You’ve got your itinerary set, your hotels booked, and you’ve read all my India travel tips. Now the looming question arises – What should you pack for India? Packing for any trip can be stressful. Throw in the extra challenges of an extreme climate, cultural modesty, and differences in bathroom practices and you’ve got yourself a real doozy. Well, don’t panic for a second – with this India Packing List, I’ve got your pack, er… back. (Pun very much intended!)
When I was packing for India I had an extra challenge: I was also stopping in London – in January! Although India is generally hot where I went, the conservative dress meant that a lot of my clothes for India also worked for winter in London (as long as I wore them in layers!), so I didn’t have to bring too many extra items. If you’re going somewhere with cold weather before, after, or even within India, make sure you pay special attention to the cold-weather items I mention throughout the list.
India Packing List
- Passport and visa – unless you can do visa on arrival.
- Yellow immunization book
- Wallet – with health insurance information, and emergency contact info.
- Travel insurance documents – Make sure you know the number to call if something goes wrong. I highly recommend the premium policy that covers your high-value items like laptops and cameras if you’re bringing them. World Nomads is great, their plans are simple and they have come through for me in the past.
- Hidden pocket or bra stash
- Debit card – for ATM withdrawals. If you don’t keep this in your hidden pocket/bra stash then you should bring a spare and store it in a different location.
- Credit card – preferably one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
- Cash – USD, Euros, or rupees.
- Itinerary – I like having this printed out and then annotating all over it as I go along, or writing in restaurant recommendations when I hear of them.
- Budget – So you can keep track of your spending and make sure you’re on target.
- Packing list – If you’re packing up and moving a lot it can be handy to know what you brought with you so you make sure you don’t forget anything valuable.
- Printed flight confirmations – absolutely essential for flights departing in India. They won’t let you into the airport without a flight confirmation.
- Hotel confirmations – this makes it super easy to check in, even when there is a language barrier.
- Copy of your passport – or save it in the cloud.
- Guidebook – cut out the sections you need if you’re only using a small part of the book. I read guidebooks for fun so I didn’t bring any other book to read on the plane, but you might not be as travel-obsessed as me.
- Phrasebook – pocket sized is best.
- Notebook – I like the small moleskine notebooks that will fit in my back pocket or a small purse. I’ll carry it everywhere and jot down notes on my favorite places or little tips I come across.
- Pens – always handy.
- Gum – if that’s your thing.
- Snacks – goldfish anyone?
Electronics and Gear
All of these items were carried-on in my messenger bag which doubles as my camera bag.
- Laptop – I brought my thin, lightweight Asus ZenBook (Update: don’t buy it, it broke. story here.) for keeping up on the blog, transferring photos from my camera, and some photo editing.
- Camera – I brought my new Sony a7, and I’m so glad I did. I also brought a pocket-sized point-and-shoot, my Canon S110 but only used that a few times I went out at night and didn’t want to attract attention with a larger camera. If you’re less camera-crazy than me, you can get by with your phone as a back-up camera. One of these days I’ll write a post on my photography gear!
- Lenses – I brought my Sony 28-70mm and my Dad’s old Nikon 85mm lens (from the 70’s!) and an adapter so it would work with my camera. I mostly used the 28-70mm but would have loved to have a wide-angle lens for some great landscape shots and street scenes.
- Cleaning wipes – glad I brought these so I could clean the dust off the lens after a day in the city streets.
- Microfiber cloth – ditto.
- Spare lens cap – I rarely use the lens cap, but I do keep them on when I’m in transit between places. When I’m walking around I just count on my UV filter to protect the lens. That way I’m always ready for a shot.
- SD cards – I carried an extra for each camera in case they filled up.
- Headphones – I just brought some cheapo ear buds.
- Power bank – for your phone, so you can play music or games on those long flights, or for long days spent sightseeing (especially if you’re using your phone as a camera).
These items were packed in my carry-on suitcase:
- Travel pillow – I’ve tried a few different kinds that never seemed to work for me, until I got a Wrap-a-Nap and I’ve actually been able to sleep on planes since switching to this. It works for me because it can be used a bunch of different ways for whatever sleeping position I am in the mood for. You just wrap it around your head and have it cover your eyes and then you can lean forward, backward, or sideways and it stays in place. The padding blocks out some noise as well, and when I have it over my eyes it keeps me asleep longer. If I just want to doze a little, but not completely sleep, I’ll pull it down and use it as a neck pillow and tighten the velcro a bit. No more sore neck!
- Travel tripod – I like the Joby gorillapod because it’s flexible legs can grip to just about anything.
- Universal plug adapter – so I could use all of my chargers in Indian outlets. I didn’t bother with a power converter because all of my chargers (and probably most of yours too) accept both 110V and 220V power.
- Chargers for phone, laptop, and camera batteries – These all got stuffed in my purse to keep them together.
- Spare batteries – I have 3 for my Sony and 2 for my Canon and go through about 1 per day when I’m shooting a lot so I rotate through and recharge them while I’m out.
- Hard drive – for backing up photos. I kept this separate from my camera and laptop so that if one bag got stolen I would still have the backups.
- Padlock – needed this for the lockers at my London hostel.
You are going to get some stares from locals regardless of how you dress. In some cases it seems Westerners get more attention when they try to blend in by wearing Indian clothes! So just wear things that you like and feel comfortable in, while still respecting the culture. No bare legs or shoulders please, and I’m not just talking to the ladies 😉
- Tops – short and long sleeves are both commonly worn, but tank tops are rare except in more modern areas like Mumbai or Goa. I brought a few simple tee’s, a couple tank tops, and planned to buy a couple tops in India. Remember light colors will keep you cooler.
- Dresses or skirts – I find that a simple cotton dress can be the most versatile thing you can pack.
- Sweater – lightweight, for cooler evenings.
- Jeans/pants – no shorts.
- Leggings – great for pairing with dresses to make them more modest, or pairing with the tunic and kurti I bought in India.
- Black tights – I brought these to wear with my skirts and dresses in London, but not in India.
- Athletic top and pants – for hiking or adventure activities.
- Lounge pants and tee – something comfy for hanging around the hotel.
- Jacket – skip this if you won’t be going anywhere cold. I wore my fake leather bomber jacket and only used it in London.
- Bras + 1 sports bra
- Socks – but please don’t wear them with your sandals. 🙂
- A few pieces of inexpensive jewelry – think of these items as a whole extra outfit. You can easily turn a casual dress into a night-out-ready outfit with the right accessories.
- Scarf – a lightweight scarf is invaluable in India! Use it for wrapping over your nose and mouth during auto rides in heavy traffic, for covering up at religious sites, or as a shawl around your shoulders at night when things may cool off.
- Purse – cross-body is best. Make sure it can be closed up.
- Sandals – no flip flops, heels, or anything you can easily trip on.
- Shoes – I wore my boots on the plane because they were too bulky for my suitcase and I needed them for the cold and wet streets of London.
- Umbrella or raincoat – if you’re going during monsoon season or if, like me, you’re also going to London.
- Hat & mittens – hear me out on this one! I only brought these for London – a necessity in the colder months, but you would want to bring a hat and mittens if you plan on spending time up in Ladakh or the Himalayas, or any other region in India that gets cold enough to have snow. India is not all hot!
What to Wear on the Plane
- Pants that are comfortable – whether that’s stretchy jeans, sweatpants, or something in between.
- Sweater – airplanes get cold!
- Jacket – again, only bring this if it will be cold where you are going! Otherwise just wear more layers on the plane.
- The bulkiest shoes you are bringing
- Compression socks – because getting a blood clot when you walk off the plane in India would really suck.
- Glasses, not contacts – so you can sleep without waking up with one of those dreaded lost-contact-in-the-back-of-your-eye fiascos.
- Phone – easy access to keep track of time and listen to music.
- Chapstick – with 10+ hour flights, that airplane air can really dry you out.
- Some cash – just in case.
All under 3 oz. and should fit in a quart-sized ziplock.
- Bug spray
- Sun screen
- Contact solution
- Lip gloss
- Conditioner (shampoo bar went in my non-liquids toiletries bag)
- Hand sanitizer
- Laundry detergent
- Hydrocortisone cream
All of the non-liquids go in a zippered pouch to keep them (somewhat) organized
- Tampons – don’t rely on buying them when you get there! They can be hard or even impossible to find. If you’re worried about space, try o.b. tampons, they are TINY (and just as effective).
- Shampoo bar – the perfect solution to the too-many-liquids problem. I’ve completely switched over to Lush Shampoo Bars, and use them even when I’m not traveling because I actually prefer them. Each tiny bar lasts me several months. Jumping Juniper is my favorite.
- Face wipes
- Tooth brush
- Hair ties
- Contacts + case
- Glasses case
- Extra contacts
- Body soap – I go to Lush for this too, and have them cut a block of their handmade soap to fit into one of their metal tins so it’s just the right size. The tin keeps my other toiletries from getting soapy if I have to pack up right after a shower.
- Earplugs – it’s a lot louder than you would think at 3am.
- Toilet paper – most hotels will provide this, but if you are staying in a budget accomodation you might only get the rinse-off-with-water option. When you’re out and about, you won’t find toilet paper anywhere. Just a water sprayer, or maybe just a bucket for rinsing if you’re not so lucky. Most restrooms we came across had standard toilets, but a few were simple squat toilets.
- Small towel – there was one place we stayed where the towels didn’t seem very clean, so my little travel towel came in handy. It doesn’t take up much space at all because it’s the size of a hand towel but much thinner and way more absorbent.
- Plastic bags – for dirty clothes or shoes.
- Ziplocks – you never know when you’ll need them, but I almost always do at some point on a trip.
- Pepto bismol tablets – for mild cases of Delhi Belly.
- Ibuprofen – not a bad idea to carry this in your purse so that a traffic-induced headache doesn’t ruin your entire day.
- Anti-malarials – if you’re traveling in an at-risk area. Check with your doctor when you get your immunizations.
- Antibiotics – prescribed by your doctor.
- Dayquil & Nyquil – because who wants to go searching for medicine in a foreign country when you’re under-the-weather?
- Vitamins – for a little extra boost to your immune system.
- Hydrocortisone cream – mentioned in the liquids category above, but it’s true home is in my mini-pharmacy. Great for the random rash or hives you can get from being in a new place.
- Benadryl – didn’t need it, but I always bring a few tablets in case I get a (mild) allergic reaction. It has come in handy in the past.
- Bandaids, gauze, tape
- Antibacterial ointment
- Alcohol prep pads
- Thermometer – used it, and it brought us a lot of peace of mind knowing Garren’s fever wasn’t so high that we had to find a hospital in the middle of a transportation strike…
- Scissors, safety pins, duct tape
- Moleskin – great for blisters, I always bring it.
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