Manyforeign tourists get confused on what to wear in when they travel through India. I understand your plight. Bollywood movies and fashion shows show you how India has evolved with it’s dressing style.
With a rich culture and historical background, you see more people in modest clothing. Since our clothes are colour and come in various forms, you will be wondering what to wear while travelling in India.
In this post, I show you how and what to wear when you travel through India, along with where foreigners should buy Indian clothes to embrace or colourful culture.
- How do Indians dress up
- Is putting on make-up common in India
- How to avoid Creeps and look like a local?
- Religious place dress code for women
- What to wear in India as a male tourist?
- Religious place dress code for men
- What to bring
- What not to bring
- Final Checklist
What kind of clothes do they wear in India?
Unlike you see in Indian soap operas, where artists wear elegant clothes every day, we wear simple yet colourful clothing in everyday life, and we go grand only on festive days.
What do ladies wear in India?
For ages, Indian women have worn sarees, or long skirts paired with blouse+dupatta & salwar kameez. The draping style, fabric and design varies with different state and communities.
It is common in south India to see women wearing Jasmine flowers on their hair. Like any other part of the world, younger generation women stick to denim pants, shorts, and sleeveless tops in cities. Whether it is Saree or modern ones, it is usually modest fashion.
In rural areas, you may find ladies wearing long loose cotton gowns called “Nighties” with a shawl on top of it. This is actually our nightwear and many use it as daywear because it is comfortable.
With around 15% Muslim population, you see women in Burqa or with Hijab on their heads. It doesn’t mean you must cover head to toe – Capris and T-shirts are absolutely fine.
What are the signs of married women in India?
As part of Hindu tradition, many married women wear a toe ring, nuptial chain (Mangal – Sutra: Black beads with gold chain), and finger rings. Many Christian and Muslim married women wear it too. Earrings, nose pins and bangles are common for married-unmarried women both.
Northeastern women’s outfits are similar to Tibetan outfits called “Chupa” – A long gown made of silk/cotton without sleeves and worn with a collared shirt inside. With different communities like Lambani, Siddhi and Kutchi women, the work on dresses and dupattas go exquisite and are most colourful.
Left Pic – Gujarati women in Madurai.
Right Pic- Me, wearing Kalimpong Chupa in Dharamshala
How do Indian men dress up?
Indian men wear boring clothing compared to women. Those regular trousers and shirts are everyday outfits. Traditional attires are Veshti (white cotton fabric wrapped around the waist) in southern states and kurtha Paijama in Northen India.
Sikhs and few communities cover their head with Turban most of the time. Ashrith says that if you can manage Veshti, that airy, loose outfit is the best for the tropical sun. Though many consider it a festive dress, college-going students wear patterned Veshti in hotter states like Kerala & Tamilnadu.
Do Indians wear lots of jewellery?
Yes! We love jewellery, and we have zillions of varieties.
Fashion accessories are famous in most parts of the world. But you get them at the lowest price in India. Metals, clay, and glass jewels are eye-catchy, and we have different styles/designs to complement every dressing style on a budget. Daily wear usually involves artificial (non-gold) accessories. A nice pair of artificial beads Jhumka earrings (the most famous type of earrings) cost 50-300Rs.
Hair Clipper, waist belt, dozens of bangles, chokers, long chains, necklaces, forehead jewellery, armlets – Indian brides are a walking jewellery store. So if you love decking up with accessories, India is the best place for it.
Is putting make-up common in India?
Most Indians are obsessed with the “white skin tone,” as in many other places worldwide. It is common among Indians to measure someone’s beauty based on how fair their skin is. So there is always a rat race among many to look “Fair and Lovely” using cosmetics. South Indians keep the makeup light and subtle. The lipstick colours are neutral to mildly bright.
The eye makeup is kept to a minimum with kajal and eyeliner. Other parts of India, in contrast, like brighter colours that pop. Mumbai, Delhi, and Sikkim are three places where I have seen women wearing bright make-up with lipstick, glamorous eye shadow, and perfectly done contouring. Women selling tea at 4 am at Darjeeling’s tiger hills dress up beautifully as well as they are ready to face Miranda Priestly.
To blend in, you can keep the make-up subtle and light in South India and go solid, strong and bright in the other parts.
How to avoid unwanted attention in India as a tourist?
After travelling in a handful of countries, I have arrived at the Two Laws of Creepiness which apply to most men worldwide.
The law of creepiness 1– As many men claim, “Women in short dresses and skirts distract them” (from what?). If the length of your shorts increases by 4″, their distraction reduces. So the length of your dress/bottom wear is indirectly proportionate to men’s creepiness.
The law of creepiness 2 –Bare shoulders and arms with a bit of visible cleavage are meant to be gawked at. So the closed neck & sleeves length is indirectly proportionate to men’s creepiness.
Left Pic – Shopping at Kutch | Right pic- At Gokarna.
For hundreds of years, Indian women have been wearing conservative clothes. Some Indian men who aren’t used to seeing women in modern clothes may stare at you – a lot.
How can I not look like a tourist in India?
Indian men should get used to seeing women in shorts without lusting after them. This will probably take more than a decade and will be our lifelong battle. As a tourist, you are in India to explore and have new experiences in peace.
I want you to have a “Free from Creeps” experience. Already your appearance, language, accent, and excitement to click photos of poor people, cows, and kids only would have made it clear to the locals that you are a foreigner. So it is best to wear modest yet comfortable, stylish clothing while travelling in India.
What should I wear for a trip to India?
Suggested wear for women travelling in India
Half pants, capris, yoga pants, and long skirts/dresses with short-sleeved waist-length tops are your best friends. Cities like Mumbai are more open to all kinds of western wear. In other cities, we usually only keep our short dresses for pubs and parties.
if you love our Cotton Kurtas, pair them with plain leggings or patterned pants. They are the best for India’s hot summer and most comfortable while travelling by India’s public transport. Avoid anything that is transparent and shows cleavage.
What to wear in India at religious places as a female tourist?
- Hindu & Jain temples – Pants with knee-length tops / Salwar Kameez
- Mosques – Same as above, with a scarf on the head.
- Sikh Gurudwaras – Salwar Kameez with dupatta on the head.
- Buddhist monasteries – Pants and a sleeved top.
- Hiking in the countryside mountains /deserts- Leggings, knee-length shorts with a T-Shirt. Sports tanks & boxers may not be a great idea.
- Beachside – Shorts with sleeveless tops are best. Bikinis are good only for a few famous beaches.
- City strolling – Short dresses/skirts /sleeveless tops- anything that is modest & comfortable.
What should men wear while Travelling in India?
Shorts and T-Shirts are common outfits for Indian men in most cities, though most prefer trousers. Apart from Tank shirts, everything else is fine.
Can I roam shirtless in India?
It isn’t illegal to wander shirtless in India – So you may! But the question arises where and when do you wnat to go shirtless! ON the beaches, at the pools you can walk shirtless. But on hiking trails, inside the cities, hotels it would be odd if you go shirtless even when it is hot!
Dress code for men at religious places in India.
- Buddhist, Hindu & Jain temples – Pants with sleeved shirts. Men may be asked to remove shirts at certain Hindu temples.
- Mosques and Sikh Gurudwaras – Same as above, with a scarf on the head. Most places sell these caps or scarves outside the entrances if you have forgotten one.
- Beachside and Hiking in the countryside mountains /deserts- Track pants, shorts with sleeved shirts. Entering beachside cafes shirtless is restricted at most places.
- City strolling -Comfortable semi-casual clothing
What should I bring to India with me?
These are some necessities particular to travelling in India. At the end of the post, I have a checklist of all you will need while travelling in India, including these special items.
For India, there are three associated plug types, types C, D and M. Power banks, plug and socket converters, and extension cords. Power cuts during summer are common in many Indian cities. So power banks and extension cords to charge multiple gadgets simultaneously are a must.
It is funny how Indians love to listen to music on loudspeakers. You will hear around 4 to 5 Indians playing different music on their phones on trains and buses. They seem to follow all gadget trends but won’t buy earphones. Either get a pair of good earplugs or extra earphones to gift these local DJs playing “Rinkiya Ke Papa.”
Save yourselves from the bloodsuckers. I suggest Odomos cream, which can be found in any Indian pharmacy.
Toilet paper rolls:
Squat toilets or EWC, Indian toilets rarely have toilet papers (Only 3* and above hotels keep paper rolls). It is the Jet Spray we wash the butt with. You can either bring or buy it here in the cities.
What shoes should I wear in India?
SLIP-ON SHOES. The lace-less shoes with soft, thick soles covering your foot completely are a must for Indian streets. These keep your foot free of dust and dirt and are easy to remove as well.
Tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. You have to depend on bottled water. If you don’t want to spend on bottled water, bring Steripen.
Besides my husband and mom, my best travel companion is my Cotton Dupattas. In India, it is one of the most essential.
- Too sunny?Too dusty? Cover your face with it.
- Want to enter a mosque / Gurudwara? Put on the scarf on your head.
- Want to get inside a temple with your knee-length dress? Wrap the dupatta around your waist to make it look like a long dress.
- Going to a shack by the beach? Use the shawl to wrap around your bikini.
What Clothes to bring for your Indian Voyage?
Is it OK to wear shorts in India?
To an extent, in a few cities, it is ok. But may not be fine in rural areas.
- FOR SUMMERS – Anything in cotton, a little loose fit and non-transparent. Knee-length shorts & capris are best. Full/half-sleeve cotton shirts save you from sunburn.
- STRETCHABLE BOTTOM WEARS – In many places, you have to sit on the floor with your legs folded. Make sure your bottom wears allow you to do so.
- WINTERS IN TROPICAL WEATHER – A light shrug or a light jacket with your outfit is enough to warm yourself in the cold evening breeze.
- WINTERWEAR FOR HIMALAYAS If you are a temperate-region traveller and have come to India to experience the Himalayas, bring winter clothes from your country. The winter wears you get in India isn’t good as in the Colder countries.
- RAINY SEASON –Ankle-length or half-pants that save you from getting splashed by the muddy water. Don’t forget an umbrella or a thin raincoat.
Can female tourists wear shorts in India?
Yes! It is common to see Indian woman in shorts and skirts in many state’s capital. So if you are in a capital city and going out for a stroll, don’t be afraid to wear shorts. AVoid it in smaller towns and rural areas.
Is a bikini allowed in India?
It is rare to see Indian women in bikinis on Indian beaches. We usually wear shorts and T-shirts while on Indian beaches but shift to swimsuits or bikinis on foreign land. Only Places like Goa, Varkala, and Gokarna receive plenty of foreign visitors, and it is common to see women in bikinis here.
The sun is great, there are waves, the sand is soft, and the breeze is cool – this makes many foreign tourists in places like Gokarna go nude on the beaches & you may get bad attention from perverts. So, restrict the bikinis to the beachside and wear shorts or skirts with a top on the streets.
What not to bring to India as a traveller?
Overpacking is a syndrome. With the fear of India being unclean and dirty, you may carry unwanted expensive things. Here is the list of things you need not pack while coming to India.
- Don’t buy Indian clothing IN YOUR COUNTRY – IT IS CHEAPER HERE, I BET.
- Don’t bring stilettos, heels, or any fancy shoes. If you’re well-versed in travelling, you already know that your feet need comfort.
- Don’t get tileable shoes /sneakers with lace.– You often have to remove them
- Don’t forget to bring your flowing dresses to India – We got some amazing backdrops for your fashion, too – Pic above: Chettinad.
- Don’t bring sleeping bags unless you plan to stay in forests/deserts alone. You will need it only if you stay in cheap hotels (500-600 Rs/night kind of lodging). Your sleeping bags might help with possible bed bug problems, which can be avoided in more decent hotels.
- Don’t get bags of frozen meat and cup noodles from your country unless you are Neophobic.
- You get tasty, clean, and hygienic food in India for reasonable rates. If you have decided not to touch Indian food, you can easily find various fresh fruits like Mangoes, Papaya and vegetable salads. India is now a common tourist destination; Indians have easily adapted to multinational cuisines in almost all states.
Packing Check list for India
|Passport with Visa approved||Medicines||Appropriate clothing – 3-4 pairs of pants, two pairs of capris, Tunics, shrugs|
|Backpack / Suitcase||Mosquito repellent cream||Scarfs/caps|
|A small amount of hard cash for currency exchange.||Steripen||Beachwear/bikinis|
|Money Belt||Toilet paper rolls ( you can buy them here)||Undergarments and socks|
|Travel Insurance||30/40 SPF Sunscreen and Moisturiser||Anti-Thigh Chaffing shorts and Anti fungal powder|
|Socket plug converter||Toiletries – shampoos, soaps, facewash and dental kit||Winter wear (if needed)|
|Power banks||Sanitary pads/ tampons||Comfortable Slip-on shoes + Flipflop|
|Extension Chords||Wet wipes and hand sanitiser||Thin blankets for Train and long bus journeys|
|Ear Phones, phones and cameras with their chargers||Cosmetics and fashion accessories||Face Mask for the cities like Delhi and Kanpur|
|Ear Plugs||Sunglasses||Cable locks for luggage in Train|
Have we cleared your confusion on What to wear in India as a tourist? Let us know in the comment section below.
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