How to Dress for India

If you are travelling to India for the first time ever, it is likely that you have a hundred questions about what to wear, and who to ask. With a country as vast and diverse as India, it’s no wonder that the same rules don’t apply everywhere, all the time. What you wear in the South, in the month of May would be entirely different from the Northeast in December. So if you’re wondering how to dress for India, look no further.

How to Dress for Different Regions

Remember, that different parts of India have different cultural norms. Not to mention, terrain and weather. So when you plan your trip, decide which parts of India you wish to visit. Metropolitan cities like Mumbai are certainly a good place to start, where the clothing can include jeans or loose pants and a light cotton shirt. You’ll find Mumbai or New Delhi to be modern and bustling with international trends, so you won’t feel out of place. But as you go further into the rural areas, the attire becomes more traditional and modest. And if you are travelling up North, it’ll be colder and dryer, so you should bundle up with a jacket and scarf.

Seasonal Clothing Requirements

The time of the year you decide to visit is paramount to consider how to dress for India. If you are going during winter, especially near the mountains, a jacket is definitely a must-have. Don’t be fooled by the sunny brochures. India can get very cold around Christmas. Fleece jackets are a good bet. But if it’s summer you’re looking at, you want to carry breathable, lightweight shirts, dresses or pants and shorts. Cotton is best for the summer heat in India. If you are travelling to a place like Goa, you can relax and walk around in shorts, and wear swimsuits to the beach. But the season to watch out for is the monsoon. It’ll be wet, soggy and humid for the most part. So you’ll need clothes that dry quickly, a pair of sturdy anti-slip shoes, less-maintenance outfits and a raincoat.

Pack for the Weather

Typically, India experiences a tropical mix of rainy, hot and humid, and cold and dry weather. Since it is such a large country, with weather changes per region, be sure to check what it’s going to be like before you travel. Some monsoons can be exceptionally heavier than others and some hilly regions can turn out to be warm. A quick weather forecast around your travel dates will help you decide which clothes and accessories to pack. In any case, pack a hat, dupatta or scarf, walking shoes, a pair of shades, a light jacket and a good moisturiser, wherever you go.

Blending in Culturally

India is a land of all kinds of festivals, whether they’re religious, food-related, seasonal, musical and even matrimonial! An Indian wedding is a sight to behold. So it’s a good idea to pack for at least one such occasion, should you be invited or inclined to attend! It’s important to wear modest clothing at such events out of respect for the locals, i.e. clothes that cover your body from neck to below the knees. A kurta-churidar set (loose collarless long shirt, with an ankle-length legging) for men and salwar-Kurtis for women should do just fine. But if you really want to dive into it, men can try dhotis (a long unstitched piece of cloth wrapped around legs) in West Bengal or mundu’s (the southern equivalent) in Kerala. And women can try the popular saree (which has different styles of its own depending on the state of visit).

Indian weddings and rituals Mehendi on hands : Credit – pablo-heimplatz

Dressing Tips (Box):

If you want to really blend in,  buy these at a local shop:

  1. Kolhapuri Chappals (slippers)
  2. Dupatta (Lightweight Indian scarf)
  3. Kurtas/Kurtis
  4. Pajama (loose-fitting pants for daily wear)
  5. Chudi’s and jhumka’s (traditional bangles and drop earrings)

It can take more than one trip to truly absorb the different experiences of India. At least you’ll know how to dress and impress the locals! And the memories you create here will last a lifetime. So don’t forget to pack your camera as well!

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