India is easily one of my favourite places to travel in the world, and I’ve personally visited three times, the last time I was there for six months.
For such a large and diverse country, there is just so much to absorb and boy does it hit your senses. The juxtaposition of stunning nature, wildlife, and ancient forts and temples is simply breathtaking and you’ll find this everywhere, the length and breadth of India.
The country is also unique in that winters are freezing up north, especially in evenings, in the foothills of the Himalayas, yet in the south, it is hot all year round – you can walk too a plane in Delhi on a cold January afternoon, fly two hours to Goa, and step off the plane into blissful heat!
They say when you’ve traveled in India, everywhere else in the world is easy.
In this post I’ve got you covered on everything you need to pack for your India backpacking packing list, ensuring that you’ll stay warm on chilly evenings but nice and cool when it’s searingly hot too. I also go over the strict customs and social codes of this conservative country, and I have a What NOT to pack for India section near the bottom.
Plus, be sure to download your FREE India travel checklist near the end of this post!
Scroll on to read: Ultimate Packing Essentials for India (+ FREE Travel Checklist)
Table of Contents
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Ultimate Packing Essentials for India (+ FREE Travel Checklist)
Firstly a list of all the important travel documents (such as IDs, itineraries and banking cards etc.) that you must bring on your India trip:
1. Passport and Itineraries
2. Travel Debit Cards
3. Driver License
4. Travel Insurance
For added security and peace of mind, don’t leave home without good travel insurance by World Nomads. Take it from me – what’s the worst that could happen? Well, on my first trip to Mexico I got electrocuted in a hostel (yes, seriously). I flicked a light switch in a dark bathroom and felt a sharp burn travel from my finger all the way up my arm, as if it caught fire (you can read about that in this post).
Travel Gadgets & Electronics
These are more travel essentials to ensure you’re connected to power and have access to the internet and to contacts during your trip, as well as gadgets to keep you entertained on long journeys – you won’t want to leave home without these:
1. Universal DrimSim Card
2. A Universal Travel Plug
India operates on 230v mains and uses the rounded 3-pin plug (type D) as well as the rounded 2-pin plug (type C). For India this All-In-One Universal Travel Plug is super useful for visitors from anywhere in the world. It features several USB ports to charge all your travel gadgets.
3. 10-Foot Charging Cable
4. External Battery (Power Bank)
5. Wireless Noise-canceling Earbuds
6. Trtl Travel Neck Pillow
7. Bendy Tripod Phone Holder
8. Compact Digital Camera
9. VPN (Virtual Private Network)
India Travel Safety Items
A question many people ask is: Is India safe? The answer to that is, India is no more dangerous than anywhere else, as long as you keep your wits about you. Indeed, your main concern when traveling anywhere, is pickpockets and theft of valuable belongings in touristy places. The following list has everything you need to ensure you don’t encounter those situations:
1. Travel Money Belt
This is super handy when you’re walking around larger cities with cash and other small valuables – I recommend keeping these either stashed away in your hotel/airbnb, or stored securely on your body in a money belt.
2. Anti-Theft Book Bag
3. Anti-Theft Travel Purse
If you’re after the ultimate theft-proof purse, I highly recommend the Anti-Theft Travel Purse – it consists of five measures of theft prevention including:
- Slash-resistant straps: straps with stainless steel wire inside, protects against grab-and-go thieves
- Slash resistant fabric: the whole bag is made with a slash-resistant mesh barrier inside for extra layers of protection
- Lockdown straps: the strap lock secures bag to a stationary object, protecting against grab-and-go thieves
- Locking compartments: locking zipper pulls that prevent pickpockets from getting into your bag
- RFID blocking pockets: protects against electronic identity theft with RFID blocking card slots and pockets
4. Small Lock
5. Security Travel Scarf
6. PacSafe Bag Protector
Eco-Friendly Travel Packing Essentials
These days most of us try to do our bit for the world around us, and with air travel, we become more conscious of our carbon footprint. So with the items below, you’ll be making a difference in protecting wildlife, nature and the environment.
1. Water-to-Go Filter bottle
2. Reef-Safe Sunscreen
3. Eco-friendly Bug Spray
There’s loads of bugs in India, so you’ll also definitely want to cover up this eco-friendly REPEL Insect Repellent, and not only ‘cause it’s environmentally friendly, but avoid getting a blown-up arm from a Mexican mosquito infection, as that’s what happened to me on my second trip to Mexico! The bug spray is plant-based, DEET free, and smells of lemon and eucalyptus.
4. Anti-Mosquito Bracelet
5. Reusable Shopping Bag
Toiletries & Medicines
This list features a cool travel hack as well as important travel essentials that you can’t leave home without. A popular question asked is: do I need medicine for India? Well, there are extreme climates around India including tropical jungles, deserts and high altitude terrain, and many parts of the country are hot year round, hitting 45C (113F) in the spring.
1. Dry Shampoo
2. Dry Conditioner
3. Hand Sanitizer & Pouch
4. Small Pack of Tissues
5. Facial Oil Blotting Rice Paper
6. Hangover Cure Tablets
7. General Medications
8. Massaging Shoe Gel Inserts
India Beach Packing Accessories
Now for a list of items specifically for the beach, but also useful for things like watersports activities, and outdoor tours/excursions:
1. Beach Bag
2. Waterproof Phone Case
3. Microfiber Towel
5. Underwater Camera
6. Beach Coverup
7. Other Beach Accessories
Clothing / Attire for India
For the image conscious and those looking to save packing space, it’s well worth having a capsule wardrobe for your India vacation so that you can interchange and mix up items of clothing, in order to wear a different look each day.
1. Hiking Boots
3. Harem Pants
5. Cashmere Wrap/Scarf
If there’s one essential piece of clothing for India I’d say it’s this. Another traditional and popular attire that’s worn all over the Indian sub-continent: the classic Cashmere Wrap/Scarf is an absolute must for traveling India. Made from 100% wool from the Yaks of north India and Nepal, there’s a number of reasons why you need one of these:
- it’s incredibly versatile – you can fashion and wear it in various ways
- lightweight and easy to fold and pack away
- made from 100% pure Yak wool – premium quality material that will keep you surprisingly warm on a freezing night, yet keep you cool in scorching hot weather
- trendy – it’s traditional Indian attire that will make you blend in with the locals
6. Light Jacket
Sandals are an essential item for India so you’ll want to make sure you have a decent pair that last many years. For women, these Tevas are comfortable and fashionable and have great reviews. For men, these sandals are affordable and have a strong and sturdy sole.
8. Sarong Cover up
Luggage/Baggage and Packing Items for India
Finally, here’s a list of the packing items and baggage that I use to encase and carry all my stuff when I go on a backpacker type of trip. It’s well worth investing in a trusted brand to ensure you have reliable gear that will last you years of travel.
2. Hardside Suitcase (if not the backpack)
4. Travel Laundry Bag
5. Space Saver Packing Cubes
Another must-have packing essential, these packing cubes are a smart way of keeping your clothes well organized in your backpack whilst also saving tons of space, and giving you peace of mind. The Space Save Packing Cubes come in three different sizes, so you can put your pants in one, and shirts in another etc. The double zipper design ensures the pack shrinks down as small as possible when filled, leaving you with plenty more bag space for all your India souvenirs and new attire.
6. Hanging Toiletry Bag
7. Travel Medicine Kit
What NOT to pack for India
What can’t you bring to India? Below are the 4 main things you absolute need to leave at the door before you depart for India:
1. DON’T pack too many clothes
Honestly the number of times I’ve overpacked on my travels, it only causes dead weight and it doesn’t help at airport check-in either. If you forget anything, you can always buy them cheap at the market stalls.
2. DON’T bring designer labels and expensive jewelry
You will stand out in a crowd and set yourself up as a target for pickpockets. Another reason is that lots of taxi drivers and touts swarm around you near the entrances to bus/train stations and other public spaces, each one trying to convince you to take their offer. will Try to blend in with the locals to avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself.
3. DON’T bring too much cash
Use travel money cards like Wise and Revolut. If you travel around in an Uber or Ola, you pay by phone anyway. You won’t need to carry more than 1000-1500 rupees in a single day.
4. DON’T bring unnecessary electronics/gadgets
A camera is fine as long as its strapped securely to your person, but carrying around a tablet isn’t sensible, and you risk getting it stolen, or at the least, drawing unwanted attention to yourself.
5. DON’T pack more than one set of warm clothes
It takes up valuable luggage space and besides, one set is enough for your India trip.
6. DON’T bring revealing outfits
So there you go – the ultimate travel packing essentials list for India.
Take it from my 9+ years of travel around 47 countries, this list was created from trial and error, discovering the most reliable and trustworthy items that have served me well on my travels, as well as thousands of positive reviews that make them reputable. Be sure to download your Europe and US to India travel checklist below!
- Going abroad soon? Check out my post: How To Plan For A Vacation (and download my FREE printable travel checklist)
- Read up on my Top 10 Ways To Save Money For Travel to learn how I saved over $1K in one month
India Packing Checklist
Download your FREE printable, travelling to India Checklist PDF here:
You can print it out and use it to tick off the boxes while packing for your India vacation!
Commonly Asked Questions
Here’s everything you need to pack for a trip to India:
- Comfortable sandals or flip flops
- Loose fitting and breathable clothing (ie: harem pants)
- Long sleeve top to prevent sunburn
- Scarf or shawl for the cooler evenings
- Eco-friendly bug repellent spray (or mosquito wristband)
- Eco-friendly sunscreen
- Electronics (power bank, universal adapter, charger cable)
- Plenty of tissues
- A lifestrpaw water filter bottle
- Hiking shoes (if trekking)
Here’s what NOT to bring to India:
DON’T pack too many clothes – if you forget anything, you can always buy them cheap at the market stalls
DON’T bring designer labels and expensive jewelry – you will stand out in a crowd and set yourself up as a target for pickpockets
DON’T bring too much cash – use travel money cards like Wise and Revolut. You won’t need more than 1000 rupees in a single day.
DON’T bring unnecessary electronics/gadgets – a securely-strapped camera is fine, but a tablet isn’t sensible and you risk getting it stolen.
DON’T pack more than one set of warm clothes – it takes up valuable luggage space and one set is enough.
DON’T bring revealing outfits – dress modestly in India and adhere to the strict social customs: keep your shoulders, navel, arms and legs covered.
Can I wear shorts in India? Shorts are ok to wear in touristy beach areas like Goa and Kerala. Shorts are also acceptable (for both men and women) in cities like Mumbai, where they re commonly worn by the locals.
Here’s what to avoid when in India:
- Bottled water – bring a Lifestraw water filter bottle instead.
- Raw/uncooked foods – avoid at all costs. Makes sure your food is cooked through.
- Being overly polite – it’s considered a sign of weakness.
- Only using private transport – try out the public transport sometime, especially the buses and trains (they’ve improved over the years).
- Revealing clothes – cover up your shoulders, upper arms, and legs.
- Wearing flashy jewelry and branded clothing – you’ll stand out like a sore thumb to pickpockets and you won’t be able to get yourself a good price on taxis or at the markets.
- Getting easily offended or frustrated – Indians tend to be direct and ask questions about personal things and work etc., don’t take offence, and keep an open mind.
Since India is a conservative country, you should avoid baring shoulders or showing cleavage and legs, in line with strict customs and etiquette.
Book Your Trip: Budget Tips & Tricks
Flights: As always, I source the cheapest flights on the web from Skyscanner and Kiwi.com. They are considered the top flight search engines for the best deals.
Accommodation: I use Booking for the best hotel deals and HostelWorld for the cheapest stays. If you’re considering Airbnb, be sure to check Vrbo to find cheaper vacation stays.
SIM cards: DrimSim is a universal SIM card that isn’t tied to an operator and works in any country/region.
Travel Insurance: Stay protected from theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. A safety net in case anything goes wrong, I never leave without it. World Nomads is my favourite agent for total peace of mind.
Tours & Excursions: I book all my fave activities and guided tours on Get Your Guide & Viator – they do superb deals whilst offering excellent customer support.
Renting a car? I always use DiscoverCars, make sure you book your car hire in advance. For airport transfers, I use KiwiTaxi for the best deals.
Need to store your luggage in a locker? Use Radical Storage to store your stuff in a locker in any city for just $5 per day.
Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.