What to Wear in India

What to wear in India

India is one of my favourite destinations to travel to. From the Forts of Jaipur to the temples of Varanasi, it’s a diverse and colourful country that will satisfy the thirstiest of culture vultures. What to wear in India will be very much dependant on the time of year and the part of India that you will be visiting. You need to be aware of the Monsoon season (June-September) and the extremes of India such as the cold temperatures of the Himalayas and the dry arid desert of Rajasthan.

What to Wear in India – The Essentials

Despite the variations in India’s climate geographically and seasonally, there are some essentials for any trip. I would always recommend a pair of good walking boots and a waterproof jacket for hiking, hiking socks and scarves and light clothing for temple visits.

Waterproof and Windproof Jaket

If you plan on hiking in the Himalayas, you will need a jacket with a Gortex membrane and a hard outer shell.

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But if you are not heading into the Himalayas and you are focusing on the towns and cities of the Golden triangle, a lightweight windproof and waterproof hiking jacket will suffice.

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Walking Boots

It’s important to get your walking boots in advance of your trip to ensure that they fit snugly and break them in. Get waterproof ones even if you don’t think you need them or are going out of monsoon season. Waterproof walking boots will still be breathable these days and so will suit any weather.

Of course, you can go for trekking trainers or something lighter such as Converse if you prefer, but these won’t offer the ankle support that proper walking boots will offer.

Good brands of walking boots include Karrimor, Bergaus, Hi-Tek and Salomon. Go for a mid to light-weight hiking boot that offers good ankle support and that has waterproof uppers.

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Wide Brimmed Trekking Hat

Take some kind of hat or head gear with you to India. This will give you good protection from the sun, which can be powerful, even in the Himalayas.

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With the abundance and variety of religious destinations and temples in India, a scarf is and essential, especially for women. Use it to cover your shoulders in Buddhist temples and your hair where appropriate particularly in Mosques.

Jama Masjid Delhi Backpacking
Jammu Masjid, Delhi

Swim Wear

Do pack a swimming costume, bikini or whatever type of swim wear you usually use. Many hotels have nice swimming pools and you can head to the beach if you are travelling somewhere like Goa.

Clothing for India

Take a variety of light and comfortable clothes for visiting India in general. I’m talking hiking trousers, shorts, T-shirts, long sleeved cotton tops and long skirts or maxi dresses for women. Clothing that you choose for India should be cotton or linen, light and comfortable.

Walking Trousers and shorts

Lightweight walking or hiking trousers and cargo shorts are a great option for India. Comfort is key. I wore one beige pair of walking trousers non stop when I did my Golden Triangle trip. Zipped pockets are great for keeping small change while your real money is hidden away in a money belt.

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Cotton trousers are also a great option for India. As sewing is cheap there, you can ask someone to sew some hidden inside pockets into your trousers too!

Skirts and Dresses

Loose fitting skirts and dresses can be comfortable for women in India due to the heat, but avoid packing short skirts as you don’t want to culturally offend or draw any attention from unwanted men!

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Reversible dresses are a great option for long trips as you can appear to have more outfits than you actually do! So two reversible dresses will give you 4 outfits! Maxi dresses are lovely and comfortable for travelling in India. If you take strappy dresses, do carry around your scarf to cover the shoulders at any time you might need to.


You don’t really need to take jeans, but if you do, limit these to just 1. The are heavy and take a long time dry after washing or if you get stuck in monsoon rains.

The GREAT thing about India is that it is so CHEAP! It’s great to shop when you get there. I once bought a reversible skirt in Pushkar for about £2 and I wear it travelling so often many years later. It’s easy to become ‘hippified’ for cheap in India. You can easily and cheaply by Elephant trousers, hareem pants and wrap around skirts, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything really! If you are flying into Delhi, which most people do, you can shop for clothes in Paharganj.

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Sarees and Shalwar Kameez

When travelling around India, there is no need to adopt Indian fashion or dress. You are perfectly fine travelling around India in Western clothing and most Indians will have a relaxed smart casual look wearing jeans and T-Shirts. However, if you want to become more immersed into the culture or getting invited to a special event such as a presentation evening or a wedding, you may feel that you want to make an effort and wear a Saree. Remember to avoid red for an Indian wedding however, as this colour is usually reserved for the bride. You can get cheap Sarees on Amazon. If you are unsure how to wear one, read this article on the Art of wearing a Saree.

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A Shalwar Kameez is a popular spree alternative. I personally find Shalwaar Kameez extremely comfortable and I have a lovely green one for India. Shalwar are the loose comfortable trousers and the kameez is a tunic that goes over the top.

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What to Wear in India – Deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat

Areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat can be very arid, and you may even want to consider a desert trek or camel trek. These are popular from Jaipur and Pushkar. While you are in the desert, go for cotton walking trousers and T-shirts or long sleeved cotton tops.

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You may also need a fleece layer if you are camping as desert areas can get cold at night. Good fleece brands to choose include Rab, Berghaus and North Face.

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What to Wear in India – Himalayas

If you are including an Hymalaya trek in your India itinerary such as trekking to see the Ladakh Monasteries, expect to carry more specialist gear and clothing. First of all, make sure that your mountain jacket is an outer layer and an inner layer and is made from gortex.

What to wear in India - hiking in Ladakh
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Additional items, that you should consider taking with you for trekking in the Himalayas include…

  • A neck gaiter or scarf
  • A beanie or insulated hat
  • Outer trousers or waterproof trousers or gaiters
  • Lightweight gloves
  • Thermal leggings and thermal base layer

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