Essential Packing List for Traveling to India

Leave behind most of the things you think you’ll need.

Packing for your trip can be tricky and you want to stay safe, healthy, and comfortable on your travels. I have overpacked for two different trips at this point. I encourage only these listed essentials plus personally needed items such as medications -keep it super minimal! Remember that almost anything can be bought after you arrive, as needed. That being said, here are a few recommendations.

market india shopping
Shopping at the Market

Reasons to leave things behind and bring only essentials

-Nobody wants to be bogged down by an oversized travel case, even if it is a trolley bag with wheels.

-If you bring things that you don’t need (like extra clothing) you’ll either end up abandoning it there or having a packing dilemma on your way home. Some items can also be shipped home but this is costly and should be done by a private shipping company such as DHL. When shipping things double check that you are not including forbidden items.

-If you buy souvenirs on the trip you’ll need lots of space in your bag to return home with them. If you can, bring and practically empty suitcase and come home with it full of beautiful handmade gifts!

Remember when packing for your trip, keep it really simple with these essentials.

Packing Check List for India

Health & Toiletries:

  • Mosquito repellent. My favorite natural product is LuLu Life.  Also, these Bracelets are handy (non-affiliated product recommendations).  mosquito repellant
  • Anti-malarial pills and other Perscriptions. Visit the doctor at least a month before leaving to make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations. Research on CDC website for their recommendations to travelers.
  • Probiotics and other optional items to assist in digestion: papaya enzymes, gas-x, smooth move tea, and Pepto dismal.
  • Earplugs for sleeping with
  • Filter Face Mask for breathing: I highly recommend this if traveling in the cities. This one is lightweight and reusable, with an N95 safety rating to protect you from bad air pollution (non-affiliated product recommendations).
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat (in the Summer also buy an umbrella after arriving)
  • Sun lotion, skin moisturizer
  • Personal sanitary items for ladies
  • Hair Conditioner
  • Toilet paper (single-ply TP and zip lock sandwich bags)
  • Handkerchief
  • Small mouthwash less than 3oz, toothpicks, floss, toothpaste, and toothbrush
  • Waterless handwash: natural hand sanitizer

Clothing, Shoes, and Bags:

  • (2) T-shirts
  • (1) Pants
  • (1) Shorts for men or long sundress for women that covers shoulders and chest
  • (1) Light scarf for ladies
  • (1) Lightweight jacket
  • (3) Underwear
  • (3) Socks (2 cotton and 1 wool)
  • Strap-on sandals with good thick soles for walking or lightweight running shoes: expect to walk alot on hard and or un-even surfaces.
  • Small day backpack or over-the-shoulder purse

General Items Needed:

  • Passport and Tourist Visa: Instructions for US citizens here is how to apply for tourist visa
  • Photocopy of passport, visa, and ID card
  • TSA locks for bags
  • Travel Insurance plan contact phone number
  • Contact phone number for someone in India to give to customs on arrival
  • Camera and/or smartphone
  • Extra phone and camera batteries, camera storage
  • Plugin outlet converter
  • Small journal and a pen to take notes
  • Paperback novel
  • “U” shaped pillow for airplane and train travel napping

Smartphones, e-books, and applications:

Carrying your phone: bring a small bag or wallet type holster for your phone so that it is easily accessible to you but also cannot be pickpocketed easily.

  • Buy a SIM card when arriving in India so that you will have a local number on your phone and save your SIM for when you return back home.
  • Travel Guide: Lonely Planet India (ebook)
  • Food Panda App: Order food delivery from local restaurants to your hotel or homestay. Their service is available in most city areas.
  • Ola App: for transportation. It is another taxi service application, although many places also have Uber, Ola seems to work really best. It’s efficient with relatively good rates and is safer than a regular taxi service.

Optional items to consider:

packing yoga mat

  • Traveling Yoga Mat if you will be studying yoga asana. The type that is foldable and eco-friendly, like this one from Manduka.
  • Water purifying system only if traveling in a non-touristy area like a trek (otherwise there is filtered water available).
  • Silk sleeping sack (for warmth or also to protect from bugs in hostel type places)
  • Mosquito net: however, this should be provided for you by the hotel in high mosquito-populated areas along with citronella candles.

Tips for hair and skin care:

Packing items for hair and skin are not so essential beforehand. However, hair and skin care can be difficult in India because the water quality is very hard. My long hair was looking like a bird’s nest after a few days. I got some advice from my lady-friends who go to India often. I followed this system as suggested to me:

I bought local Dove shampoo and hair oil. In the morning showers, I applied tons and tons of shampoo to wash out all the dust and grime. Washed a second time, then followed with conditioner. At night before bed, I used hair oil and let in stay in until morning. Note: If you have trouble washing out the oil add shampoo before wetting your hair to release the oils. After shower apply skin therapy oil and moisturizing lotions. The hard water strips the natural helpful oils off of your skin and hair. There are many products you can buy after arriving in India that are great for this and they will not cost a lot of money.

skin and hair products from india
skin and hair oils purchased in India

Last word on affirmations

Pack in your memory a few affirmations to help you get through tough or challenging days. Sometimes it seems like nothing goes as planned because the train is late or you can’t find the destination, etc. Relax and be open to new experiences or changed plans because the outcome may be even better than expected.

You may also like my article about life as a student in the ashram, or visiting world famous Varanasi India.








    1. Post
      Chandni Ojha

      Right? Packing light could be a good philosophy for life as well, like simply lifestyles. Thanks Jack.

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