Bon Voyage Series: What to wear in India

Hello, I apologize for the delayed post.  Things have been busy as we prepare!  Today I wanted to share some thoughts on clothing to bring and wear in India.  When we were preparing to go this was a big concern for me, I wanted to feel comfortable, be dressed appropriately and still feel like myself.  Fortunately I had a few friends who had traveled in India and they were able to pass along some helpful advice on what to pack and what to avoid.  Hopefully this will help any of you who might be concerned or curious as well!


Two important things to keep in mind when packing (for any trip really) are “What will I be doing?” and “What will my environment be like?”.  When considering the environment there is a lot to look at.  Obviously there is the climate and weather but also culture and where you will be (both location and venues).  Bring clothing that is comfortable when working and moving in hot temperatures.  This time in March is considered the beginning of the summer in India and in the area we will be the temperature is estimated to be 80-95 degrees.  Most of the day will be spent outside or in open buildings without air conditioning so you will want to dress for the weather.  Indian culture respects modesty in dress. Because you will be visiting both cities and rural areas you will see some variation in clothing but overall the standards are the same.  In the cities men and women wear a range of traditional and western style clothing.  In the villages traditional clothing is much more common.


Keeping your wardrobe modest and cooling might seem challenging but take cues from traditional Indian clothing.  Loosing fitting garments in natural, breathable fabrics will help you to feel fresh during the long, hot days.  Tops should have sleeves and cover your stomach and chest fully.  Shorts, skirts and dresses should fall at or below your knee.  If you are interested in wearing traditional style clothing you will find a wide range of options in nearly every market.  A very popular item for women is the kurta.  These tunic style tops are often worn with leggings so you may want to bring a pair or two with you so you wont have to purchase those.  We (women) found we were most comfortable when we wore linen, cotton or silk pants to the villages because we could sit or work on the ground without scratching our legs or revealing too much.  Dresses and skirts were wonderful for touring days where the atmosphere was more relaxed and diverse.


Volunteers wearing various styles of kurtas.

When creating your wardrobe, select versatile pieces.  Dresses or kurtas and leggings that can be worn to church services and then out to temples and city sights are great options.  Consider bringing tops and bottoms that can be mixed and match so they can be worn multiple times.  To keep your luggage light (and full of room for souvenirs) we suggest bring a daily supply of small things like socks and under garments but only five days worth of clothing and plan to do washing.  There are no laundry services at the hotels so if you are going to do washing bring a small supply of detergent (your expedition leaders will have a buckets and clotheslines you can borrow).  With a little planning and effort you can wash your clothes in the evening before bed and wear them the next morning.


Shoes also merit careful planning.  Consider what you wear at home during the summer.  Do you have something that provides all day comfort, is soft or broken in with a decent sole and good support?  If so, bring that!  I made the mistake of bringing new shoes and with the heat and lots of walking I had terrible blisters.  Sandals are great if they have a back and stay on your feet but you may also want a pair of closed shoes to protect your feet if you get any cuts or blisters.  You may like a pair of soft shoes or slippers to wear around your hotel room.  Floors are not carpeted and it is nice to cushion your tired feet without tracking the muck of the city across your bedroom floor.


A few accessory items you wont want to forget are sunglasses and/or a sun hat.  A thin scarf or bandana can also be very handy; it can be wet and used to cool down while waiting in line or wrapped around your face to protect from dust or pollution.


Contact us with any questions.  Happy Packing!


– Andrea