cotton pants
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
It’s also worth remembering that it’s really hot in India at all times of year. For that reason, I’d recommend wearing loose fitting, light clothing.
I made the mistake of wearing skinny jeans one day and boy did I regret that!
After that I stuck to long flowy skirts and I felt so much better. These ones would be absolutely perfect for India.
You can pair your long skirt with a loose t-shirt like this one that covers your shoulders. That’s the kind of outfit I wore on the daily in India.
If you’re heading to a more beachy destination like Goa then it’s a bit more common to wear swimsuits or shorts but I’d personally still cover up a bit to respect the local culture.
I’d also recommend bringing along one lightweight scarf or shawl that’s big enough to cover your head and shoulders.
There’s absolutely no requirement to wear a scarf in India but certain temples do require you to cover your shoulder/hair so it’s worth having one on you if you’re out sightseeing.
Most of the temples do have spares that you can borrow but it’s much nicer to have your own rather than borrow one that 1,000 other people have worn.
I also found that at one particular temple, all they had were these ugly bright orange scarves that I had to wrap around my hair.
After that I made sure I had a scarf in my bag at all times. A scarf like this one would be perfect!
You can also buy a scarf when you get to India. They sell them all over the place and I actually ended up buying about 5 different ones as the colors and designs were all so beautiful.
I also recommend bringing a long pair of pajamas due to the mosquitoes.
I got bitten so much in India, particularly at night, and covering your skin is definitely the best way to prevent bites.
I did use a mosquito repellent but even then I still woke up covered in bites.
A pajama set like this would be perfect!
Clothing For Men
Men also tend to cover up more in India so you should bring clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. Shorts are very uncommon in India.
Here’s what I’d recommend packing:
- 3 x loose pants
- 5 x loose t-shirts
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 1 x pajamas
Wearing loose clothing will make you feel more comfortable in the heat. Avoid anything too tight fitting.
As with most countries, the ‘modesty rules’ tend to be more relaxed for men but it’s still pretty uncommon to see men wearing shorts in India.
You’ll want to bring along the comfiest pair of shoes that you own. I’d go for a comfy pair of sneakers like these.
Ideally they should be easy to slip on and off as when you’re sightseeing in India, many places including temples will ask you to remove your shoes.
Don’t bring your best pair of shoes as India is pretty dirty, especially the big cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.
You’ll also want to ensure that they’re closed toe as the streets are dirty and sometimes not well constructed. Open toe shoes are just asking for a disaster in India!
I bought a brand new pair of shoes and after 3 weeks in India, they were ruined so I ended up just throwing them out.
Whilst you’re out sightseeing during the day, you’ll want a small bag to keep your belongings in.
I’d definitely recommend using a bag rather than just using your pockets as pickpocketing is common in India, especially in crowded places.
You’ll already stick out like a sore thumb so keep your belongings safe in a bag.
I personally opted for a small side bag which I wore on the front so I could see it at all times. A bag like this one would be perfect as it’s anti theft (which is ideal for India).
For men, a bag like this would be ideal.
I’d also avoid backpacks as they’re easy for pickpockets to access.
Remember that some people are really skillful at stealing and by the time you realize they’ve been in your bag, it’ll be too late.
If you’re planning on visiting northern India then you might want to bring a few warmer pieces of clothing as it can get chilly up there.
If you’re hiking through the Himalayas or heading up to Kashmir then pack a couple of jumpers.
This is something that I didn’t realize I’d need but I wish I had! Bring as much as you can fit in your case.
Many toilets in India are ‘squat toilets’ which are basically just holes in the ground that you do your business in. There’s no proper seat and definitely no toilet paper so it’s pretty icky.
They should have normal toilets in your hotel and most restaurants but I did come across squat toilets a few times when I was out and about.
I also found that even when I did find a regular Western-style toilet, for some reason, there often wasn’t any toilet paper there.
I’d recommend having some toilet paper or tissues in your bag at all times!!!
It’s highly likely you’ll come across a squat toilet at least once (probably more) and they definitely won’t have toilet paper.
These toilet tissues are specifically designed for travel so you won’t have to carry around a big roll with you.
It’s probably a good idea to also bring some hand wipes and hand sanitizer along as well.
Dry shampoo is definitely not a necessity but it will come in handy for sure.
Hot water isn’t as commonplace in India as it is in other countries. In my entire 3 weeks in India, I never got to have a hot shower once.
If you’re staying in a fancy hotel then it probably won’t be an issue but if you stay in a homestay (like me) or a more basic hotel then hot water is unlikely.
I really didn’t enjoy having icy cold showers so dry shampoo was a great alternative on those days when I couldn’t face it as it kept me looking fresh.
Batiste dry shampoo is my holy grail. I’ve been using this stuff for over 10 years now (literally since I was in high school) and it’s never let me down.
Hand sanitizer is a must for anyone traveling to India.
As you might know, India is pretty polluted and dirty so it’s good to have this in your bag at all times to keep you clean.
In particular, I often came across really unhygienic toilets whilst out sightseeing and I was so glad to have some hand sanitizer in my bag.
You can buy period products in India but I’d personally recommend bringing some with you if you can.
Pads are readily available across India but tampons are really hard to find. They’re just not very popular in India so most shops don’t sell them.
Unfortunately mosquitos are rampant in India and you will get bitten, a lot!
I got bitten so much when I visited (my legs were covered in bites) and that was even when I wore a repellent every day.
After a few days, I just gave up with the repellent as I was being bitten either way.
My advice is to bring along a good insect repellent and not just the cheapest one you can find as they just don’t work (trust me, I know).
Since my trip to India, I’ve found my holy grail insect repellent. I used it recently on my trip to Thailand and I literally didn’t get bitten once!! It’s also not sticky at all which I love.
I wish I’d had it when I went to India as it would have saved me soooooo much pain.
This one is definitely optional as it’s completely up to you.
If you’re confident then rock the no-makeup look as you’ll feel so much better for it!
But if you’re like me and just need a little something to stop people asking if you’re ill then here’s my top picks:
- Tinted moisturizer – this one is really lightweight (you can barely tell it’s there) and evens out your skin tone nicely. I use it pretty much everyday.
- Waterproof mascara – this one is great as it won’t budge. It doesn’t matter how much you sweat, this baby will still be there at the end of the day.
- SPF face cream – regular sunscreen just feels so yucky on my face but this one feels just like a normal moisturizer (I wear it under the tinted moisturizer).
- Chapstick with SPF – don’t forget that your lips can get sunburnt too and the sun is really strong in India so protect them.
You can buy most toiletry items in India but I’d recommend bringing some with you just in case.
You’ll find some of the really big brands in India but most of them will be the more local brands so if you like using specific products, then bring them with you.
Toiletries to pack for India:
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Lip balm (ideally with SPF)
We’ve all forgotten these once or twice and it’s always so annoying.
My worst experience was when I arrived in Vienna without an adapter and ended up wasting 2 hours walking around searching for one.
There are 3 main plug types used in India – C, D & M.
Type C is the one with 2 round pins whilst D & M have 3 round pins. It’s best to bring a universal adaptor like this one to ensure it works with any plug.
Unless you live in a neighboring country, your flight to India will probably be long.
I don’t know about you but my phone almost always runs out of charge on long travel days and that just can’t happen these days as we usually have all our tickets on our phones!
Another issue I came across in India is that even when I did find a plug socket, it often didn’t work.
You also probably won’t have access to a plug socket if you’re traveling on a long bus ride or a sleeper train so bring a portable charger with you.
I’d take along a pack of tylenol and ibuprofen just in case you get a headache, period pains or any other type of issues.
You’ll also want to pack some Imodium as many travelers get what’s locally known as ‘Delhi belly’.
I was lucky enough not to experience it on my trip but several people I was traveling with weren’t so lucky.
Also bring along any other prescription medications that you need to take as well.
It’s a shame that this has to be on the list but I would definitely recommend getting a padlock for your suitcase if it doesn’t have one built in.
Several items were actually stolen from my suitcase in New Delhi after I checked them in at the airport.
If I’d had a padlock on my case, this could have been prevented.
A Sleeping Bag
This one is only really necessary if you’re going backpacking or you’ll be spending a lot of time on sleeper trains or buses.
I spent a good 7 hours on a sleeper bus and it was so uncomfortable. I’d also add that it wasn’t the cleanest place either so I’d have felt a lot better if I had my own sleeping bag.
This sleeping bag folds up really well so it’s ideal for travel.
These are the few items that you actually can’t live without as you won’t get very far without them.
Make sure you have your passport, visa, passport sized photos and your ID on hand when you arrive at the airport.
I’d recommend having at least 2 copies of your passport photo as you’ll need them to get a SIM card at the airport.
Notebook & Pen
This one’s not essential but I strongly recommend bringing one.
I had a notebook whilst I was in India and I often used it to write down Hindi words and phrases like how to say ‘how are you?’ in Hindi.
Some other girls that I knew had journals where they wrote all about their travels and adventures. A pretty notebook like this would be perfect as you’ll want to keep it forever.
I personally also took my MacBook with me which is where I wrote my journal but it was a bit annoying having to carry it around all the time and I was so worried that it would get stolen.
Unless you absolutely need it, I’d avoid taking a laptop.
Pretty obvious I know, I mean who is leaving home without their phone?!
You can buy an Indian SIM card when you arrive. I got mine at the airport that came with lots of data and it was pretty cheap.
Your phone can also double up as your camera so you don’t need to carry around an extra bit of tech (unless you’re wanting to take more professional photos).
If you’re bringing along a professional camera then don’t forget to bring some spare batteries and a spare SD card.
Your phone will also act as a flashlight just in case you experience a power cut (which you probably will, I did many times).
These are essential if you’re going to be traveling around a lot within the country.
India is also super loud so it can be nice to just block out the noise and listen to your favorite song or podcast for a while.
I personally never go anywhere without my AirPods anymore. The battery just seems to last forever and they connect to my phone within seconds.
Theft is a bit of an issue in India so if you’re going to be using them often out and about, you might want to buy a cheaper pair of earphones like these and just use your AirPods in the hotel.
The sun can be bright in India so bring some sunglasses to stop yourself from squinting.
If you’re constantly squinting then it can give you a headache which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to explore the Taj Mahal.
You might not need them at certain times of year. For example, I visited India in September and, although it was super hot, it was overcast most days so I didn’t need them.
The weather in India is almost always hot and humid so you’ll want to tie your hair back.
I tried curling my hair once during my India trip (for my trip to the Taj Mahal) and it lasted about 5 minutes. The heat just deflated it instantly.
I personally always use these spiral hair ties as they don’t leave any marks on your hair.
Ok so this isn’t exactly something you need to pack but it should definitely be part of your pre-India checklist.
I actually had to have 3 different vaccines before my trip to India. These were recommended to me by my doctor.
This kind of guidance changes all the time so it’s best to ask your doctor exactly what they recommend.
What Not To Bring To India
There’s a few things that I definitely wouldn’t bother bringing to India.
They’ll take up valuable space and unfortunately there is a risk that some things might get stolen.
Here’s what you should leave at home…
Apart from the essentials, I’d recommend leaving most of your valuables at home.
Try to avoid bringing expensive, flashy items that you don’t really need as you’ll likely make yourself a target to thieves.
If you do want to bring something like a camera or laptop then try to keep it out of sight whenever possible.
I took my MacBook with me when I visited and I always kept it inside a plain black case and inside my bag at all times.
The only time I took it out was when I was in the hotel/back at my homestay.
Jewelry & Watches
For the same reason as above, avoid wearing jewelry and watches where you can.
Even if it’s not expensive, it may look like it and could make you a target for theft.
Costume jewelry that you can buy from shops like Forever 21 do look really good these days and many thieves won’t know the difference between a real diamond bracelet and a fake one.
For the same reason, try to only take out the amount of money you actually need and keep your cash out of sight whenever possible.
There are plenty of ATMs in India so you can just withdraw a small amount each time.
I took way too many clothes with me when I traveled to India. If I did it again, I’d take half as much.
I personally think it’s easier to pack light and just rewear clothes. It’s easy to get your clothes washed in India as most hotels will offer a laundry service.
Clothes for India will take up a lot of space as there’s more material on each piece so it’s easier to take less.
You can also buy super cheap clothes when you get to India that will help you blend in with the locals.
India Packing Checklist – Printable PDF
So you don’t have to keep referring back to this post, I’ve put together a complete India packing checklist which includes everything you need to pack.
It’s a printable PDF and you can just tick-off each item as you pack it.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading my ultimate India packing list which includes everything you should take to India.
If you’re currently planning your itinerary then check out my complete list of the best things to do in India. It includes so many ideas and places you might not have heard of.