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I would venture a guess that the first question 98% of our travelers ask me after booking a trip to India is, "now, what do I pack?!" It's a valid question! Not only is India's climate different from what many of us are used to but the cultural expectations are as well. Get ready to pack a little different than you ever have before and you'll be well prepared to experience a country different than anywhere you've ever been before!
After spending 7 weeks in India, I've put together this packing list to help give you an idea of what to bring for your adventure in India.
1. Shoes: I brought 3 pairs of shoes that I thought covered the spectrum fairly well. Sneakers for when I was hiking or exercising, sandals for most days (I really liked how sturdy the Birkenstocks were), and a pair of waterproof and durable flats (crocs) for when I needed to look a little nicer.
2. Shirts: I brought a few different options, all covering my shoulders (no tank tops). I especially liked arriving in country with the Toad & Co Tamara Tunic which allowed me to have full coverage when I needed it before I had a chance to go shopping for some kurtas (traditional tunic of India). It’s hot so having a few quick dry options is really nice
3. Jackets: I brought 2 jackets – one waterproof rain jacket and one Patagonia Houdini .The Houdini was so wonderful to have. It’s basically an ultra-thin layer that keeps you just warm enough and acts as either a wind or sun shield. It also packs down to basically nothing (that little blue bag is the jacket) and weighs a mere 3.6 oz.
4. Pants & Skirts: I brought a pair of travel leggings from Toad & Co called the Sidekick Jegging that were great. They look like pants but wear like your favorite pair of leggings. They travel like a pro and are perfect for layering a kurta over. I also brought 2-floor length skirts and a pair of shorts that covered my legs to my knee which are perfect for safari days.
5. Shawl: I highly recommend buying a few when you’re in India but it’s a good idea to arrive with one. They’re small, versatile, and easy to toss in your bag so you have it if you need some extra coverage at religious sites
6. Bags: I packed all of the above in a 30L backpack. It fit just fine and I would highly recommend going the backpack route. For me, a backpack allows you more maneuverability when moving from place to place and many of them expand so you can start your trip with it compressed and it can expand to handle all the gifts and souvenirs you’re purchasing along the way. I also had a smaller backpack for day trips and my go-to Longchamp travel purse. I’ve had this purse for over 5 years and it’s been on every major international trip I’ve gone on. The canvas material is durable and stain resistant. The strap is burly so it can hold a lot of weight and is also difficult for would-be thieves to cut. There’s a ton of space and a few interior pockets to help with organization.
7. Manduka travel yoga mat (and Cody app): I exercise pretty often when I’m home so I was a little worried about staying in shape while traveling. I brought the Manduka travel yoga mat with me and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion. It folds up small, weighs just over 2lbs, and offers enough padding and stickiness to allow you a full practice anywhere you might want to set up. I had the freedom to practice yoga in my hotel rooms or in the airport between flights (lots of airports have specific areas just for yoga and meditating now). I’m no yoga teacher so I also downloaded a series from Cody, a Seattle based company that creates a series of workouts designed to be practiced from home. It was a great way to stay motivated, get a good workout in, and feel a lot better about those long days in the car. Cody works offline so a Cody series + Manduka travel mat = (in my honest opinion) an essential part of a packing list for any extended journey.
8. Travel comfort: Every time I knew I would be traveling in a plane or car for more than 4 hours I’d make sure this little pouch was nearby. It contained an eye cover, inflatable neck pillow, and earplugs. India is famous for its constant barrage on the senses but with these 3 items you can sleep anywhere so you're refreshed and ready to go when you arrive at your next exciting destination
9. Snacks: Bring yourself some go-to snacks from home. I love Indian food but sometimes it’s nice to have some food from home, especially if you just need a snack in the car or in the midst of a day of touring.
10. Gifts: I brought a few items from the Seattle area that I could give away along my travels to guides and new friends. I brought some Seattle chocolate, a few headlamps, and some smoked salmon. It was great to be able to share these with people and it helps spark conversation about your home.
11. Water bottle and SteriPen: Bring along a water bottle and SteriPen and help reduce the reliance on plastic water bottles! An initial investment in a SteriPen ($60) will save you money and help the environment. The Steripen kills 99% of all viruses and bacteria in just 90 seconds. As you walk around the streets of India it’s hard to ignore the piles of trash you see so feel good about doing your part to help the environment and the country and invest in this safe, reliable, and clean power couple. The SteriPen Freedom is USB rechargeable!
12. Toiletries bag: This toiletries bag was big but I really liked having it for a few reasons. First, it’s separated into 3 compartments, all of which are self-contained and waterproof. With quite a few flights on my itinerary it was nice knowing that if anything did blow it wouldn’t take out my whole toiletries bag. Secondly, it folded into a nice, compact package. Finally, there are a lot of small things to think about bringing to India so it makes it easier to have all those small items in one place. Of note:
a. Sunscreen & bug spray. Travel sizes were fine for my 7-week trip. I brought SPF 30 and my bug spray was 30% deet.
b. Face wipes: nice to have at the end of the day or after a sweaty hike. If you’re in the dry zone of Rajasthan you’ll want a quick and easy way to wipe off your face throughout the day
c. Hand sanitizer: Keep this on you at all times. It's a lifesaver... literally :)
d.Toilet paper: Have a roll or at least some folded up in your day bag at all times. Public restrooms are not reliable when it comes to toilet paper
e. Small medical kit. I had band aids, athletic tape, antibiotic, tums, ibuprofen, cipro, and immodium. Just for the sake of transparency, I did not get sick once throughout my trip but it’s definitely better safe than sorry. Talk to your travel doctor about getting an emergency supply of Cipro.
13. Fun gadgets: I brought a few super useful things that I would recommend for any traveler headed to India:
a. Tablet: I bought a Fire and loved having it with me. I had books and movies downloaded and if I ever wanted to look something up on the internet but didn’t feel like breaking out my computer, the fire did the job
b. Headlamp: the jungle lodges will give you flashlights but headlamps are so much more fun :) They allow you to do all the things a flashlight does – hands free.
c. Waterproof sack: small and offers a lot of peace of mind. Keep it in your pack and toss any valuables in should it ever look like rain
d. Black Diamond Ember Power Light: this small flashlight not only acts as a flashlight but you can also plug your devices into it and charge things like your camera or cell phone on the go.
e. Converter & adapter: Some hotels now have universal outlets which negate the need for adapters but you won’t find that everywhere. Get yourself a good D adapter (euro style will work but not as smoothly). I brought a converter and was happy to have done so. It’s not necessary everywhere but for me, having had electronics blow out before, it was nice to have for peace of mind. The SurgePLus USB Swivel by Belkin has 3 outlets as well as 2 USB plugs for speedy and hassle-free charging.
f. Games: I love crosswords so I brought some along with me. It’s nice to have something to entertain yourself while waiting in the airport or driving a ways
Camera: I brought my trusty Olympus XZ-1. It’s a great camera that has been so good to me throughout all my travels. It’s a high-end point and shoot. It was frustrating to use on safari but nice to have when you want to take sly pictures in the markets or out on the street. The larger cameras with better zoom are crucial if you're in India for wildlife photos. However, they do make walking the narrow and crowded streets a bit more stressful when you head to the urban jungle. Bring both types or decide what you value more. Also, bring an extra SD card.
Apps for your phone: We have a few good ones listed in our India pre-departure packet but here are the ones I found most useful:
a. Triposo – love that you can download maps to use offline later!
b. Units plus – converts anything and everything from currency to measurements to temperature. I'm sure there are other options but this one worked great and is free
c. WhatsApp – the best way to stay connected with your loved ones at home and new friends in India. You can send messages, videos, pictures etc to people as long as you have wifi. It's THE way to communicate in India
Bathing suit: many hotels have pools so don’t forget to bring your suit! Ladies – bikinis are OK within the walls of a hotel
Clothing: bring less than you think you need and hightail it to a Fabindia or Anokhi as soon as you can. Indian fabrics are beautiful and vibrant so it’s really fun to buy a few kurtas (tunics) and use them for the rest of the trip. I am also now the proud owner of 2 saris although I can’t say I’ve ever actually worn them outside of India…
There you go! A pretty comprehensive list of things to have when packing for your trip to India! Ready an unforgettable trip to India?
Your friendly India expert,