What to Wear in India when Traveling

India has a very distinct culture. Even in the subcontinent, you won’t find another country quite like it. With its 29 states come 29 different languages, traditions and dressing customs. The best way to dress appropriately in India is to follow the local customs. These can feel restrictive at times, but you will have a more comfortable and smooth experience. The golden rule is to dress modestly but the definition of ‘modesty’ also differs from place to place. Now don’t stress yourself, we’ve listed a few items you can carry to and wear in India.

What to Wear in India

Clothes to Wear When in India

  • Scarves – These are a life saver! Given the golden rule, scarves are the best way to dial any outfit’s modesty up a notch, in minutes. It is advisable to carry one that can go with multiple outfits. In India, anywhere you go, even if not faced with awkward stares, you will have to face dust and the sun, so keep your scarf handy and cover up whenever needed. Also, remember to pack only 100% cotton scarves, preferably in light colors, these are your best bet in the heat. See how you can style your scarves in different ways here.
  • Basic cotton tops or shirts – If you’re visiting India in summer and think you can handle the heat, you’re mistaken. All your tee shirts, shirts and blouses should be 100% cotton to keep you cool at a soaring 40oCelsius. But why basic? Basic tops will be easier to match your scarves with and when you look at your photographs years later, you won’t look outdated, just younger! You can find these at Asos and other basic sections of brands like Forever21 or HnM.
  • Maxi Dresses – These as very comfortable to travel in. But be careful of a few things. Try not to wear light colors, as they can become translucent in bright light. Also, if your maxi dress has noodle straps or a backless design, cover up with your scarf or a pretty shrug. It will save you from stares and sunburns.
  • Shrugs and shirts – Since you’ll be wearing basics, a printed shrug or a denim shirt will liven up your outfit and make it less boring. These can be used as replacement for the scarf or even as an add on. Once again, be sure to pack only cotton or other breathable materials. Find the trendiest shrugs and kimonos here.
  • Loose pants – These have different names in different countries, such as palazzos, genie pants, baggy pants, whatever you call them, do carry them. A good idea would be to pack them in sets with a matching tee and a scarf.
  • Long skirts – If you’re packing skirts to wear in India, do not pack short ones. Calf or ankle length skirts with gathers or flair is the best option.
  • Footwear – The choice of footwear will depend on the part of India you’re visiting, the time of the year and what your itinerary is. However, you must pack a pair of comfortable and durable flip flops and a pair of walking or running shoes.

It may seem a little unfair to not be able to wear what you want on vacation, but if you get sick of wearing all baggy, all basic and all boring clothes, explore traditional Indian outfits. Slip into a fancy salwar kurta or ask a local woman to teach you how to drape a saree.

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Mani Karthik

About the Author

Mani Karthik

Ex “NRI” and Founder of the “Back to India” movement. I share my experience about immigrating to USA here.

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