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A Girl’s Packing Guide For India

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It’s intimidating, it’s exciting, it’s India! With the heat and the conservative dress worn there, packing can be a bit off-putting. But have no fear! Here’s what you need to bring.

The Essentials

  • Passport With your Indian Visa
  • Visa or MasterCard and Debit I think it’s a good idea to have the credit card as well as the debit, in case it doesn’t work abroad. You can take out rupees once you’re there, and the exchange is better outside the airport
  • Emergency Info

Clothes

Me dressed in a shalwar kameez at the Taj Mahal

Me dressed in a shalwar kameez at the Taj Mahal

In general, women shouldn’t wear clothes that reveal shoulders or cleavage, although bellies are okay. Skirts or shorts cannot go below the knee as well. However, this isn’t the case in Goa or Kerala, which are in Southern Indian. Tourists there wear bikinis and anything they would wear at home. This is unheard of in Northern India, where dressing conservatively is a must if you don’t want to receive negative attention (which you don’t.) I think that I packed too by the book, and wish I had brought more nice clothes that I was comfortable in, instead of just travel clothes. Even though jeans aren’t great for the heat, I missed them so much! Feel free to just adjust amounts based on your preference and what size of bag you’re bringing.

  • 2 pair of black leggings Great if you buy kameez tops, like I did, or long tunics. I bought a pair of leggings there for $1CDN
  • 1 pair of shorts, below the knee
  • 3 or 4 shirts Nothing too tight or revealing
  • A hoodie or light jacket Unless you’re going somewhere like Kashmir, this should be okay for the winter
  • 1 pair of flip flops For showers, but I also used mine as something to wear with leggings, instead of dress shoes
  • 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes Be prepared for them get very dirty, since streets are very dusty
  • At least 1 scarf This is something you can easily buy once you get there instead of bringing from home. Scarves are a definite must: for fashion, covering your hair if you go to a mosque, and for covering your face when walking through dirty or smelly streets
  • 2 pairs of comfortable pants 
  • A skirt or a dress Once again, no visible shoulders, cleavage or knees.
  • 1 pair of flats
  • 4 pairs of socks I brought Tilley travel socks, which are quick drying.
  • 4 pairs of underwear Once again, quick dry is the best option
  • 2 or 3 Bras
  • A swimsuit If you’re heading south to hit the beach, you can bring any swim suit you want. I brought a one piece, but didn’t use it when I swam in Rishikesh: instead I swam in cheap pants and a t-shirt I bought in town.
  • Pyjamas 
  • A Buff or bandana 
  • A microfiber towel 
  • A purse or small pack for every day use 
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Women in traditional dress at Galtaji in Jaipur

Toiletries

If you’re carrying on, be sure to follow airport regulations for liquids, and you won’t be able to bring razors, nail scissors or maybe even tweezers.

  • Mini toothpaste, a toothbrush and floss
  • Chapstick
  • Deodorant I always travel with the mini deodorants you can buy at the dollar store or Walmart
  • Sun screen 
  • Aloe Vera or Aftersun Adding this because I got a brutal sunburn in Kerala and couldn’t find anything to put on it
  • Bug Spray and After Bite You could also consider getting a bug net (Malaria season is May to October)
  • Tampons, Pads or Diva Cup Whatever you use, make sure to bring enough for your star. You can only buy pads in India as far as I’ve seen, and they’re thick and generally not the best.
  • Toilet Paper It’s not generally used there, although you can buy it easily and your hotel or hostel should have some if you ask. Even though you can buy it there, it’s a good idea to buy some travel sized rolls to put in your purse
  • Wet Wipes You can buy packs of singles and keep a few in your purse
  • Mini hand sanitizer Also a good thing to keep on you
  • Razors Plus some spares, depending on how long you’re staying
  • Tweezers and nail scissors
  • Hair ties
  • Hair brush or comb
  • Shampoo and Conditioner Since showers are often cold, it could be a good idea to bring leave in shampoo
  • Soap or body wash 
  • Tissues I caught a cold and tried to buy these in a pharmacy, but failed miserably at explaining what I wanted to the pharmacists.
  • Q Tips

Electronics 

You can get wifi at hostels and hotels, most restaurants, and Internet cafes.

  • Camera and charger I brought my point and shoot, but I think I could have brought my DSLR and would have been okay
  • Phone and charger If you want to get a SIM card there, make sure your phone is unlocked
  • MP3 Player If you’re phone isn’t one as well
  • An E-reader and charger 
  • iPad or Computer 
  • Headphones
  • European Converter and Adapter

Health Kit

  • Bandaids
  • Anti Diarrheal Pills Fingers crossed that you won’t have to use them
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Acetaminophen
  • Throat Lozenges 
  • Safety Pins
  • Personal Medication 
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Malaria Pills I had a bad experience with mine and ended up not taking them at all, which worked out well since it wasn’t malaria season
Hawa Mahal, Palace of Winds, in Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Palace of Winds, in Jaipur

Miscellaneous 

  • Laundry Kit Mini clothes line, sink stopper and laundry soap (Sea to Summit has a laundry wash that is easy to carry on, since it’s not liquid). I did my laundry in a bucket with boiled water, and then hung it out to dry on my roof or anywhere I could find sun at hostels
  • Sunglasses Not only good for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but also helpful for avoiding eye contact from leering men
  • Headlamp Power outages are frequent, so it’s good to have a back up
  • Travel journal and pens 
  • Photos of your home and family People will be interested in seeing them, and will ask you a ton of questions (I was grilled on prices of things like chicken and eggs)
  • A Wallet Belt I hate wearing them, but it can be a good thing to have, especially in Delhi.
  • Photocopies of passport and banks cards 
  • A guide book I personally liked Lonely Planet’s Discover series
  • Gifts for people you meet I brought maple syrup, which was a huge mistake and confused everyone (they thought it was like a cough syrup, or honey.) I met another Canadian who brought maple cookies, which was a much better idea. I also brought keychains, and I think having pens or pencils with your country’s flag on it is a good idea, since kids will often ask you for pens. A note for Australians: don’t bring vegemite. It will not be eaten.
  • Ziplock bags Always a good thing to have
  • Some favourite things from home A bunch of people brought peanut butter for when they’re not feeling Indian food, and I also brought some granola bars.
  • A good book If you’re into non-fiction and learning about India, I’d recommend Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple. In fiction, I liked Secret Daughter by Shilri Somaya Gowda
  • Earplugs It’s loud, so you’ll need them
  • A neck rest For those long train tides 

The Most Important Thing To Bring….

Is a positive attitude and an open mind! There are days when you’re going to be tired and frustrated, but there are also going to be days that are amazing.

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