Packing for India

It’s third world, it’s first world. It’s wealthy, it’s poor. They love me, they….. really do love us. In general, the people of India love Americans and are so thrilled that you have decided to travel to the other side of the world just to see their culture. There is huge honor in that and what you pack can really limit or enhance that connection. It’s not only about the clothes you take, but the other items that will keep you comfortable inside and out in the hot, sticky Indian climate. I traveled far and wide, up and down, and these packing tips hold true all across India.

  • Scarves. Most temples expect you to cover your hair when visiting and there is nothing grosser to me than communal scarves. Two or three lightweight, long scarves will become an everyday necessity for you. They can also double as an accessory that totally changes your outfit, so rather than taking a bunch of shirts, use scarves in different ways. You can also buy more in India and take them home as souvenirs later. (My only caution is that a lot of these are very cheap with heavy dye.)
  • Anti-Monkey Butt. I have never really had an issue chaffing, but my dad recently discovered this gem for “swamp ass” and if you’ve never had swamp ass, India might just do it to ya. There is no relief from the heat and humidity. Air conditioning is a luxury. Even if you end up not needing it, you might become someone else’s best friend. There are a lot of daily things that Indian people are used to that most of us are not, so sometimes products can be challenging to find.
  • Electrolytes. Your biggest party friends are pretty clever to follow a night of drinking with a bottle of Pedialyte. When your body gets dehydrated, water alone won’t bounce you back, but you can’t exactly tote bottles of Pedialyte across the world. The replacement I used was powdered, individual Propel mixes.
  • Sunscreen. Follow @HereComesThe Sunscreen on Instagram for a bunch of sunscreen tips and ideas. I try not to carry too many liquids because they are heavy and can leak, so I recommend getting a sunscreen stick for easy face application throughout the day.
    clinique workout 40.jpg

    [@HereComesTheSunscreen Instagram.] I used this foundation daily for the extra SPF.

  • Waterproof Makeup. I’m a ritzy lady and I wasn’t about to go to India without my face! The sweating is bad, cosmetics in India are bad- I just had to pony up and get some waterproof stuff before I left. That being said, makeup wipes are also a blessing!
  • NO WATER BOTTLE. But Madeline! All this post is about is how hot you will be! Contradictory to everything else, taking a water bottle is dumb on too many levels.
    1. The water is not safe to drink so you will have to fill it with bottled water anyway. So just drink from the plastic bottle it came in.
    2. Even if you could fill up your water bottle, there is no way to wash your bottle because the water is dirty, and not washing it creates a gross situation, too.
    3. Big clunky water bottles can get in the way and if you go somewhere that doesn’t really allow you to carry items in for security reasons, it is a lot less disheartening to throw away a plastic bottle than your expensive bottle from home.
    4. Also, every third world trip I have been on, I have seen someone do this: please do not take the water bottles that advertise a filtering mechanism to make dirty water safe. Do you really want to be the idiot who risks that and shits their brains out on day one? Water is too cheap to play that game. But, if you are looking to lose 10 pounds, be my guest.
  • Toilet Paper. Picture your worst case scenario: the food gives you horrible diarrhea when you are at the top of a temple on an Indian style stand up toilet and you have nothing to wipe with but your socks. I heard this story from a friend and vowed to not be that person. I carried those little packages of tissues with me everywhere and saved more than one person from a potty foul. It always happens to you the time you “forget” to bring paper.


    I found my Merrell’s on sale at a department store and wore them EVERYWHERE.  

  • Walking Shoes [with closed toes.] Definitely don’t over pack in the shoe department. They are heavy and take up room. I took one pair of sneakers, shower sandals, and my walking shoes. Some girls wore Tevas or Chacos but here is why that’s a bad idea: India is quite filthy due to the rugged landscape and general abundance of garbage. Many of the sidewalks are crumbling with large chunks of cement exposed. It is so easy to cut or stub your toes on really, really not ideal objects. My Merrell walking shoes had a Velcro strap on the back and hard toe coverage that was an honest-to-God blessing.

In the end, we are all human and need the same basic human things. You might have to be flexible but if you really need anything, you can always buy it or make friends with someone who planned ahead. In return, it’s always nice to have the ability to help others who would be so grateful for a little TP or Aleve! Take care of each other and traveling will be a whole lot more worry-free.


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