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As I am counting down the days to my next India visit (for those of you who didn’t get the memo, I am originally from India). This brings up the question of the dreaded India packing list. What should one pack for a country as diverse in weather, climate, geography and culture as India? This India packing list of mine is not a generic Travel Essentials must-have packing list.
It’s more about things you absolutely need and the things you do not need to have in your India packing list.
India Packing List Basics
India is not the most well-connected country in terms of transport. You have to be prepared for a few bumpy rides whether it be via road, bus or railways. I would say your best bet is to carry a 40 to 60 litres backpack. If you’re only staying in one city or solely taking flights from one point to another, in that specific case only I would recommend taking a suitcase. Even so, your luggage should be light enough to pick up and carry anywhere and anytime. I repeat, anywhere and anytime.
With the exception of the short winter in the north/east of India or if you plan to visit the Himalayas, I would recommend to pack light weight cotton clothes. Preferably quick dry clothes that will not stick to you in hot/moist climatic regions that you may visit, especially in the south of India. Apart from your regular bunch of clothes, I’d carry a light weight all weather waterproof jacket for the slightly colder days especially during the Monsoons or if you find yourself heading to the beautiful mountains.
3. Medicines + First Aid Kit
Over the counter medicines are quite easily available, however it can be quite a task to find the right one for you in India. I’d suggest to bring along simple medicines for headache, bodyache, fever, constipation, diarrhea, urinary tract infection, motion sickness, indigestion and whatever else you are likely to suffer from. Medicines always react on people differently, and if you experiment in a new country, you may be left with a bad taste in your mouth (quite literally).
What I think is a MUST on your India Packing List is a basic First Aid kit. I recommend this to travellers going anywhere in the world. Out on the road, whether alone or with company, you just never know what can possibly go wrong. Other than having a solid travel insurance plan, you must at all times have a basic first aid kit with you and know how to use and deliver the same.
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4. Personal Care
Except for items such as electric shavers, hair dryers or any special skin care/sanitary products you may use. I would recommend to buy all your personal care items in India directly from any regular grocery/street store. Indians love to buy small sized packets for pretty much everything, and you can get a one time use shampoo and conditioner pack for as little as 10 euro cents. A small 50ml bottle of Dove/Pantene/any other brand that is familiar to you will cost you $1 if not less. Toiletries for a month or two will not set you back more than $5-10 for your whole trip provided you buy the same in India. What I do recommend to take along is good sunscreen. That is essentially non-existent or very expensive in India.
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I normally travel with my iPhone 7 and avoid carrying a bulky camera around in India, especially since I’m not a professional photographer. It’s difficult and not well advised to carry a chunky camera around when you’re traveling in India. Again, bumpy roads and crowded streets. I would however recommend to carry a small compact camera if you do not prefer to solely rely on smartphone photography.
India Packing List Beyond Basics
Some additional items I would recommend for everyone to carry in India would be :
- Travel toilet paper – very expensive and hard to find in India.
- Universal Travel Adaptor– self explanatory but often forgotten.
- Portable Power Bank – for those long desert rides with no access to electricity.
- Flashlight – power cuts can be common especially in the mountains.
- Ear plugs- noisy country, but I bet you already know that.
- Wet/hygiene wipes- for those long days of travel when you do not have time for a shower.
- Cheap Nokia Phone– to carry an extra local sim card for every day calling and texting within India
Women Travellers Special India Packing List
As a woman in India, some every day challenges can be harder than others. Everything I already mentioned aside, two things are of utmost importance, safety and hygiene. Whilst, I would recommend this to female travellers (whether solo or not is irrelevant), I think you must at all times carry an item that you can use in case of emergencies of safety and hygiene alike. India does not have a good record of public toilets in the world, in fact it would be in the bottom 50 countries for the same. While travelling, even if you do come across a public toilet it may not be safe or hygienic enough to use. I would say carry a basic pepper spray for your safety and a portable urination device for hygiene.
I’d also tell all the girls/women to carry a light weight cotton scarf and a sling bag of your choice especially for day trips. You never know how hot it may get, and it’s always good to have a scarf handy when you plan to visit temples, mosques or any other religious sites in India. I recommend a solid sling bag since it’s small and easy to move around with and hard to snatch or steal in case you are in a shady neighbourhood. One can never be too prepared.
What you do NOT need for your India Trip
- Do not pack an excess of clothes. Clothes or textiles in general are very cheap and you will find something wherever you go at throwaway prices. The harem pants you see everyone wear in South East Asia, can be available in India for $1 or $2 at best, so do not spend a fortune on it before you go to India.
- Do not pack light coloured shoes. They will be dirty from dust or mud before you know it and it would be an uphill task to clean them afterwards. Carry comfortable flip flops or flat sandals and a pair of dark coloured walking shoes.
- Do not pack or take bulky electronics. Unless you make money using your photographs or videos, I’d say avoid it for your India packing list. You can always use a tripod with a small compact camera or your phone camera which is easy to carry and not a fortune to lose if you misplace it or it gets stolen.
- Do not take valuables such as jewellery or an expensive laptop unless you plan to stay very long in India or work from there. It is not advisable to leave behind your valuables even in good hotel rooms as I have personally lost a lot of items by being careless and leaving them behind unlocked while going for a swim or grabbing a quick bite to eat etc.
- Do not carry a lot of cash for your trip to India. There are plenty of ATM’s wherever you go and the banking network is generally quite reliable in India. Many restaurants, pubs and shops will also gladly accept Visa/Master Cards instead of cash. With the exception of locations with less than 50,000 people, I would say only carry enough cash for a few days at best and withdraw on the go. This will keep you relaxed and stress free during your trip and focus on what’s really important, discovering the vast and enchanting enigma that India is.
While you are in India Tips
Aside from the essentials India Packing List, there are some additional things you may want to consider especially if you are a first time traveler:
- Get a guide book either a hard copy or a digital one because lets be honest India is a huge country. Many places do not exist online and you have no way to access to find them except for going through good old Lonely Planet Guides.
- If you’re hesitant to take a tour that is entirely planned and executed by yourself and would like some of the industry leaders to help you on it, be sure to check out the amazing deals that Tour Radar have on offer. If you book in advance, you may even get some early bird discounts.
- If you plan to visit the Taj Mahal I recommend taking a sunrise private tour. The place can get crowded, hot, messy and overwhelming all at the same time especially during regular visiting hours. Don’t let a bucket-list experience of your life go to waste over saving a few dollars.
- Make sure you only use recommended booking channels for hotels, flights and all other expensive items in your travel budget. You can read my hotel booking guide and my flight ticket booking guide in detail here. India, unfortunately is an easy country for first timers to get scammed in. You can avoid that by being careful and smart by planning as much as you can in advance, especially if you aim to travel solo. I would HIGHLY recommend booking a well reviewed hostel for solo and female travelers in India.
- Last but not the least, do NOT forget to get travel insurance. I recommend World Nomads mostly because they are easy to use, flexible and well trusted by the global traveling community at large.
I hope my India packing list makes your trip a little bit easier if not better. Travel cheap, Travel far!
Before you go, you may found these awesome resources useful: