What you should wear in India will largely depend on two Questions :-
- Which place in India are you visiting?
- Which Season are you visiting india?
I have visited Meghalaya, a state in the North East of India, in two different seasons. When I visited it in winters I had to carry thermals, jackets and other warm clothes. When I visited the same state during Pre Monsoons I was mostly in sleeveless clothes.
So What should tourists wear in India? If you are visiting a temple keep your arms, legs and cleavage covered, if you are visiting crowded local markets I would advise to keep most of your body parts covered and if you are visiting a Pub in a metro city, you can pretty much wear anything you wear back in your home country.
Obviously there is much more than what I have mentioned above and I will cover what to wear in India in detail below.
First of all let me answer the most frequently asked question by female travelers:-
Do you need to wear Saree if you are visiting India? The answer is NO! You don’t HAVE to! But if you can’t help falling in love with the vibrant colors and figure-hugging features of Sari then you definitely must not feel shy in draping a sari.
You can read here on How to Perfectly Drape a Saree (if you want to)!
Next let me answer the most frequently asked question by male travelers:-
Can male tourists wear shorts in India? Unless you are entering a religious place of worship you can wear shorts, T-shirts absolutely any where as long as you can tolerate the heat or cold waves of the place you are visiting.
No Matter what you wear, be Prepared to be Stared at.
If your skin colour is any different than the skin colour of the Indians be prepared to be stared at.
I had visited Varanasi with a Kashmiri friend of mine. Her brownish hair and fair skin made the locals believe she was a Non-Indian. They would keep calling out to her to come to their shops for some “Authentic Indian Shopping”.
Few locals wanted to take pictures with her. She had a tough time getting rid of this unwanted attention. It was only when she spoke in Hindi and told them that she was an Indian did they stop pestering her.
So no matter what you wear, you are bound to get a lot of attention for the sheer novelty of your skin, hair and colour of your eyes.
Cover your Arms and legs in Religious places.
As a responsible tourist and as a good human, I think it is good to respect the belief of others. If you happen to have plans on visiting any religious place in India (including churches in Goa) remember to cover your arms and legs. In Gurudwaras you would also need to cover your head.
Pro Tip: Keep a sarong or a long scarf in your hand bag so that you can wrap it around you incase your arms and legs are not covered.
PACK FOR THE WEATHER
The first thing to note about packing for India is the time of the year you would be visiting.
India is geographically varied and so clothing advice will depend on which place are you intending to visit.
Jammu Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand are cold all through the year. The night temperature in these states can dip to 10 degrees and less even during summers and so you will need to carry warm clothes accordingly.
Other than these states Cotton and Linen should keep you comfortable in most places in India.
The following dates will give you a better picture of the Indian seasons and you can accordingly decide what to wear :
Spring (Vasant Ritu) : – In 2019, Spring begins on 18th February and ends on 20th April.
Summer (Grishma Ritu) : – In 2019, Summer begins on 20th April and ends on 21st June.
Recommended Clothes for Spring and Summer in India: Preferably cotton and linen clothes. Keep scarves to cover your ears covered from the Summer Loo.
NOTE: The Loo is a strong, dusty, hot and dry summer wind from the west which blows over the western Indo-Gangetic Plain region of North India and Pakistan. It is especially strong in the months of May and June (Source).
Monsoon (Varsha Ritu): – In 2019, Monsoon begins on 21st June and ends on 23rd August.
Autumn (Sharad Ritu): – In 2019, Autumn begins on 23rd August and ends on 23rd October.
Recommended Clothes for Monsoon & Autumn: Knee length pants preferably in dark colors. Carry rubber sandals and flip-flops.
Winter: – In 2019, Winter begins on 23rd October and ends on 18th February.
Clever layering is a key to dressing for changeable weather. Most parts of India except the coastal regions will have a maximum of 24 degrees and minimum of around 7 degrees.
So when is the best time to go to India? With the exception of North India and North East India, most parts of India have a very pleasant weather from November to February. Having said that I would like to add that India is a charming country that can be visited any time throughout the year.
You can read When is the best time to Visit India? for more information.
General Clothing Tips
- No matter which season, wear plenty of sunscreen.
- No matter which season carry a scarf, in summers it will protect you from heat, in winters from cold waves. You can use the scarf to cover your arms when you visit any religious place.
What footwear to pack
There really is loads to see in India. You will perhaps enjoy exploring the streets of India on foot, so make sure you take comfortable footwear for daytime.
Save your high heels for the evenings.
Final word on a perfectly acceptable, non-offensive but stylish outfit to wear in India.
Harem pants & T-shirts is good for both male and female travelers. It not only protects you from Summer Heat but is also suitable to wear in religious places.
Pro Tip: Wear Indian Kurta Pajamas (for men) and Salwar Kurta (for women). Not only will this set of clothing protect you from the extreme weather conditions of India but you will be an instant hit with the locals. Indians in general find Non-Indians wearing Indian traditional dresses very endearing.
My Personal Recommendation
India is a country of Rich and organic colours. Come under-packed to India and buy clothes with vibrant colours from India and take some “Indian Desi Vibes” back home.