Packing for India 101 – Tips from an expert


Shopping for fabrics in Old Delhi - Packing India Tips





Packing India Tips: I travel a lot and when I’m gone it’s for weeks at a time. Over the years, I’ve learned that people pack way more than they need and that we’re more likely to overpack for a short trip than for a long one. We also don’t always consider a very important question as we struggle to decide on which pants, which shoes, which lipstick.

Ask yourself this question: Am I going to shop?

Packing light- Packing India Tips

If you are, start taking stuff out of your suitcase right away. Even if you’re going with that mindset of ‘How much can I really buy?” remember, if you’re an inveterate shopper like I am, your radar will go on and you will find things you love.

Last year, I made that mistake on my first trip to India. I imagined a land full of tacky souvenirs and pashmina shops, and said to myself- “I can fit a few scarves into my suitcase, no problem. A few bags of spices, a t-shirt for my grandson.”

Turns out, India is a shopper’s paradise. My suitcase came home much heavier.

Shopping colorful fabrics in old Delhi - Packing India TipsShopping colorful dresses in old Delhi - Packing India TipsOf course, you can opt to skip the shopping, but in a country like India, where you’re bound to be taken in by the beautiful cotton clothes and comfortable styles, take it from me- pack less, buy more. You’re supporting the local economy, especially if you choose to by from co-ops, and you’ll find the cotton (even organic cotton) to be very affordable.

Women dress modestly in India, so keep legs and arms covered. Really, it’s worth hitting Anohki or Fabindia stores for a few kurti (tunics)- bring your own leggings and you’re set.

Shopping colorful souvenirs in old Delhi - Packing India TipsThe spice market in old Delhi - Packing India TipsHere are my non-clothing essentials

  • Hand sanitizer – gel, wipes, spray. India is a crowded place, and unfortunately, full of litter. You never know what you’ll be touching or stepping in.
  • Keep kleenex or toilet paper with you as well.
  • A good quality water bottle. You can get bottled water but it’s better to have your own.
  • A backpack. It’s much more comfortable than a purse and is the perfect place to put all your purchases! Don’t keep your money or important documents in it, though.
  • You can opt for a money belt, but I keep important things very close to my body, usually zipped up or stashed in some part of my clothing.
  • Tea tree and lavender essential oils. Not only are they relaxing, but they’re antibacterial, antifungal…you know the drill. I sprinkle it on my sheets at night to ward off insects.
  • Speaking of insects: Insect repellent lotion with at least 30% DEET. It’s not always necessary because malaria and dengue threats are related to temperature and region, but better safe than sorry. It also keeps off ticks and fleas, which are always around.
  • Plastic bags, of the ziploc bags and grocery store varieties. Useful for practically everything. I also bring along a couple of reusuable bags as well. These are easy to stash into suitcase corners.
  • Adapters for all your electronic devices, some of which are needed, some of which can stay home. Ipods and good headphones- essential. Laptop computers- try to leave it behind, a tablet is better. Camera- well, I am a photographer so I always carry my DSLR, but I found that lugging around extra equipment is tough in India. Smaller cameras are easier to manage and in crowded bazaars, a good cell phone camera can do wonders.
  • A washcloth or dish towel. Quick dry ones are the best.
  • Laundry soap. You can easily make your own that won’t leave residue on the clothes, which you will be hanging to dry. You will be washing regularly, almost every night- it’s a dusty place.
  • Whatever you think you need to combat digestive issues, motion sickness, mild viruses, skin irritations, bladder infections, immune system overload, and general over-stimulation. Go natural if you want but bring the pills too.

Clothing essentials

  • Comfortable pants. Think yoga pants and leggings.
  • Light long-sleeved shirts or t-shirts
  • Easy to wash and quick to dry underwear and bras
  • Enough socks to leave behind. Socks are hard to wash and you don’t want to be lugging dirty ones around.
  • A hat or headscarf. You often have to cover your head in temples and it’s nice to use your own covering. Otherwise, you have to borrow a local one.
  • ONE nice outfit
  • Comfortable closed shoes. You can bring sandals but only for night’s out in restaurants with car service there and back.

Tip: India is the land of pretty scarves – don’t bother bringing your collection.

Check back next week for another Delectable Destinations adventure!

Carol Ketelson is the owner and operator of Delectable Destinations LLC. Dedicated to planning, co-ordinating and curating customized group tours to hand-picked destinations. As an experienced travel planner, Carol’s customized itineraries, specialized tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences create memorable journeys for her small groups of singles, couples, divorced, widowed and solo travelers seeking exceptional trips into the culture and cuisine of destinations around the world. Spring and Fall bookings invite travelers to taste delectable local cuisine, culturally rich traditions and mesmerizing sights. For over 10 years, Carol’s tours have captured the true essence of Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Spain, Ireland and India.

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