I don’t know about you but I find packing a massive challenge! Somehow I can justify taking every single item I own plus more. Fitting everything in to my bag and weighing it is another story. It’s always at this moment that I realise I’m being completely ridiculous and leave about three quarters of it behind. I’m slowly learning to avoid this tedious process, and the best way to do that is with a comprehensive list.
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The important thing when choosing clothes to take travelling is that you can wear any top with any bottom. To make this easy I picked different colours in similar tones and kept all my tops plain then my pants and skirt patterned. This made it so easy to pull any item out of my bag and not waste time thinking about dressing myself. If you’re not too bothered about fashion and labels, I recommend taking inexpensive clothes which you don’t mind getting dirty and can just leave in the hotel on your last day. This was the cleaners can take them home if they want otherwise can dispose of them if they’re not wanted. Better yet, donate the clothes to a local charity, you’re doing a good deed and making room in your bag to bring home souvenirs.
Inexpensive 100% cotton t-shirts in burgundy, coral, black, navy and blue (but choose whatever colours suit you best). Make sure you go for 100% cotton and no polyester otherwise you’ll get hot very quickly. The only downside is that cotton can take longer to dry than synthetics, but in India you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. To be culturally appropriate, the tops need to cover your shoulders and cleavage.
1x Long sleeve shirt
A light blue cotton chambray shirt will do the trick – this looked good over everything and was perfect for those cooler nights.
1x Skirt or maxi dress
Patterned or plain cotton skirt with a zip (elastic waist is bulky and weighty). Make sure it covers your knees but not so long that it reaches the floor, otherwise it will be filthy in no time. Wrap around skirts are also a great option.
2x Loose pants
Two pairs of loose rayon pants in different colours. Just be mindful that rayon shrinks after the first wash so they can go from being baggy to tight very quickly. If you can, opt for the elastic around the ankles as this stops your pants from touching the floor when you go to the bathroom (big bonus at random toilet stops in the middle of nowhere).
Lightweight cotton scarf for covering your face to protect from dust and not so nice odors, also good for covering up in temples.
10+ pairs of underwear
I brought 9 pairs but should’ve brought more, they take up no space at all. A girl I met brought 40 pairs for 3 weeks so she didn’t have to wash any and just threw them out every day – maybe don’t do that. Also, make sure they’re comfortable and fast drying.
One black and one white (although it wont stay white for long). Good to alternate when one needs washing or airing out.
The type you take depends on the activities you’ll be doing. If you go to a mosquito infested area a good thick pair of hiking socks are great for protection at night, otherwise just take sports socks (anklets) for your sneakers.
A singlet and cotton shorts.
Jumper and waterproof jacket
A lightweight one of each will do – although the desert can get quite cold at night. Consider bringing a heavier weight jumper depending on where you’re traveling and the time of year.
Hat (wide brimmed) – I didn’t take one and decided to buy there, all I could find was an ugly fedora which I was stuck with the whole trip.
Sneakers – ones you can walk all day in and that breathe.
Thongs – for showers and visiting temples.
Sandals – A dressy, comfortable leather pair that you don’t mind getting ruined. Make sure the buckle is easy to do up to make your life easier at temples.
Toiletry bag with handle
Toothbrush with cover
Lip balm with SPF
Cotton ear buds
Tissues – little packets are always convenient
Hair brush (small fold up comb)
Hair oil (or whatever you use to combat humidity!)
Contact wearers: Saline, eye drops, contacts and spares, glasses
Pads, tampons or diva cup
Shampoo – I usually double this as soap so I don’t have to deal with a messy soap bar
Conditioner – leave in is a good option as the showers can be unreliable
Hair ties/bobby pins
Medicines – visit your doctor before you go to get necessary vaccinations as well as prescriptions for food poisoning, gastro, malaria (in certain areas) and anything else they recommend. You can take the prescription overseas and buy medicine there if needed, I bought everything before I left as a “just in case”. It costs more if you don’t need it, but it saves you having to find a chemist, explaining what you need and risking not being given the correct medication when you’re really sick. It’s so important to put your health first.
Other health: antihistamines, dehydration tablets, insect bite cream, paracetamol, ibuprofen, birth control, period pain medication, your personal medications.
Bug repellent – especially in the south of India
Dirty laundry bag
Toilet paper – toilet paper isn’t available in a lot of restrooms, I keep a roll of this in my day bag at all times. When I initially pack my bag I fill all my left over space with toilet paper, it will definitely get used and that is space to pack souvenirs in on your way home.
Wet ones and hand sanitiser
Shewee – I’ve personally never used one of these, but it would’ve come in handy many times!
Tool kit: Swiss army knife (put in your checked luggage), safety pins, zip lock bags, small roll of duct tape – extremely useful for fixing bags, taping up shoes as a quick fix and even taping my scarf to the shower window so the whole street didn’t get a show.
Padlocks for my day bag and also and extendable lock which I use on sleeper trains. I never bother to lock my big pack, I don’t keep anything valuable in it, but if you’re concerned, go for it.
Travel clothes line and a small packet of laundry liquid
Mesh laundry bags – I use different sized mesh bags as compartments within my pack. They’re also a great way to condense your clothing without using those vacuum bags which are such a pain. I pick these up from Daiso (can also find at Kmart, Target etc)
Eye mask and ear plugs – for obvious reasons. I bought the ear plugs that are connected to each other as I have a habit of losing them in my sleep (and you don’t want to use one once it’s been on a dirty floor!)
Sleeping sheet – great for sleeper trains and not so sparkling clean hotels
First aid kit – including band aids, antiseptic cream, tweezers, nail clippers
Garbage bags – as I have a hiking backpack (accessible from the top and bottom), if I know it’s going to rain I line my bag with a couple of garbage bags and pack everything inside. Very useful if you’re bag is going to be thrown on top of a bus, or if you’ll go hiking in wetter areas
Carabiner – which I attach to the outside of my pack – great for hooking on wet shoes, extra bags full of snacks or souvenirs
Pens, small note pad – for writing down recommendations for hotels, restaurants etc.
Quick dry microfiber towel
Day pack/carry on bag
Camera and accessories: charger, memory cards, case, tripod, spare batteries
Music and compact headphones
Mobile phone, charger and power bank
IPad or tablet – this isn’t necessary but I take my iPad mini with me everywhere to make booking accommodation and doing research much easier. It’s an older model so wouldn’t be too upset if it got lost or stolen.
Power adapters – I made sure I bought one with a plug inlet and USB inlets so I could charge my phone and camera at the same time
Visa – make sure this is organised well in advance to arriving
Passport – with at least 6 months left before expiring
ID, credit/debit cards – talk to your bank before leaving about fees and compatibility
Cash – I exchanged about AUD$50 before leaving (try and keep this to a minimum as you don’t get the best rate) and took the rest out at ATM’s in AUD$200 increments to save on paying a withdrawal fee every time. I then distributed it amongst my belongings. I found $200 was enough to get me through a couple of weeks (not including accommodation) but wasn’t too much that I’d be devastated if it was stolen.
Make up – personal preference. I brought foundation and mascara for nights out. It’s best to keep make up to a minimum to avoid getting unwanted attention
Bathers (unless you’re going somewhere like Goa. I had no need for these in Rajasthan unless where you’re staying has a pool)
Sports bra (I brought one for a camel trek, didn’t need it and never wore it again)
Jewellery – don’t bring anything valuable. Plus you can buy so much beautiful jewellery there
Jeans – hot, heavy and dry slowly
Is there anything I missed? What are your essentials for travelling to India? Please leave a comment below.
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