What to wear in India

What to wear in India

The first thing I thought after booking my ticket to India, was this: What do I wear????? I know that’s stereotypically and perhaps a little culturally ignorant but it’s the truth. I suddenly became catatonic with fear at what the hell I should be wearing?!

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If you're heading to India and worrying about what to wear (and what not to!), read on for my tried and tested packing guide.

To make matters worse, I had to pack for a trip that covered liberal Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, as well as the unknowns of Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India. A friend had recently been to Sri Lanka so I felt confident I would be able to wear ‘conservative liberal’ there. Myanmar came later on our trip so I figured I’d work it all out nearer the time.

But what the hell do I pack for India?

Answer? I dunno.

I basically didn’t think about it and packed some leggings. I figured I’d ‘buy a sari at the airport’ and basically wear that the whole time, or something. I mean…….face, meet palm.

A few days before I arrived in India, news broke about various different attacks on female tourists throughout India. I was sooooooo worried I wouldn’t be safe I lost the plot a little bit. ¬†Because of this, I became more than a little apprehensive and obsessed with dressing appropriately. Not a bad thing to do, by any means, but I got myself into a bit of a pickle.

Getting Blessed by Lakshmi, the temple elephant, Hampi, India.

What to wear in India

If you want to skip these tips and go straight to downloading my packing guide for India, I won’t hold it against you. But come straight back, okay?

Okay, so the number one thing I wish I’d packed for India is this.

Some perspective.

Maybe that isn’t helpful but I just want to highlight how easy it is to forget that although yes, you need to be culturally appropriate wherever you travel, it’s MORE important not to lose your shit, get scared and not go at all.

That said, I actually do have some practical tips on what to wear in India. Things I really wish I’d thought of before I went, things I wish someone had written about too. Disclaimer: there were loads of posts on this topic, I was just too lazy/busy eating Jaffa cakes to read them.

brunette leaning against wall looking at Hampi

Loose fitting trousers.

Leggings just weren’t appropriate or comfortable in the Indian heat. At one point, in Calcutta, the temperature was 42 degree Celsius. We had a fan room…….for a week. It was OPPRESSIVE. Luckily this was the end of our India trip so I had several pairs of cotton trousers I’d had made for me in Pushkar really cheaply (less than ¬£10 for three pairs).


I actually had a beautiful sarong that I bought in Goa which doubled as a scarf, sarong on the beach (Goa is much more liberal so you can wear your normal beach attire, in moderation) and modesty shawl to cover my shoulders in temples or places like the Taj Mahal. A sarong or scarf is now the item of clothing I would NEVER a travel without as its so handy. Beach towel, temple

A sarong or scarf is now the item of clothing I would NEVER a travel without as its so handy. Beach towel, temple cover-up, a blanket for the plane, sarong, dress, the possibilities are endless. Well, not endless, but plentiful.

Maxi dress/skirt

Indian women are so stylish, and whether you’re in cosmopolitan Mumbai or holy Hampi you’ll see women dressed in the most beautiful of clothes. I loved the Salwar Kameez, which is a tunic & trousers getup as well as the sari. BUT sometimes you wanna feel like you, not like a tourist trying to copy everyone else. So I loved having maxi dresses and skirts I could dress up with stylish accessories.

Don’t wear white

This might be a controversial one, but if you’re travelling around on the train or any public transport your crisp white lumps or basic white tee will be filthy in no time at all. India is a country with a GAZILLION people.

It’s smoggy, polluted and quite dirty in places. It’s also my favourite country in the world, but even so, it can be a shit tip. I quickly realised any colour bar white was a better bet.

Have you been to India? Have I missed anything?

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Lucy Lucraft
Lucy Lucraft

Lucy is a freelance journalist, blogger and podcaster based in Brighton, UK.

She started this blog in 2013 and is the host of blogging podcast What She Said.

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