India is top of many people’s ‘must see’ list, a truly exotic and colourful country steeped in history. It’s the kind of place where you want to be gazing at the sights, not frantically searching the shops for eye drops!
I’ve put together a list of the essential items you should pack, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery, knowing you’ve got everything you’ll need.
Let’s start with the luggage. If you’re only planning on staying in the major cities, you can get away with a suitcase, but if your trip is taking you into the heart of India, be aware that the roads are often just dirt paths; you’ll quickly find that’s it’s more effort to roll a suitcase along than it would be to carry it.
Invest in a good quality, roomy backpack – then aim to fill it just half way. Trust me, you’ll be bringing back lots of goodies!
If you’re heading up north it can get pretty cold, so you’ll need to wrap up warm. June to September is monsoon season, so pack for rain, but in April and May most of the country is very dry and very hot.
Although it can be tempting to pack as you would for any summer holiday, skimpy dresses and shorts aren’t culturally acceptable in India. As a rule, always keep your legs and shoulders covered, and women shouldn’t wear anything low cut.
Day to day: In the major cities jeans are becoming more commonplace, but out in the country traditional Indian dress is still worn by almost everyone. Clothing is cheap in India, and with custom-made clothes usually ready in 24 hours, why not just pack your underwear and buy the rest out there! If you plan on doing some heavy-duty hiking, it’s worth taking a raincoat and a pair of comfortable hiking boots.
On the beach: If you’re heading to the beach, don’t forget your swimwear! Outside of the major cities most women bathe fully dressed, but in the big cities and tourist resorts it’s more acceptable for western tourists to wear a swimsuit. Be warned though – public nudity is illegal throughout India and that includes going topless.
If you plan on taking a trip to a place of worship in India, women will need to cover their hair so a scarf or shawl is essential.
Toiletries are easy to find in the major cities, less so in small towns and villages. Roll-on deodorant and tampons can both be difficult to find, but alternatives will always be available.
When visiting the arid parts of India it’s also a good idea to pack some eye drops, as the dry dusty air can irritate your eyes.
If you’ve never travelled to India you might be surprised at the lack of toilet paper available. If you can’t do without toilet paper, pack it! If you’re tight on space then pack an anti-bacterial hand gel instead to keep those germs at bay.
For some areas malaria tablets are a necessity, so always make sure to check before your travel. Mosquito repellent is also strongly advised, and western brands are typically stronger than anything you can buy once you land.
Indian currency laws are strict and rupees can’t be sold anywhere outside of India, so take some money with you to change at the airport when you land. A credit card is fine in the major cities, but you’ll need cash for the vibrant markets that India is famous for!
Don’t forget your adaptor if you’re bringing any electronics, and if you’re travelling from the US you’ll need a voltage converter as well. Finally make sure to pack your camera; memories are great but it’s nice to have a good set of snaps too!
I’d love to hear from people who’ve been to India – what did you pack, or wish you’d packed?
About the author: Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with an insatiable case of wanderlust! He loves to wander off the beaten track and discover those hidden gems that most tourists don’t see.He blogs about his travels for Hotelopeia and you can keep up with his latest adventures by following him on twitter.
If you'd like to see India in full colour, head to the website and see all our trips. There's bound to be one that inspires you.