Concerned about what to wear in India

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Nicely dressed woman in IndiaWhat to wear in India photo by Aaur Harsh

I have had this question asked of what to wear in India so often that I started to interview friends and acquaintances to get to the answers as to why it seems to be such a huge question.

Well I discovered, that it is because people believe and rightly so, that the clothing of India is very conservative.

I am going to give you the information that you have been requesting.

This is a summery of what to and also what not to wear. This will serve you well if you would like to follow it.

5 tips on what to wear in India:

  1. Show no flesh…that means no short shorts no low cut tops with cleavage showing, no see through or backless. No beach wear on the streets. Try to cover, not expose your skin; in other-words be modest in your dress. If you use anything from this post this tip would be it and probably all you really need to know.  
  2. Western dress is o.k. as long as you follow the above tip number 1. You will see this kind of clothing more in the larger cities than in the rural areas.
  3. They wear outfits that show the midriff, but cover it with a kind of scarf so it would seem to me that that part of the body is o.k. to show, but breasts and legs are not. (I am a mature women so don't show my midriff anyway)
  4. short sleeves are o.k. but not spaghetti straps. 
  5. Like a lot of other countries you should be respectful of religious sites, but more so in India because it is already very conservative. Not only do you have to cover your shoulders and legs and remove your shoes but women also need to cover there head to go into holy places. This is were a good travel scarf will come in handy. This is a good tip for what to wear in India or pretty much anywhere.

more suggestions on what to wear in India:

  • Slacks and leggings that cover your ankle. 
  • Tunic tops any length from hip to thigh to the knee.  I take tunic tops everywhere because of the versatility. In India this is a fabulous piece of clothing just don’t get the low cut ones. 
  • T shirts and blouses with a short or long sleeve
  • Maxi skirts are really a great idea you will never have to worry about skin showing and they will get you everywhere and they are comfortable. You will see these all over the place.
  • Get a good long scarf or a few of them. Wrap them different ways. Put over shoulders and head for shrines and temples and they will help to protect you from the sun.
  • Cotton, linen or jersey loose breezy dresses.
  • Cool wicking bras or cotton sports bras because lace, nylon, push-ups and under-wires etc will make you very hot and sweaty.
  • If you do wear western jeans don’t take heavy denim get the jean look with lighter material. You will see jeans and a blouse fashion all around the cities and resorts but they are hot if you are not used to this type of climate especially in south and in the summer.
  • Cargo pants or any kind pants with  zip off legs will come in handy.
  • Comfortable shoes like Treves and low heal sandals

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More good things to pack for India:

  • travel umbrella for rain or sun.
  • micro fibre towel
  • antibacterial  wipes
  • Costume jewellery like fake gold especially bangles
  • Baby powder for under breasts…helps with the sweating
  • Wash cloth
  • electrical plugs
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sun glasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Swim suites and shorts are o.k. especially for the beaches of Goa and most 5 star resorts but not bikini's at local beaches.
  • Sun protective clothing

For what to wear in India for a safari tour you may also take:

  • Rain gear for the monsoon season.(approximately June to October and in spring February to mid May) but most safari parks are closed that time of year
  • Take fleece or light weight wool socks and even boots in north in December and January
  • layering is good as in the early morning it can be cold but warms up later in the day.

You would also want to take:

  • Binoculars
  • Water bottles
  • Good hiking boots or walking shoes.
  • Some long pants for grass if going into jungle
  • Cotton jackets
  • Long sleeves for sun
  • Kaki green or brown are good colours and not reflective


As I said you will see jeans and a shirt, shorts swimsuits and other western dress especially in large Urban centers, Goa and 5 star resorts.

In other areas they take showing skin as a come on so you may be very sorry to get all this type of attention. I know that no one has a right to hassle you because of what you wear...this is a much larger topic. But why push it and ruin your trip. I always figure that when you  are in someone else’s country show some respect for their customs.  At the local beaches they actually wear t shirts into the water for modesty.

Most of them think shorts on a male are for little boys. So men a light weight shirt and pants are best. Maybe take those cargo pants in a light loose fitting fabric with the zip off bottoms.

Also dress nicely as they still have a bit of hang-over from the class system and many East Indians look very glamorous and take great care with their hair. They will look at you and that’s o.k. no malice meant in it but you will be treated better if you take some care with your appearance.

You can buy clothes at markets or better quality in department stores when you get there. Sizes are usually on the small side,however; you can even get inexpensive material and have something made fairly quick. You will find really beautiful fabric. It is usually very hot in the south, but there are seasons, and it can get very cold in the north and mountains.

What to wear in India:luxury train travel

India has some very luxurious tourist trains so take some very nice outfits if you have booked this kind of travel, however; our tips still apply. (I am not speaking here of regular India trains)

Clothing of India: 

They don’t mind if westerners dress this way. 

What to wear in India men:

-cotton shirt with loose sleeves and pants, but bring them with you men.

-even shorts to knee not really good for religious places so zip off is better

-kurta and dhoti-tunic over a pajama type pants


-churidars (cotton pajama type pants) or salwars (legings that bunch at ankle) or harem pants worn with a kurti (tunic of different legths) or t shirt

-dupatta-long scarf 

-Sari- yards  fabric draped around the body.

Note:There are various words used for similar clothing in different parts of India

Here is a good link if you want more details of all the names and descriptions for clothing of India

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