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What To Wear In India: A Packing Guide For Women


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Inger Avina



India, with its diverse culture, rich history, and stunning landscapes, is a popular destination for travelers from around the world. However, when it comes to packing for a trip to India, there are some important factors to consider, especially when it comes to choosing the right clothing.


India is known for its conservative culture and traditional values, which greatly influence the way people dress. It’s essential to be respectful and mindful of these cultural considerations when selecting your outfits. By doing so, you’ll not only blend in better with the locals but also show your appreciation for their customs.


In this packing guide, we’ll discuss the cultural considerations that affect clothing choices in India, the typical styles of clothing worn by women, and provide essential tips on what to wear. We’ll also touch on weather and climate factors that can influence your wardrobe choices. So whether you’re planning a visit to the bustling streets of Delhi, the serene beauty of Kerala, or the vibrant markets of Jaipur, this guide will help you pack the right attire for your trip.


It’s important to note that the clothing recommendations provided in this guide are mainly directed towards female travelers. However, many of the tips and principles can be applied to male travelers as well. Let’s dive in!


Cultural Considerations

Understanding and respecting the cultural norms of a country is crucial, especially when it comes to dressing appropriately. In India, the culture is deeply rooted in traditions, and it’s important to be conscious of these customs to avoid any unintentional disrespect. Here are some cultural considerations to keep in mind:

  • Modesty: Indian culture places a strong emphasis on modesty, particularly for women. Revealing clothing and attire that exposes too much skin may be seen as disrespectful or inappropriate. Showing respect by dressing modestly is greatly appreciated.
  • Traditional Values: India has a diverse population with different religious and traditional values. It’s important to be aware of the cultural sensitivities and dress accordingly, especially when visiting religious sites or participating in religious ceremonies.
  • Avoid Offensive Symbols: Some symbols or prints may carry religious or cultural significance and could unintentionally offend locals. It’s best to avoid clothing with controversial symbols or designs.
  • Rights of Privacy: In some parts of India, public displays of affection are frowned upon. It is advisable to dress and act in a manner that respects personal and cultural boundaries.

By understanding and respecting these cultural considerations, you can ensure a more enjoyable and respectful experience during your time in India.


Clothing Styles in India

India is a diverse country with a rich tapestry of clothing styles that vary from region to region. Traditional Indian clothing offers a unique blend of color, craftsmanship, and intricate designs. While the styles may differ across the country, there are some common garments that you will come across:

  • Saree: The saree is considered the quintessential Indian garment for women. It is a long piece of fabric, usually six to nine yards in length, that is draped around the body. Sarees come in various fabrics, patterns, and designs, making them suitable for different occasions.
  • Salwar Kameez: This is a popular and comfortable outfit for women in India. It consists of a pair of loose-fitting pants (salwar), a tunic-style top (kameez), and a dupatta (scarf) to complete the look.
  • Lehenga Choli: This is a traditional outfit typically worn during weddings and festive occasions. It consists of a long, flowing skirt (lehenga), a fitted blouse (choli), and a dupatta.
  • Kurti: A kurti is a versatile top that can be paired with different bottoms. It is a comfortable and stylish option for everyday wear.

While traditional clothing styles are still widely worn, especially during special occasions or cultural events, there is also a growing trend of Western-style clothing in urban areas. Women in cities like Mumbai and Delhi often embrace a fusion of traditional and modern fashion, blending Western-style tops with traditional bottoms or vice versa.


It’s important to note that the choice to wear traditional Indian clothing is entirely up to you. When visiting India, you are not expected to dress in traditional attire unless attending specific cultural events or ceremonies. However, incorporating elements of Indian fashion into your wardrobe can be a fun and respectful way to immerse yourself in the local culture.


Weather and Climate

India experiences a diverse range of climates due to its vast size and varied geography. It’s important to consider the weather conditions of the specific region you plan to visit when packing your clothing. Here’s an overview of the different climatic zones in India:

  • Tropical Region: The southernmost parts of India, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, have a tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. Lightweight and breathable fabrics are essential in these regions to stay cool and comfortable.
  • Temperate Region: Northern India experiences a temperate climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Layering your clothing is important in these regions to adjust to the fluctuating temperatures. Light sweaters or shawls are useful during cooler evenings.
  • Desert Region: The Thar Desert in Rajasthan has extremely hot summers and chilly winters. Loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibers is ideal to cope with the high temperatures. A hat or scarf to protect from the sun is also recommended.
  • Himalayan Region: The Himalayan region in northern India experiences cold and snowy winters. If you plan to visit areas such as Ladakh or Shimla, warm clothing including heavy jackets, sweaters, and boots are necessary to stay warm.

It’s worth noting that even within a specific region, there may be microclimates that can affect the weather. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast for your specific destination before packing.


Lastly, India observes three main seasons:

  • Summer: Summer in India lasts from March to June, with scorching temperatures in many parts of the country. Light and breathable fabrics like cotton and linen are recommended to stay cool.
  • Monsoon: The monsoon season typically starts in June and lasts until September. During this time, heavy rainfall is common, so waterproof clothing and shoes are essential. Umbrellas or raincoats can also come in handy.
  • Winter: Winter in India is from October to February and can vary in intensity depending on the region. A combination of warm layers, such as sweaters, jackets, and scarves, will keep you cozy during the cooler months.

By considering the weather and climate of your destination, you can pack clothing that will keep you comfortable throughout your trip.


Clothing Essentials for Women

When traveling to India, it’s important to pack clothing that is both culturally appropriate and suitable for the weather conditions. Here are some essential items to include in your wardrobe:

  • Lightweight Tops: Pack a mix of short-sleeved and long-sleeved tops made from breathable fabrics like cotton. Opt for loose-fitting styles that provide comfort and modest coverage.
  • Long Bottoms: Carry a selection of comfortable and modest pants, such as loose trousers or lightweight leggings. These will protect your legs from the sun and insect bites.
  • Midi or Maxi Dresses: Midi or maxi dresses made from lightweight materials are ideal for hot and humid weather. Choose styles that are loose-fitting and cover your shoulders and knees.
  • Scarf or Shawl: Bringing a scarf or shawl is a versatile accessory that can provide extra coverage if needed, protect you from the sun, or keep you warm in cooler areas.
  • Comfortable Footwear: Opt for closed-toe shoes or sandals that are comfortable for walking. Avoid high heels or shoes that are difficult to navigate on uneven terrain.
  • Undergarments: Pack sufficient undergarments suitable for the climate, including bras and underwear made from breathable fabrics.
  • Swimwear: If you plan to visit coastal areas or stay at hotels with swimming pools, pack swimwear. However, be mindful of local customs and only wear swimwear in appropriate areas.

Remember to pack according to the cultural considerations we discussed earlier, ensuring your clothing choices align with modesty and respect for local traditions. It’s also a good idea to pack a small bag for laundry or bring travel-sized detergent to wash your clothes if needed.


By packing these clothing essentials, you’ll be prepared for various weather conditions and cultural experiences during your trip to India.


Tops and Blouses

When selecting tops and blouses for your trip to India, it’s important to choose styles that are modest yet comfortable in the warm and humid climate. Here are some recommendations for tops that are suitable for various occasions:

  • Kurtas: Kurtas are loose-fitting, tunic-style tops that can be paired with pants or leggings. They come in a variety of prints, colors, and fabrics, making them versatile for both casual and more formal occasions.
  • Cotton Shirts: Lightweight cotton shirts with short or long sleeves are perfect for everyday wear. Opt for breathable fabrics and loose-fitting styles to stay comfortable in the heat.
  • Blouses with High Necklines: Blouses with higher necklines provide modest coverage while still allowing you to stay cool. Look for styles with interesting neck detailing or embroidery to add a touch of elegance to your outfit.
  • Ponchos or Kaftans: Ponchos and kaftans are loose, flowy tops that are perfect for the beach or relaxed outings. They provide coverage while keeping you cool and comfortable in hot weather.
  • Button-Down Shirts: Lightweight button-down shirts in breathable fabrics like linen or cotton are versatile and can be dressed up or down. They are ideal for more formal occasions or when you want a slightly more polished look.

When selecting colors and patterns, it’s generally best to opt for lighter shades and prints that reflect the vibrant spirit of India. Avoid excessively revealing tops, low-cut necklines, or tops made from sheer materials to ensure your attire aligns with cultural norms.


Remember to consider the practicality of the tops you choose. Wrinkle-resistant fabrics are helpful for easy packing, and quick-drying materials are beneficial during the monsoon season or for washing and drying your clothes on the go.


By packing a variety of tops and blouses that are modest, comfortable, and suitable for different occasions, you’ll be well-prepared to explore the beauty of India in style.



Choosing the right bottoms for your trip to India is important for both comfort and cultural appropriateness. Here are some recommendations for bottoms that are suitable for various activities and locations:

  • Loose Trousers: Lightweight and loose-fitting trousers made from breathable fabrics are a practical choice for exploring India. They provide modest coverage while allowing air circulation to keep you cool.
  • Palazzo Pants: Palazzo pants are wide-legged trousers that offer comfort and style. They are perfect for both casual and semi-formal occasions and can be paired with a variety of tops.
  • Long Skirts: Maxi skirts or ankle-length skirts made from lightweight fabrics are a popular choice for women in India. Floral prints or vibrant patterns add a touch of color and elegance to your ensemble.
  • Leggings: Lightweight leggings are versatile and can be worn with tunics, kurtas, or long tops. Opt for high-quality leggings made from breathable and stretchy materials for optimal comfort.
  • Denim Jeans: While India’s climate can be hot and humid, jeans can still be a suitable option, especially during the cooler months or in air-conditioned environments. Choose lightweight denim and opt for looser or straight-leg styles for better breathability.

It’s important to note that shorter skirts or shorts may not be culturally appropriate in many parts of India, particularly in more traditional or religious settings. To respect local customs and to avoid unwanted attention, it’s best to stick with longer bottoms that provide adequate coverage.


When selecting colors and prints, consider opting for versatile neutral tones like black, navy, or beige, as they can easily be paired with different tops. However, don’t be afraid to add some pops of color or incorporate traditional Indian prints and patterns into your wardrobe to embrace the local aesthetic.


By including a mix of comfortable and culturally appropriate bottoms in your packing list, you’ll be ready to explore India’s diverse landscapes and immerse yourself in the local culture with ease.


Dresses and Skirts

Dresses and skirts offer a versatile and feminine option for women traveling to India. They provide comfort, breathability, and a touch of elegance to your ensemble. Here are some recommendations for dresses and skirts to include in your packing list:

  • Midi Dresses: Midi-length dresses that fall below the knee are a popular choice in India. Opt for lightweight fabrics like cotton or linen, and choose loose-fitting styles for better airflow in the warm climate.
  • Maxi Dresses: Maxi dresses that graze the ankles are a great choice, especially for more formal or festive occasions. Look for dresses with interesting necklines, prints, or embroidery to add visual interest to your outfit.
  • Wrap Dresses: Wrap dresses are flattering and comfortable, making them a versatile option for various occasions. They can be adjusted for a custom fit and are easy to dress up or down depending on the accessories you pair them with.
  • A-Line Skirts: A-line skirts in flowing fabrics are a classic choice for a feminine and modest look. Opt for skirts that fall below the knee for better coverage, and choose vibrant patterns or colors to embrace the vibrancy of Indian fashion.
  • Lehengas: If you’re attending a wedding or a special event in India, consider packing a lehenga. This traditional outfit consists of a long, embroidered skirt paired with a matching blouse and a dupatta (scarf). Lehengas are glamorous and perfect for showcasing the rich Indian culture.

When selecting dresses and skirts, it’s important to consider the specific location and occasion. For example, if you’re visiting religious sites or rural areas, it’s best to opt for more modest styles with higher necklines and longer hemlines.


Pair your dresses and skirts with comfortable footwear, such as sandals or flats, to ensure ease of movement during your explorations. Don’t forget to bring a lightweight cardigan or shrug to throw on if you encounter cooler temperatures or have a need for extra coverage.


By incorporating dresses and skirts into your packing list, you’ll have stylish and versatile options for exploring India while adhering to cultural norms and staying comfortable in the diverse climate.


Scarves and Shawls

Scarves and shawls are essential accessories for women traveling to India. They not only add a stylish touch to your outfit but also serve practical purposes such as providing additional coverage, protecting against the sun’s rays, and keeping you warm in cooler evenings. Here’s why you should pack scarves and shawls for your trip:

  • Versatile: Scarves and shawls can be worn in various ways, allowing you to experiment with different styles and looks. Draped over the shoulders, wrapped around the neck, or used as head coverings, they add a touch of elegance and can transform a simple outfit.
  • Cultural Respect: In India, scarves and shawls are commonly worn by women, especially in more conservative regions. By incorporating them into your attire, you show respect for local customs and traditions.
  • Protection from the Sun: India’s tropical climate can result in strong sun exposure. A lightweight scarf or shawl can provide shade for your face and neck, helping to prevent sunburn and keep you cool.
  • Additional Warmth: In cooler regions or during winter months, a scarf or shawl can be a valuable item to keep you warm. Opt for thicker materials like wool or cashmere for added insulation.
  • Travel-Friendly: Scarves and shawls are lightweight, foldable, and easy to pack. They take up minimal space in your luggage and can be a great addition to your travel wardrobe.

When choosing scarves and shawls, consider opting for fabrics like silk or cotton for their breathability and comfort. Additionally, look for scarves with intricate patterns, vibrant colors, or traditional prints to embrace the Indian aesthetic.


Not only can scarves and shawls be worn with dresses and tops, but they can also be used as a cover-up when visiting religious sites or participating in cultural events. They can provide the necessary modesty and respect while allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the local customs.


Whether you use them for fashion or functionality, scarves and shawls are versatile accessories that can enhance your travel experience in India.



Choosing the right footwear is essential when traveling to India. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking and exploring various terrains, so it’s important to prioritize comfort, durability, and practicality. Here are some recommendations for footwear options to consider for your trip:

  • Comfortable Sandals: Opt for comfortable sandals with good arch support for everyday wear. Look for sandals made from breathable materials like leather or fabric to keep your feet cool in the warm climate.
  • Walking Shoes: Being a pedestrian-friendly country, India often requires a lot of walking. Pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes with sturdy soles and cushioning to provide support and comfort during long walks.
  • Slip-On Shoes: Slip-on shoes are convenient when you need to take off your shoes frequently, such as when visiting temples or entering people’s homes. They are easy to remove and put back on, saving you time and hassle.
  • Closed-Toe Shoes: In more rural or adventurous areas, closed-toe shoes like sneakers or hiking shoes are recommended, especially when exploring uneven terrains or trekking in national parks. These shoes provide protection for your feet against potential hazards.
  • Flip-Flops or Waterproof Sandals: If you’re planning to visit coastal areas or during the monsoon season, it’s a good idea to pack flip-flops or waterproof sandals. They are perfect for beach walks or when encountering wet surfaces.

When selecting footwear, it’s crucial to prioritize comfortable and well-fitting options. Break in your shoes before your trip to avoid discomfort or blisters while walking long distances. Consider the climate and terrain of the specific regions you’ll be visiting to ensure your footwear can withstand the conditions.


Lastly, remember to remove your shoes when entering places of worship or someone’s home as a sign of respect for local customs and traditions.


By packing the appropriate footwear for your trip to India, you’ll be able to explore the country with comfort and confidence.



Accessorizing can enhance your style and add personal flair to your outfits while traveling in India. From statement jewelry to functional accessories, here are some recommendations to consider when packing for your trip:

  • Jewelry: India is known for its beautiful and intricate jewelry. Consider packing some statement pieces such as earrings, necklaces, or bangles to add a touch of elegance to your outfits. Opt for pieces that complement your clothing and reflect the vibrant culture.
  • Hats or Caps: Protecting yourself from the sun is crucial in India’s warm climate. Packing a wide-brimmed hat or a stylish cap can shield your face from the sun’s rays and keep you cool.
  • Sunglasses: Don’t forget to pack a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright sunlight. Choose a pair that provides UV protection and suits your personal style.
  • Bags: Opt for a practical and secure bag to carry your essentials while exploring. A crossbody bag or a small backpack is ideal for keeping your belongings safe and easily accessible.
  • Scarves and Shawls: We already discussed scarves and shawls as versatile accessories, but they deserve another mention. Aside from their practical uses, they can also be worn as fashion accessories to add color, pattern, and texture to your outfits.
  • Belts: A stylish belt can cinch your waist and elevate your outfit. Consider packing a belt that can be worn with dresses, skirts, or loose-fitting tops to add definition to your silhouette.

When selecting accessories, choose pieces that resonate with your style and enhance your overall look. Having a few versatile accessories can help you create different outfits and easily transition from day to evening wear.


Additionally, don’t forget to pack travel-sized toiletries, a reusable water bottle, and a travel adapter for your electronic devices to stay prepared and organized during your trip.


By packing the right accessories, you can express your personal style while embracing the vibrancy and cultural richness of India.


Fabrics to Avoid

When traveling to India, it’s important to be mindful of the fabrics you choose for your clothing, as some may not be suitable for the weather or cultural norms. Here are some fabrics to avoid when packing for your trip:

  • Synthetic Fabrics: Fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic tend to trap heat and moisture, making them uncomfortable in India’s hot and humid climate. They aren’t as breathable as natural fibers and can cause excessive sweating.
  • Heavy Wool: While wool is excellent for providing warmth, it’s not ideal for India’s tropical and subtropical regions. Heavy wool garments can trap heat and make you feel overly warm and uncomfortable.
  • Sheer or Transparent Fabrics: India is a conservative country, and wearing sheer or transparent fabrics that reveal too much skin may be considered inappropriate in many places. It’s best to opt for fabrics that provide adequate coverage.
  • Thick Denim: While denim can be a suitable fabric for certain occasions, thick or heavy denim can be uncomfortable in India’s warm climate. Opt for lightweight or stretchy denim if you choose to bring jeans.

Instead, prioritize fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking. Natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk are excellent choices as they allow your skin to breathe and provide comfort in the heat. These fabrics also offer a great opportunity to embrace the traditional Indian textiles and craftsmanship.


When selecting your clothing, consider the weight and thickness of the fabric. Light and flowy fabrics will keep you cool, while still maintaining modesty and cultural respect.


By avoiding fabrics that may be uncomfortable or inappropriate, you can ensure a more enjoyable and respectful experience as you explore India’s vibrant culture and diverse landscapes.


Additional Tips for Dressing in India

When visiting India, dressing appropriately is not only a matter of comfort but also a way to show respect for the local culture. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when it comes to dressing in India:

  • Observe Locals: Take cues from the locals in terms of clothing style and modesty. Pay attention to what people around you are wearing, especially in more conservative or religious areas, and adjust your outfit accordingly.
  • Layering: India’s climates can vary significantly, so it’s a good idea to pack clothing that can be layered. Layering allows you to adapt to different temperatures and provides more versatility with your outfits.
  • Covering Shoulders and Knees: In many parts of India, it’s considered respectful to cover your shoulders and knees. Opt for tops that have sleeves and choose bottoms that fall below the knee to adhere to cultural norms.
  • Carry a Scarf or Shawl: Having a scarf or shawl with you is not only useful for extra modesty, but it can also come in handy as a cover-up for temples or to protect against the sun.
  • Respect Religious Sites: When visiting temples, mosques, or other religious sites, it’s important to dress respectfully. This typically means covering your shoulders and knees and removing your shoes before entering.
  • Be Mindful of Cultural Events: If you plan to attend cultural events or festivals, consider wearing traditional Indian attire as a sign of respect and to fully immerse yourself in the local culture.
  • Comfortable and Breathable Fabrics: Choose fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. Natural fibers like cotton and linen will help you stay cool and are more suitable for India’s climate.
  • Respect Personal Space: Being conscious of personal space is important in any culture. Avoid wearing heavy perfumes or overwhelming scents that could intrude on someone’s personal space.
  • Adapt to Local Fashion: While it’s not necessary to completely adopt the local fashion, incorporating elements of Indian fashion into your outfits can be a wonderful way to embrace the local culture and customs.

Remember, dressing respectfully and modestly not only shows respect for the local culture but also allows you to feel more comfortable and confident as you explore all that India has to offer.



When packing for your trip to India, it’s essential to consider the cultural norms, weather conditions, and practicality of your clothing choices. Dressing modestly and respectfully not only shows appreciation for the local culture but also ensures a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind:


First and foremost, respect the cultural considerations of the country. India values modesty and traditional values, so opt for clothing that provides adequate coverage and avoids offensive symbols or designs. Pay attention to what locals are wearing and adjust your outfits accordingly.


Consider the weather and climate of the regions you’ll be visiting. India experiences diverse climates, so pack a mix of lightweight, breathable fabrics for the tropical regions, and layer up for cooler areas or the winter season.


Choose clothing essentials such as tops, bottoms, dresses, and skirts made from comfortable and culturally appropriate fabrics. Natural fibers like cotton and linen are breathable options, while avoiding synthetic fabrics and heavy wools is advisable.


Accessorize thoughtfully by packing scarves, shawls, and jewelry that add a touch of elegance to your outfits while considering practicality and cultural norms. Additionally, choose comfortable and suitable footwear for long walks and varying terrains.


Lastly, be mindful of personal space, respect religious sites, and adapt to local fashion when appropriate. Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant colors, patterns, and customs of India.


By following these guidelines, you’ll not only dress appropriately for your trip to India but also showcase respect for the local culture and traditions. Remember, your clothing choices not only reflect your style but also play a role in creating a positive and culturally sensitive travel experience.