The following post on India packing mistakes was submitted by Lucy Sheref.
“Why’s everyone staring at me?” I asked Oli.
“Errrm, I think it’s because you’re so pretty?”
“No, really – do I have something on my face? Is it my clothes?”
“Well, I guess it’s because we’re in India and you are wearing very short shorts.”
I couldn’t have packed less appropriately for my (potentially) 6-month trip to India. I had been planning for this trip for more than a year. I knew what skincare routine I would be following (don’t judge me), and what books I would be taking (not on a Kindle, again, don’t judge me) but for some reason – I hadn’t thought about what I would wear. Correction, I hadn’t thought about what I’d wear in India.
Why the fudging hell not?
I can’t explain why. I think I was too excited to remember that India is not Thailand, which let me tell you, is not an easy statement to admit to (Go ahead, judge me – I’ll think less of you if you don’t). Honestly, I just glossed over the need to know section of The Lonely Planet, which clearly guides you to bring something a little more appropriate than your favourite bandeau playsuit (you know, the one that doesn’t give you annoying tan lines).
Really, it’s not rocket science is it? India is a pretty conservative country. Most of it is Hindu and the women predominately wear the Sari, or a Salwar Kameez (long tunic over loose trousers and a neck scarf). That being said, they are a very forgiving country when it comes to foreigners poorly practicing their customs and tend to just laugh off any fouls you may inadvertently make.
Still, I hated being so totally ignorant.
I had precious little that covered my knees/shoulders so I really had to improvise hard. My scarf and sarong become either a shoulder cover up or a skirt and I practically lived in my yoga pants (plane pants!) often wearing a dress over the top in an attempt to imitate the stylishly elegant Salwar Kameez.
Luckily, when we got to Pushkar I found a shop selling a really nice cut of cotton trousers (i.e not a pair of hippy pants with an elephant print) and promptly got three pairs made for less than £10/$15. That was honestly a life saver, but I’d already spent an uncomfortable month improvising.
So, learn from my India mistakes and pack some of the following items:
- 3 loose fitting pairs of long trousers (pants) in your favourite cut/prints
- Long sleeve blouse in linen/cotton
- 3 short sleeve tops
- 1 Maxi dress/skirt (I cannot tell you how useful this would have been!)
- Nice Vintage Tea Dress (on/below the knee)
- 2 Scarves/Sarongs – I bought a great sarong in Goa for about £2/$3.50
Obviously, if you can get the above in some lovely natural fibres, then you’ll feel much more comfortable than if you were rocking a polyester playsuit!
>> Check out some more packing tips for India.
About the author: In 2013, I quit my job and booked a ticket to Sri Lanka thinking I’d be back to the UK in 6 months time. Two years later, and I’m still travelling! In that time, I’ve discovered new passions (weekly spa sessions!) and old ones (travel, writing) and combined them all to create a career for myself that keeps me on the road. Alongside working for Travel Dudes and Roctopus Dive, I’ve been lucky enough to write for Lonely Planet Traveller, The Professional Hobo and, of course, Her Packing List! You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course, my blog WanderLuce.
Oh… that couldn’t have been fun, but that’s seriously something I would have done too. I think we all focus on the details we’re excited for and skip over the other things at times. I keep hearing everyone talk about how great Maxi skirts are… I may need to invest in one.
Ah Thanks for the support Rebekah:) You are so right – the excitement takes over all common sense!
It is hard not to stick out as a tourist in India, especially when you are away from major tourist centers. I think all these tips are great! Unfortunately I bought sleeveless salwars when I was there, I really should have gotten ones with short sleeves. 🙂 Why do they sell them if nobody wears them? At least, I never spotted anyone else with sleeveless, I wish I had studied up on the options/styles ahead of time; I would have liked skinnier pants than I got as well. 🙂
My other recommendation would be shoes that can be hosed off/rinsed. There’s a lot of unpaved, dusty roads in India and it was nice to be able to rinse my shoes (and my feet) off a the end of the day. I think Teva makes sandals that would look appropriate with Indian clothing if you go that route. Women generally don’t wear hiking boots/sneakers there. I did have some though since we did hiking and I was glad I had them for that.
Thanks for the comment Carrie! Rinse off shoes is an amazing shout…..we actually chucked all of our shoes when we left India as they were so dirty, so this would have saved us buying more!
Great article. I just got back from India, and what you said is so true. In my two weeks in India, I never once saw an Indian woman show her legs above the ankle. I also didn’t see a single indian person, male or female, wearing shorts, even when the temps hit 99 degrees with 85 percent humidity. Women either wore loose pants or long (long) leggings under knee length tunics. I did see plenty of women wearing sleeveless knee length salwars, but I was in southern India. I also noticed that I was the only person wearing black. You never realize how drab your clothing colors are until you go to a country where pink is a neutral color!
I really recommend taking leggings. They are versatile, don’t take up much space, and will come in handy.
Hahaha, Lilly, that is so true! That is precisely why I lived in my colourful sarong!
Another thought is, if you are going to be travelling to a country, do your research about the country. I have become Hindu, wear saris on Sundays, Salwar during the week, and have found wonderful shops in my area. I am planning a trip to India soon. Love your articles… From a former travel specialist… Happy Travels and Adventure On!!!!☺
This isn’t entirely true. Being an Indian, I completely respect your opinion but I wear tons of dresses above the knee and really short shorts and bikinis and what not. It mostly depends on where in India you go, only a few cities are more modern than the rest, but agreed, men stare a lot here, and at foreigners, a hundered times more. Hoping you come back to India again, though. I would recommend you visit places like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Bangalore 🙂
Totally agree Chahana and let me tell you, Mumbai was my absolute favourite city in the world. LOVED it! L x
I don’t know where you guys went but sleeveless is very commonly worn in most of the cities in India!! It’s always better to read on the culture of the cities that you travel to. Like no need to carry shalwar kameez while travelling to Goa coz you can easily wear shorts there but if you travel to places like Pushkar, it’s common sense to at least have pants and tops.