Packing for India: A Guide for the Outsiders

India is one of the most diverse countries in the world, offering something for everyone when it comes to travels. Whether you want to gaze in awe at historical monuments, soak up the sun on a tropical beach, or really test yourself with some trekking and adventuring in the mountains, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

But what are you supposed to pack for these trips? There’s a lot to take into account. Rather than just throwing any old thing into your suitcase, think about where you’ll be going on your trip, and do plenty of research into the season and the weather. Reading this is a good start!

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how to pack for your adventures in India, covering everything we’ve mentioned above and more!

Short stays (weekends)

If you’re only coming to India for the weekend – that’s not long enough! There’s so much to do that you can’t pack it all into such a short space of time. However, if that’s as long as you can manage, it’s better than nothing. The key thing here is to only pack the essentials.

By essentials that means a backpack or a carry-on suitcase, comfortable and sturdy shoes, and essential toiletries, including hand sanitiser. If you’re carrying any large sums of money, take a money belt too – it’s safer than putting everything in your pocket!

Travellers who are planning on visiting religious and cultural sights should come with modest clothing – some places may not let you in otherwise.

Of course, it’s always good to have a few spare pairs of underwear and t-shirts, but if you forget them it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be able to pick them up at a reasonable price in markets or stores.

In terms of electrics, a phone, a camera (to capture amazing memories), and a universal adaptor to charge your electrics.

Vacation (8 – 10 days)

This is more like it – over a week in India will really give you an opportunity to experience and immerse yourself in Indian culture. You should bring everything mentioned in the short stay section, but there are a few more additions that you will need, depending on what your holiday plans are.


Day trips in the mountains don’t require as intense and careful preparation as multi-day treks, but you still need to plan carefully for what you need to take – nobody wants to be stuck in the mountains cold and shivering, right?

Even during the summer, the evenings and mornings can be cool so it’s important that you have the right stuff to keep you warm. As you’ll be taking a little more with you, you’ll need something bigger than a day pack. A backpack of 50l + is a better option in the mountain as it’s much easier to carry. The most important things to have in that backpack are a sturdy waterproof rain jacket, a warm sweater, and woollen socks. Gloves, scarfs, and beanies are also a good idea.

Take sun cream and lip balm too – just because it’s cooler doesn’t mean that you won’t get burned, and you don’t want to be doing the next part of your trip with chapped and cut up lips! Worried about space? They’ll fit right into your first aid kit – a must for coping with altitude sickness.

The last thing essential is a map. Yes, everyone has Google Maps on their phones nowadays, but what happens if you run into any technical problems, it’s best to have a paper back up that you can rely on! If you are thinking of heading up to Manali, check out Trip101’s guide on things to do in Manali.

Places with Culture and Heritage

When you’re visiting a cultural, historical, or religious site in India, it’s essential that you dress modestly otherwise you may run into problems. If in doubt, make sure that everything above your knees to your shoulders is covered. Make sure your clothing is light and loose though – if you wear jeans and a jumper you’ll be melting!

For women, it’s possible to pick up kurtas (long tops), shawls, scarfs, and Ali Baba pants at reasonable prices in markets and stores. If you’re not sure what you’re wearing is appropriate, see how the locals dress where you are and follow their example.

Ocean or Seaside visits

There’s a lot less to worry about when packing for the beach – dress code is nowhere near as strict as when you’re visiting monuments, and you have to be careful you don’t overheat, rather than keep warm! The first and most important thing is sun cream. For European travellers, the rays here are a lot more intense than you’d be used to at home. Swap that low factor sun cream for 50 or above.

The waters of the Indian Ocean are warm and perfect for a dip, so you’ll obviously need your swimsuit. A beach towel would be great, but if you’ve got limited space in your luggage, swap it for a microfibre towel which rolls up much slower and dries immediately. And you can still lie on it on the beach!

Other ideas are a snorkel, for seeing tropical fish, and a book to relax with on the shore.

High Altitude Trekking and Camping

High altitude trekking and camping requires more careful thought and planning than any of the other sections as if you get this one wrong you can put your life in danger. The Himalayas are some of the most unforgiving terrains in the world, so as well as everything in the mountain section above, there are a few more things you’ll need.

Invest in a strong and sturdy tent, and a season 4 sleeping bag. These will keep you warm and safe at night. For walking during the day, you’ll need a strong and sturdy set of hiking boots and some walking poles. A down jacket is also a good way to keep yourself warm and dry.

You’ll need other camping essentials too – such as a camping stove, headlight, and water purification tablets.

City crawls (1 or 2-day trips)

Have a look at the short stays section earlier in the article to know what essentials to being, as well as a few other important extras. Indian cities can be noisy, so don’t forget earplugs if you want to sleep at night. Some also have a high level of pollution, so you’ll need something to cover your nose and mouth – a shawl or a scarf can double up as a face mask. A guidebook and map are also good to help you navigate and find the best places to eat, drink, and stay. For more destination guides and travel inspiration, check out Trip101.

Writer, Gel Evangelista.