The Packing List you Need for India

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Clothes, shoes, electronics, medicine…packing for a foreign country can be overwhelming, especially when your destination is one that’s culture is vastly different from your own. Traveling to India and not sure what to include in your luggage? Make sure you don’t leave without going through this list of essentials.

Backpack vs. Suitcase

Depending on what type of traveler you are, you may prefer a suitcase over a travel backpack as it can be easier to transport in some cases and less frustrating to pack. However, if you’re planning on spending a few weeks or more in India, backpacks are a better option as you never know what type of terrain you’ll need to traverse in order to reach your accommodation. Backpacks are also way easier to manage when boarding a crowded train. Busy roads packed with motorbikes, tuk tuks, and cows are no place for a rolling suitcase. Invest in a backpack (Osprey is a great brand to consider and REI Outlet sells their packs at discounted prices) and you’ll have one less thing to stress about when hopping from place to place.

Photo by J A N U P R A S A D on Unsplash

Water purification device/tablets

In a country such as India, it’s best to create the least amount of waste possible. That means avoiding purchasing plastic water bottles when you want to stay hydrated. Instead, pack a reusable bottle and invest in a SteriPen, or purchase enough water purification tablets to last your trip. A SteriPen uses UV rays to safely sterilize up to 32 fl. oz. of water in 90 seconds. This means you can fill your bottle anywhere (even from a stream in the Himalayas) and it will be safe to drink immediately. Water purification tablets include either chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or iodine. These are a cheaper option for water sterilization, although after the tablets have dissolved the water must sit for at least 30 minutes before it is safe to drink. SteriPens and purification tablets can be found on Amazon or at your local outdoor gear store.

Medications

Consult your doctor about what vaccinations you’ll need before traveling to India to prevent illnesses like hepatitis A and typhoid. Some diseases, such as malaria, can be prevented by taking prescription medication. There are some medications which need to be taken a certain number of days or weeks before you start traveling and others that must be taken daily for the entirety of your trip. Decide with your doctor which medications are best for you and when you need to be taking them.
To further prevent ‘Delhi belly’ or an illness of similar nature, bring along some echinacea pills and activated charcoal tablets. Echinacea is a plant that, when ingested, helps to strengthen the immune system and fight infections. Activated charcoal helps rid the body of toxins and can be taken if you feel a stomach bug coming on or have already gotten sick. 
Pack all of your medications into a small, compact travel bag to keep track of and avoid losing them.

Toiletries

It’s easy to find essentials like shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste when you’re in a large town or city in India, so don’t worry about packing enough to last your entire trip. However, if you’re avoiding large cities and staying somewhere more remote, make sure you pack some travel sized bottles beforehand. Make sure you bring along some of your favorite sunscreen as the sun in India can be very strong!

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

Clothing and Shoes

This is a big one. Most clothes for traveling around India can be purchased once you arrive in the country. Extremely affordable clothing can be bought from local shops. If you have the time, purchasing fabric at a market and having kurtas and trousers tailored specially for you is very inexpensive. The benefit to wearing these types of clothes as opposed to tank tops, shorts, and sundresses is that you’ll be taken more seriously as a western tourist, which can go a long way when bargaining, avoiding scams, and entering some religious spaces. Scarves to cover your shoulders when visiting mosques and temples can also be purchased when you arrive. For the first few days of your trip though, before you have time or energy to venture out for some shopping, all you need are a few lightweight shirts and long pants. These can be leggings, jeans (though not in the heat), or flowy cotton trousers. Long skirts are also okay, but make sure they fall past your knees. If you are traveling to a cooler state in the north, or during a winter month in which even the Delhi air can feel a bit chilly at night, a single pullover sweater and socks will suffice.
In regard to shoes, keep it simple, and definitely don’t get fancy. Nice shoes are bound to get dirty. Chacos or Tevas are perfect options because of their durability and easiness to clean. If these aren’t your style, you’ll be fine with a pair of sandals. You may also like to pack a pair of lightweight and breathable sneakers.

A few books or a Kindle

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to save on transportation, you’ll no doubt have to keep yourself occupied during long train and bus journeys. A couple of books should do the trick in these situations, but be mindful as books tend to be heavier items and will weigh down your pack. Alternatively, you can ditch the hard copies and instead bring along something like a Kindle or Amazon Fire for an endless amount of books right at your fingertips.
Something else to consider for long journeys and downtime is a journal. Traveling in India is often hectic but beautiful. You’ll have a lot of experiences and get to visit incredible places that you won’t want to forget. Writing about your day-to-day adventures is something you’ll be glad you did when you want to reminisce and look back on your trip.

Photo by Tiago Rosado on Unsplash

Some extras

  • Purchase a power adapter before traveling so you’re not scrambling around the airport trying to find one when you arrive.
  • Hand sanitizer is important to carry around to avoid getting sick, and also to ensure cleanliness after using a non-western toilet.
  • Earplugs and melatonin may be helpful to have on long train rides and while staying in loud, busy cities. 
  • Females, consider which feminine hygiene products you’ll want to use while traveling. Tampons aren’t sold everywhere in India so you may want to bring your own if you prefer them over pads. Menstrual cups are great alternatives and solve the issue of finding a place to dispose of your products.

Cover Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

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