Knowing how to pack for India is actually a pretty tough task, and one that we first struggled with.
There are all kinds of questions probably racing through your head, such as …
“What can I wear in India as a woman tourist?”
“Is there a dress code in India for tourists?”
“Can males and females wear shorts in India?”
Their relatively strict and reserved religious culture means that the dress code in India certainly won't be quite as laid back as it is in the western world.
You also need to take into account other important things such as the time of year and the many diverse climates that India has.
To help put your mind at ease and help you know exactly what to pack for India, I’ve gone ahead and put together the ultimate India packing list.
Filled with all the tips & tricks we picked up on when backpacking in India.
Let's get started!
When packing for India, the first important decision you need to make is deciding which bag to take.
This will be plenty big enough to pack everything you need, plus more.
Our visit to India formed part of a much larger 3 month backpacking adventure through Sri Lanka and Nepal, and our bags were perfect for holding everything we needed for our entire trip.
Of course, everyone’s trip is different, so when selecting the best backpack for India (if you haven’t already), consider this:
I’ve had the same backpack now for 4 years and it’s accompanied me on every backpacking adventure across more than 2 dozen different countries on 4 continents.
It’s made by Osprey who are the go-to choice for the majority of backpackers.
We see them used everywhere and it’s really unsurprising why.
They are fantastic quality, lightweight, strong and look great.
I’ve even sewn badges into the sides of mine for every country we visit and it hasn’t ruined the integrity at all.
Here are our 2 recommendations:
A day bag is an essential travel item for India for 2 reasons.
Most obviously because you’ll need it when out exploring individual areas during the day.
But a great day bag is also essential for helping you to keep valuable items close to you when moving between destinations.
For example, when taking long bus or boat journeys between places, we like to store our expensive equipment, like our travel laptops and cameras, in these bags so they are always closer by.
When choosing which day bag is great for you, consider things like:
My day bag is slightly smaller but best suited for day trips and hiking; it’s plenty big enough for both Cazzy and my own needs.
Cazzy’s day bag choice, the Tropicfeel Shell backpack, is an amazing bag in it's own right. A little more pricey but can actually be doubled up as a main backpack as well as it has the ability to expand and contract. Read more in our review of it here.
If you do plan on travelling as a couple in India, then here’s something to consider.
Less is more.
What do I mean by this?
Well, it means that you probably don’t need to take anywhere near as much with you as you think you would.
When Cazzy and I backpack for a few months or more, we only actually take one larger 70 litre backpack between us and it is plenty.
And as you will see in the rest of this India packing list for backpacking, we take plenty of stuff with us, more than the average travelers.
Partly because of Cazzy’s need for medical supplies (she’s type 1 diabetic) and partly because we work whilst travelling so need a lot of tech.
It’s so much more liberating having just one rucksack between us and is much more convenient overall.
Here’s a look at all the other travel essentials for India that you might need. Feel free to use the buttons below to skip to different sections.
A male India packing list should ideally be made up of light, loose fitting clothes.
For the majority of the places you visit in India, it’s going to be hot and humid, so heavy clothes are just going to leave you feeling exhausted.
That being said, the night-times can have cold weather once the sun goes in, so it’s worth having one pair of jeans and a hoodie with you as a minimum.
Here’s a look at what I packed for India.
When it comes to packing clothing for India as a woman, you’ll be happy to hear it isn’t overly complicated.
One thing I would note is that India is bursting with amazing clothing, so I would actually bring less, so that you can purchase some beautiful pieces whilst out there; such as long skirts, or one of a kind dresses and shoes!
Getting your clothes washed in India is pretty easy, and you’ll find places to help you out in all major tourist areas.
In fact, the hostels and hotels themselves usually offer a cheap and easy service, and you can have your clothes back within a day.
For all of our travels, we always pack a straightforward first aid kit, just in case of minor emergencies. Here’s what we took with us to India:
If you don’t yet own a travel first aid kit, then here’s a good option to buy.
It contains the majority of what you need and you can then just add in any other items you want to take with you.
Plus, it’s small enough to tuck away in your backpack and not take up much space.
You can pick up any toiletries you need when in India, but the exact products you are used to back home might be hard to find or a lot more expensive than what they would usually be as they are imported.
That’s why one of my top India packing tips would be to buy a full set of your toiletries before you leave, and these should last you for at least a good few weeks of your trip.
I wouldn’t take much more than that as then you’re just asking for trouble with some sort of unwanted liquids explosion in your luggage!
When people sort out what to pack when travelling to India, they rarely give enough thought to how they’re actually going to get the best value for money when there.
Well, a key part of packing for any trip should include which travel cards you decide to take with you.
These will allow you to get the most bang for your buck when abroad and make the most of the money you have worked so hard to save for travelling.
It’s also important to make sure that you have enough travel cards so that, just in case you lose one or have something stolen, then you have backups.
When we travel, we have 4.
That way, if one bag goes missing, or my wallet gets stolen, then we have some way of withdrawing and spending money.
India is the only country we have visited where we have had issues withdrawing money.
Despite there being so many different banks, very few actually seemed to allow us to withdraw money, which ended up being an issue in Goa in particular.
I had to ride on the back of our hotel owners moped for about an hour, visiting every ATM in the area and finding none that would work!
Outside of Goa, the best and most reliable bank that we found for withdrawals was Bank of Baroda.
Nowadays, there are so many great solutions out there that you need to find yourself an option with the best possible currency conversions and limited charges on ATM withdrawals.
We have trialled a number of different solutions over the years and the two favorites we have come down to are Monzo and Revolut.
We’ve used these guys since the start and, if you’re from the UK then I recommend these above all other options.
If you’re from the USA, then check their sites as they are both either live or set to launch very soon abroad.
For more information, check out this guide I put together: Monzo vs Revolut.
It also includes details about the other options available to you.
To get started with either of these, all you do is download the app, enter some basic details and order your free travel cards.
There are a number of key documents you will need to include as a part of your packing list for India; including ...
As mentioned earlier, we tend to take more travel tech with us than the average traveller.
Probably because we work whilst travelling and are always looking to create great content to share on the blog!
Here’s a look at the cameras and other equipment that we packed for India.
If you want to capture the best quality travel pictures possible in India, then a DSLR is what you need. When combined with a variety of lenses (like this one), you have the ability to create some epic shots, especially as your skills and understanding get better. Our skills with our DSLR are slowly getting better and we try to practice more and more as we go.
We used our Canon video camera everywhere we went in India, and it’s perfect for capturing really high quality pictures, video and sound no matter where you are. Best of all, it’s lightweight and far less bulky than a DSLR camera. So when we were out on day trips around places like Pushkar, with just a daybag, it was essential in capturing all the gorgeous photos you see on our India travel blog posts. For more ideas, check out this guide on best blogging cameras. They work just as well for non bloggers too!
We’ve tried a few action cameras in recent years, but none compare to the GoPro Hero 8 which is a truly revolutionary and awesome piece of kit. In particular, the auto-stabilisation feature means that you can pick up smooth footage no matter what. It also has much-improved sound quality and is far less bulky than any other decent action cameras on the market. Back in 2018 we took our GPro Hero 4 Silver which was still not bad.
When we travelled to India in 2018, we did take our travel drone with us, however we didn’t use it. The reason was that it was illegal to fly them there without having the right permit. It appears that many of those restrictions have now lifted, so you may want to take yours with you and actually use it!
Before visiting India, it is worth picking up a few key items to help make sure you stay safe.
In particular the biggest issues you could face in India include the incredibly hot sun, mosquitos and the dreaded “Delhi Belly”.
Here’s a few other pieces of travel gear for India that you may want to add to your own packing list ...
Here’s a few things that you should not add to your India packing list ...
Here’s a few other awesome things to pack for your India trip that we didn’t take personally, but you may want to.
It’s hot in most parts of India almost all year, so light clothing is the ideal way to go. Also, be sure to take anything you think necessary in helping to protect you from the sun; including sun lotion, hats and glasses.
I love how travelling for long periods of time forces you to become more minimalist and only pack what you need. So when packing for India, regularly ask yourself if everything you’re planning on taking is strictly necessary. Remember, almost everything can be bought cheaply out there so, just in case you do need something, you can always pick it up when there.
You’re going to face a few health risks travelling in India, including malaria and the chance of picking up a range of other diseases. So take precautions by visiting your travel doctor well before your trip and getting their advice on how to best stay safe. This will require, not only getting malaria tablets, but also getting a range of other injections prior to travelling. They can also advise you on any other necessary medications to take to India.
Well, that’s just about everything we packed for India.
As well as answering all of your burning questions, you should now know what to pack for a trip to India!
Is there something that you think we forgot and that you’d add to your own India packing list?
Great! Drop me a comment below and let me know!