What To Wear in India: Packing List For India For Women

What to wear in India and what to include into your packing list for India? In this guide you will learn which essential items you should bring and wear in India and absolute no-go’s.

The question what to wear in India is something that has to be well considered. India is a traditional country and there are rules you shouldn’t break especially as a woman. 

Most of India is hot, humid, humid and hot.

When I was there in April, we had up to 43 ° Celsius (at home in Tyrol we had just reached the 10 ° Celsius mark).

During the high season India is pretty hot.

The best is to bring clothes that are light but at the same time not too revealing.


In the conservative country of India, knees and shoulders must be covered when visiting mosques and certain temples. In the Sunday mosque Jama Masjid in Delhi, every woman gets a cape to cover her knees and shoulders. Here you do not worry too much about your clothes, because no matter what you wear, this cape is a must.

What to wear in India

In many temples and at memorials like Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi you have to take off your shoes. You can walk barefoot, take socks with you or sometimes you also get temple socks that you put over your shoes (eg at certain points at the Taj Mahal or the Baby Taj Mahal Itmad ud Daulah).

I would not recommend ultrashort pants or skirts and revealing tops and in general revealing clothes, especially if you travel alone as a woman. (I would advise against that anyway).

So. What should you wear to feel comfortable and not attract too much attention?

I totally fell in love with long, loose linen pants and airy clothes. I put them on every trip to Asia until they fell apart. Luckily that happened when I bent down at home. 

I like these pants so much because they cover your knees and legs, but you do not sweat too much in them.

Most of the traveling women I encountered in India, they also wore long skirts or long, airy pants. Only a few wore short clothes.

It doesn’t matter if you travel India by train, with a private driver, during a guided tour on on your own. These are the clothes to take with you:


  • 2-3 pairs of long, wide linen pants

I prefer to wear white and black linen pants, because they match with every color. However, you should know that it is dusty and dirty in India. Nevertheless, it is possible that a white pants remains white. Otherwise I wash the pants with a washing paste in the sink.

  • 4-6 shirts

It does not matter what color the shirts have. India is very colorful. The main thing is that the shirts are made of a breathable material.

  • 1-2 long dresses (or skirt)

Take a light dress with you and you look great everywhere you go. If it is an off shoulder dress it is not a problem. But it is best to take a scarf with you as a precaution. If necessary, you can put it over your shoulders. I find long kaftans (like the one I’m wearing in the picture) a great choice to wear in India.

what to wear in India

↑ You can order these colorful kaftans here.

  • 1 long-sleeved top or a cardigan

In the evening it can be a bit cooler. Also if you are in an airconditioned building (hotel) a long-sleeved top comes handy.

  • 1 pair of flip flops or sandals

If you like flip-flops as much as I do, I can only recommend bringing them to India. They will carry you everywhere (unless you want to climb a mountain, walk through the jungle, …). I had sandals with straps and had to open and close my shoes every time we had to take them off at a temple. It is easier to put on open shoes.

  • 1-2 pairs of closed, “beautiful” shoes

I carry sneakers during the flight (means more space in the suitcase / backpack) and take a pair of “nice” shoes with me to wear them for dinner in the restaurant / hotel.

  • 1-2 large cotton pashimas

They will be your most important piece in India. Whether you use them as a shoulder cover, arm cover, chest cover or for the head to protect you from a sunstroke. You can use the shawl, wrap or pashima (nice ones are available here) as a seat pad, as a “cushion”, in the evening as a jacket substitute, as a beach towel ….I think you get the point. They are extremely versatile. I always had one pashima or shawl with me in my bag.

  • 1 cross body bag

I like cross body bags when traveling because they are close to the body, hands are free and thieves have a hard time stealing from you. This is very helpful, especially in India.

  • Accessories and sunglasses

If you want to be pretty you can also take jewelry with you. It is common in India that jewelry is shown. Golden rings, gold chains and earrings can be seen everywhere. Nevertheless, I take only cheap jewelry with me. If I lose it, I will not have a heart attack.

  • Foldable bottle

A foldable water bottle is not only lightweight, but can also be stowed easily. Especially in India, where it can be very hot, a refillable bottle is necessary while traveling. I like to use these foldable bottles, even in airplanes. They should be BPA-free and you can roll them up when empty and hang them on to your bag or pants with a carabiner. Thus, I always have enough liquid at hand. With the hot temperatures in India, it is essential to drink liquid all day long.

  • Disinfection wipes or spray

To prevent the Delhi Belly, I brought disinfection wipes and a spray to India to clean my hands on the way before eating, as well as while using public toilets. 

If you feel very uncomfortable about taking your money or the ATM / credit card in your pocket, then you can also put it in your bra. Just watch out that no one is watching you. 

On my last India trip (private trip for two with our own guide and driver) I always had my wallet in my shoulder bag and had no problem.

If you have not booked a private trip or tour in a group I would be even more careful. There are thieves, but you can find them in other countries as well.

As everywhere else, a little common sense and caution is required.

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zuletzt aktualisiert am February 24, 2023

39 thoughts on “What To Wear in India: Packing List For India For Women”

  1. Sehr sinnvolle Kleidungstipps. Man sollte ja eigentlich meinen, Frau weiß sowas von Natur aus. Aber ich staune immer wieder, wie freizügig sich manch eine in Ländern kleidet, in denen die einheimischen Frauen fast verhüllt sind. Aber das sind halt Anfängerfehler und spätestens wenn man die ersten Male blöd angemacht wurde, kleidet man sich “züchtiger”. GlG, Nadine

    • Sich “züchtig” anzuziehen ist auf jeden Fall angebracht. Allerdings hilft auch das nicht immer weiter. Am besten als Frau nicht alleine reisen und am besten in Begleitung (s)eines Mannes.
      Auch wenn genügend Frauen alleine reisen; ich persönlich halte das für keine gute Idee.
      Gegenmeinungen dazu wären interessant…

      • Ich war 9 Monate alleine unterwegs, in Südamerika (Bolivien und Chile) sowie in Ostafrika (Kenia, Uganda, Tansania). Ich war 19 Jahre alt und ich halte es immer noch für eine gute Idee und würde es wieder machen.
        Klar, man muss ein paar Sicherheitstipps befolgen (z.B. nicht im Dunkeln rausgehen) und einfach vernünftig abschätzen, wo es angebracht ist, hinzugehen und wo man sich dann doch Leute vor Ort sucht, die einen begleiten.
        Man lernt sehr viel, vorallem Selbstbewusstsein und seine Grenzen abzustecken. In Afrika war es nicht immer einfach, da mich die vielen Heiratsangebote genervt haben, aber mit der Zeit habe ich meine Taktiken rausgefunden.
        Ich kann wirklich nur empfehlen, alleine zu reisen, da man so viel über sich selbst lernt und auch einen viel leichteren Kontakt zu den Einheimischen findet, die eine allein reisende Frau gerne mal einladen und sich mit ihr unterhalten.
        Auch wenn es kein entspannter Urlaub ist (aber das ist wirkliches Reisen ja nie) war es eine Erfahrung, die ich nicht missen möchte und wo ich nur empfehlen kann, es einfach auszuprobieren!

        • Danke für deinen Kommentar, Tabita.
          Was für Taktiken hast du denn herausgefunden bezüglich Heiratsangebote?
          Ich denke, dass es in Indien, wie auch Afrika immer gut ist sich einen Ring anzustecken oder zu sagen, dass der Mann gerade da und da ist und ihr euch gleich trefft. So hat man am ehesten seine Ruhe.

  2. I have never visited India but have visited Malaysia which was very humid. Loose clothes I agree and keeping shoulders covered in loose linen style top can work well. Being respectful of country customs at all times. Your list looks a great selection.

    • Yikes. Thanks for the tip with the snake repellent but I stayed at decent places (hotels) where there were no snakes and I wasn´t wandering around too much. But good point, Raphael Alexander.

    • Really?? Please indicate when you are joking. I lived in India 27 years of my 41 years long life and I never saw a snake outside of a zoo or with a snake charmer (in a circus like show).

      Snake Repelent – seriously? Do you think we travel on elephants. Start traveling dude.

      • It depends on where you are in India. I am returning to a mission hospital in the jungle in Assam this summer, and you better believe there are snakes there!

  3. Love the packing list! I like the fact you keep it nice and light, most people put WAY too much stuff in! Totally agree with the large scarves. An essential piece of kit in India is basically any type of huge piece of cloth, a sarong or large scarf or similar for women and a shemagh for men. They are so versatile and can be used – as you say – to cover up when needed, sun protection for your head and neck, a blanket on long distance buses, so many uses! You can easily buy one when you are there though. And no need to bring your own washing powder, hand laundries are EVERYWHERE and very cheap. Just make sure you only bring clothes you don’t mind getting a bit of a battering. Last vital piece of advice, 50% DEET. It is essential!

    • As a backpacker with probably more time using hand laundries is a great idea. If you are on a booked trip like the one I did I didn´t have time to go to a laundry place so I had to wash the clothes in the sink of the hotel and take it with me again in the morning when we left again. Totally agree with you you should only bring clothes you don´t mind about. DEET is a great idea too but I didn´t need one. Didn´t have any problem but I´m sure it depends on in which part of India you are traveling.

  4. I’m a flip flop lover anywhere I travel but we do motorbike travels and Robb keeps telling me in India you should also have some close shoes… who knows what you might step on! Ha ha.
    Thanks for the list, I usually only pack tops that cover my shoulders and long trousers so I should be good!
    Oh and mosquito repellent with some strong DEET too…

  5. Great packing list! I agree with you: spaghetti straps are not the way to go in India. Scarves and loose shirts are much better!

  6. Thanks Christina, sound tips and advice. Whilst not a woman, I lived in India for 12 months in 1999. I lost count after 25 bouts of dysentery and came back skeletal. I returned in 2009 for 3 months and didnt have one bout of dysentery. The one thing I packed different (for the second trip) was a small 50 ml container of alcohol based hand sterilizing gel and used it before every meal. As one eats with hands in India, it not only sterilizes your hands but dries them immediately if/ when you have washed with potentially infected water. It would be the one thing I would recommend above anything for ANYONE travelling to India as the number of unfamiliar pathogens and bacteria your body needs to adjust to is unfathomable and is possibly at the highest concentration on earth.
    After all, whilst Indians personel hygiene is exeptional, their public hygiene barely exists. Happy travelling.

    • Great tip, Chris. I had a sterilizing gel with me too. I didn´t use them when I was eating but every time I went to the bathroom or washed my hands anywhere else and even when I touched certain things.

  7. I actually wish that I had brought more tank tops. In certain areas (Pushkar and Udaipur) it was not uncommon to see exposed shoulders and I would have liked to feel a little more glamorous on occasion. I also wish I had brought a swim suit for the times I went to hotel pools. Besides those things, underwear, sandals, and maybe one Salwar Kameez, I would just buy everything there. Inexpensive, and worth the space in your suitcase.

    • Thanks for your suggestions, Danielle. I was traveling the Golden Triangle and it wouldn´t be wise walking around with exposed shoulders. For some areas it sure would work.

  8. No DEET, use lemon eucalyptus spray instead. it works as well and has a nice scent, provides light moisturizer and isnt filled with carcinogens. also bring a roll of toilet paper with the tube cut out. most restrooms only have the bucket and your left hand for cleaning so tp comes in handy!

  9. That’s very good tips, but it really,really depends on where you are going to be…India is huge, and some places are more “easy” than others.
    If you go to Mumbai, you can dress almost like in any american city….but if you travel in some farfetched parts of Kerala, or Orissa, for instance, you’ll be better off with some local clothes, like a salwar kameez, they’re cheap, beautiful and comfy…and allow you to “blend in” more easily, which,in some occasions, is a great bonus. I won’t go as far as telling you to wear a saree…although I’ve done it several times, mostly for temple visit and ceremony purposes, and I can tell you it’s the most amazing, elegant and comfortable dress ever!!
    I usually leave home with my bag empty, except for good shoes, a torch, and make up…..everything else I buy on the go, much cheaper !!!!

    • Great advice, Anjali. I know in some places you can dress “normal” but traveling the Golden Triangle it is useful to consider my packing list. I didn´t take an almost empty suitcase with me because I didn´t have time to go shopping plus I am pretty tall and I found it hard to find something that would fit me.
      If you have time to go shopping it´s a great tip. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Amazing post, Christina! I’m planning to travel to India in February and this is just what I needed. I visited 15 years ago and I wasn’t sure if things had changed, so I needed some updated info:) I found the most useful thing to do when I was there (I was studying) was to buy salwar kameezs. Not only were they beautiful, but they help me stick out less in a crowd.

  11. ‘How to avoid feeling like a porn star’… hahah trueee! It’s so easy to feel like that! Tank tops just won’t cut it unless you want to be stared at! Love the suggestion about long linen pants, and scarves were also my LIFESAVER in India! I wore them almost everyday to wrap around my shoulders and/or head, and to sleep on in long train rides! Nice post.

    • If I could only take one thing with me to India it would definitely be a big scarf. To wrap them around the head is an awesome idea too especially during the day where it can get r e a l l y hot.

  12. I was in India for the fourth time in November 2014. Astonishing how much the norms have changed in ten years there but the is still a great list. I supply glamour with pretty but comfy sandals and gorgeous local wraps.

  13. My go to item on a recent India trip was a pair of Yala bamboo leggings. They are lightweight and breathable. You can sleep in them and wear them under skirts. During my two week trip to India, I noticed that all of the women who weren’t wearing saris were wearing leggings and long (knee length) tunics. I never saw any leg exposed above the ankle. Wearing leggings makes your skirts more versatile

  14. Absolut unerlässlich ist für mich auch ein Überspannungsschutz in Indien! Das Stromnetz spielt doch öfter mal verrückt. Bei der Desinfektion kann ich dir zustimmen, das ist in keinem anderen Land so notwendig, wie in Indien. Eine gute Reiseapotheke ist auch nicht fehl am Platz, mein Vertrauen in indische Apotheken ist doch immer noch eher gering..
    Ich berichte auch auf meinem Blog über meine Zeit in Indien 🙂

  15. Die Liste ist echt Hilfreich! Vielen Dank, hab den Beitrag gerade einfach so gefunden und fand ihn super!


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