Planning a trip to India, especially for first-timers, can be a little daunting. Here’s my ultimate guide to forming a packing list for India, which includes things many often wish they brought, and some they wished they DIDN’T!
Are you wondering what to pack for India? Many first-time visitors are confused about what to include in their packing list for India – and rightly so. Planning a trip to India isn’t exactly your typical “vacation” travel destination. There’s nowhere else on earth where you’ll experience such diversity, contradictions, love, and utter astonishment in the same place, and it can all get a little overwhelming.
For this reason, I’ve formed this India packing list to help you be a little more prepared and confident. This is based on my personal experience of traveling in India, as well as a fair bit of research that I wish I had known before I went.
At the bottom of this post, you’ll also find a section dedicated to what not to bring, information on vaccines, and what kind of clothes you should wear. For photographers, you can also skip down to the camera section to see what camera gear I use and recommend for an India packing list.
Also: If you’re still in the planning stages of your trip to India, make sure to check out my Complete India Itinerary post, which is one of the most comprehensive articles you’ll find. It not only covers my suggested route, but it features some of India’s best attractions and many off-the-beaten-path adventures too.
The Complete Packing List for India
Let’s dive straight into the ultimate packing list for India! My goal isn’t to bore you with the obvious things you should bring like underwear or socks. Instead, I want to give you some tips on specific things you should bring to India that are actually useful and often missed.
However, if you’d prefer a comprehensive quick packing checklist, there’s also a section at the end of this list that covers all of the essentials.
1. Grayl GEOPRESS Purifier
The first item on this packing list for India is the trusty GEOPRESS. This Grayl water purifier was a life changer for me. Before the GEOPRESS, I relied on prepackaged bottled water. It was always clear to me that buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle was not sustainable, and even if I recycled the bottles or disposed of them properly, it wasn’t a 100% sustainable solution. I guess I used to just shrug it off as a necessary evil of travel.
Although it’s a little hefty when compared to other bottles, the ability to get purified drinking water from anywhere is so useful that I bring it everywhere with me; from the Himalayas to the jungles of Borneo.
I know what you’re thinking, are you really going to filter tap water in India? The GEOPRESS purifier filters out all global waterborne pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, protozoan cysts, as well as chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and even microplastics.
Of course, there are times when even I was a bit wary of using the Grayl and still resorted to buying bottled water. However, having a GEOPRESS with you is going to save you money on scale, and you will be helping to minimize India’s major plastic pollution crisis too by purifying tap water.
Amazon: Grayl Filter Bottle
2. Probiotics + Charcoal Tablets + Travelan
Another item on this packing list for India is a trio I’ve found dedicated to helping you avoid getting sick. This includes probiotics, preventative activated charcoal tablets, and Travelan. It’s my go-to defense against Delhi Belly, Bali Belly, Peru Poos, or the Rangoon Runs.
Whatever you call it, travelers diarrhea is going to put a halt on your adventures faster than you can scream “where’s the squatter?!”
I formulated this gut defense system after copping some severe bacterial infections and parasites from eating some questionable roadside palak paneer a while back. Now that I’m older and wiser: here’s how this three-pronged approach works:
- A good probiotic is going to help your biome build a better defense against the inevitable bacterial invasion.
- Activated charcoal tablets are best used if you expect that you’ve eaten something that might make you sick. It works by trapping toxins and chemicals in the gut so they don’t get absorbed by your body.
- Finally, Travelan is a miracle supplement that I often take before I try some delicious street food. It’s essentially just bovine colostrum powder, which works by formulating a wall of antibodies that bind the E.coli bacteria and their toxins. This prevents their attachment to your gastrointestinal tract.
Tip: Add these items to your packing list for India before you leave! I had a hard time finding anything but probiotics in India.
3. Passport Wallet / Travel Wallet
No matter where I go in the world, I always bring a passport wallet. I used to carry a big bulky one and quickly found that it was just too annoying to stow in my bag.
Now, I’ve switched to a minimal passport wallet that is still big enough to organize my passports, spare cash and currency, sim cards, credit cards, boarding passes, and printouts. If you’re a minimalist traveler or even one that tends to carry a bit too much gear (like me), then consider adding this compact and practical passport wallet to your India travel packing list.
4. A Good Travel Backpack
This is an adventure backpacking blog so I’ll admit that I’m just a little biased when it comes to the backpack vs suitcase debate. However, a travel backpack is just going to be so much easier when traveling in India, unless you’re on an already organized tour or have somebody to carry your bags for you.
You probably already know that Indian streets are a little on the dirty side. You don’t want to run your luggage wheels through a big pile of cow dung en route to your hotel. Neither do you want to drag it through crowded alleyways and up uneven staircases. Furthermore, for adventures like an overnight Rajasthani camel safari or hikes in the Rishikesh mountains, a backpack simply makes more sense.
After living out of my trusty 55L Deuter hiking backpack for years, I finally upgraded to a more “livable” backpack that I can still bring on long-distance hikes if I need to.
Enter the Osprey Farpoint Trek.
This is easily the most comfortable and easy to pack bag that I’ve ever come across. If you’re wondering about what backpack to back for India, do consider it.
Amazon: Osprey Farpoint Trek
5. Day Bag
When forming your packing list for India, make sure to remember to pack a good day bag. You’ll want one that’s not too big, light to pack down, but still big enough to fit all of your essentials like a camera, sunglasses, wallets, and water bottles.
Since I usually lug around a fair bit of camera gear, I use my F-Stop Tilopa as a day bag, which is by far the best adventure camera bag ever to hit the market.
However, if you’re looking for a more compact day bag to bring to India, then I recommend this budget one from Amazon Basics. It’s big enough to fit pretty much everything you need on a quick day outing including a side water bottle holder! Best of all, it folds down to the size of a regular wallet to stow. in your bag when you don’t need it.
6. Travel Insurance
India is one destination where you’ll want to have travel insurance. However, if you’re planning a trip to India, then it’s most likely not going to be your first rodeo. So, I won’t lecture you on how important it is or why you need it.
Instead, I’ll explain why I recommend using World Nomads Travel Insurance. I learned the hard way the value of a quality insurer when my entire backpack got stolen in Barcelona in 2015. Since, I’ve used these guys for my global adventure travel insurance needs because they cover me for the things I actually want, like hospital cover, accidents, theft, and travel delays.
Most importantly, since World Nomads value their returning customers, if you need to claim, they don’t try to dodge you like most insurers.
Use the widget below to get a quick, personalize quote from World Nomads to add to your list of things to bring to India!
7. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are a traveler’s essential these days! Using individual, lightweight, zip-up cubes allows me to organize all of my clothes within my bag easily. The biggest perk of using packing cubes is that I never have to rummage through a backpack trying to find a specific t-shirt or pair of pants tangled up in a charger cable ever again.
Packing cubes also allows you to visually and practically organize all of your India packing list essentials so you know if you’ve forgotten something.
Amazon: Packing Cubes Travel Organizer
8. Travel First Aid Kit
Travel insurance is great, but it’s not going to save you in the moment if you ever end up in trouble. I was pretty surprised to find out that most people don’t include a small first aid kit in their packing list for India or other parts of Asia.
You won’t need to bring a bulky field kit, just your regular, compact travel kit is fine. Just make sure it includes bandages, band-aids (plasters), sterile gauze pads, and disinfectant wipes. For convenience, I also stuff things I need but don’t always want to have out in there. This includes a travel sewing kit (for quick repairs), as well as my nail-clippers and medication like antibiotics and diarrhea prevention tablets.
I prefer to pack the kits with a soft, canvas bag rather than the hard plastic boxes that tend to break in backpacks.
Amazon: Travel First Aid Kit
9. Travel Toilet Paper
Believe it or not toilet paper is still not commonplace in India. However, you will find it in most hostels and hotels. Where you won’t find toilet paper is at public toilets, roadside stops, or most restaurants.
For this reason, I recommend bringing some compact, travel toilet paper for the inevitable emergency.
Amazon: Compact Travel Toilet Paper
10. A Good Power Bank
Modern travel makes it easy to book and organize an entire trip on the fly from the palm of your hand. But, what happens when you rock up to the bus terminal and your phone goes flat? Your accommodation details, bus ticket, banking app and everything else you need to function as a traveler are all of a sudden, gone.
That’s why I highly recommend including a good, reliable power bank in your packing list for India. I use a RavPower one, which is the only power bank that I’ve been able to find that includes USB C PD technology capable of charging my laptop and phone at the same time.
If you bring a lot of camera gear and a laptop, then a good power bank is essential when wondering what to pack for India!
Buy it: RavPower Power Bank
11. Bug Spray or Deet Cream
Mosquitos are always a pest, but they’re even more so in places that have cases of malaria. I’ve touched on bringing malaria medication to India here. But, the gist is unless you’re traveling to areas of high infection rates in the monsoon season, then it’s better just to use deet spray or cream for prevention.
You can find bug spray and mosquito cream throughout most of India, but if you’d prefer to be prepared, you’ll probably save money by just purchasing it on Amazon in advance.
I prefer the creams to sprays because it’s more compact, won’t explode in your bag during transit, and it can be diluted with a bit of water.
Tip: Put the deet cream inside a ziplock bag so it doesn’t get all through your bag if you squash it.
Amazon: Bug Cream
RISHIKESH: Top 3 Unmissable Waterfalls in Rishikesh
11. Kindle eReader
India is a vast landmass, and if you’re going to travel a lot within this beautiful country, you can expect to spend some time on buses or trains.
Instead of carrying a dozen books around, I just have a single Kindle Paperwhite, which can store thousands of books. It’s lighter than a regular paperback book, waterproof, and has a backlight. Besides camera gear, my Kindle is one of my favorite pieces of tech and is essential on a packing list for India.
Books to read in India:
- My favorite: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
- Tell a Thousand Lies – Rasana Atreya
- Best Travel Guide: Lonely Planet: India
- A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
- For history fans: The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Amazon: Kindle Paperwhite
12. Quick-Dry Towel
This item on my Ultimate India Packing List isn’t exactly an India-specific necessity, but more of a backpacking staple item. A quick-dry, compact travel towel is the perfect solution for carrying a towel on the road. They fold up really small, are very lightweight and dry in just a few minutes.
If you’re a budget backpacker in India, then having a quick-dry towel will mean that you won’t have to pay to borrow a towel at the hostel too.
Amazon: Travel Towel
13. Combination Lock or Retractable-Locking System
Everyone should carry a basic key or combination padlock to secure their backpacks. It deters potential thieves and allows you to leave your bag with relative confidence.
However, something that I always get asked about in hostels is my bag lock. It’s essentially just a lightweight, combination carabiner that was intended to be used to secure a helmet to a motorbike and a very lightweight, flexible 5mm looped bike cable.
This allows me to completely secure my backpack when I leave the hostel, or when I store it in after-hours luggage lockers. Since this system is so lightweight, I just connect it to the outside of my backpack when I’m not using it.
The beauty of this system is that not only is your bag zipper locked, but a potential thief can’t even take your whole backpack if he/she wanted. I also regularly use the helmetlok carabiner when I rent motorbikes and scooters to lock the helmet.
If you’re looking for a more compact solution, then I used to swear by this smaller retractable combination lock. I upgraded because I carry around a fair bit of camera gear and want the most protection possible.
14. Ear Plugs
For some reason, Indians are immune to noise. Be it the perpetual orchestra of honking cars or the lively, passionate conversations on an overnight bus at 2 AM; nothing can shock your system like the noise of India. While it’s part of the experience that I wouldn’t trade it for anything, a cheap pair of earplugs can be a lifesaver at times when you really need that beauty sleep.
Since I traveled around India on overnight sleeper buses, these came in handy more times than I can count on one hand. You can pick them up at any pharmacy or drug store in your home country or once you arrive in India. But, since you’ve probably already got a growing Amazon cart, why not chuck a pair of earplugs in too? You can get a pack of 50 for just a few dollars.
Amazon: Travel Earplugs
15. US Dollars
This item you should add to your list of things to pack for India might come as a surprise. Although it’s not essential, United States currency can be very useful. In fact, when I crossed the land border between India and Nepal, I could only pay the Visa fee in US dollars and it cost me a stupid amount to exchange in India.
I’ve heard similar cases where having US currency can be helpful. So, if you live in the States, make sure to pack some for India.
Tip: Make sure the notes are IMPECCABLE, I had to exchange rupees to India at inflated prices TWICE because there was a tiny fold in my $50 note.
16. International Travel Power Adapter
For India, there are three plug types, depending on how old the building is and what region you are in. To make sure you can charge your phone and any camera gear wherever you are, you’re going to want to add a reliable worldwide adapter to your India packing list.
This is something that I consider essential, no matter what country I visit!. The one I’m linking to below will have you covered wherever you go in India and pretty much anywhere else, for that matter. The best part is that it has both USB A and USB C ports, meaning you can charge multiple devices on one adapter.
Amazon: International Travel Adapter
More Essentials: The Packing List for India Checklist
- 2-3 long sleeve shirts/tops
- 1 t-shirt
- 2 light, long pants
- Rain jacket
- 1 light warm fleece
- 1 dress top + bottom
- Comfortable shoes
- 1x Hat
- Flip flops
- Activewear for hikes
What Not to Include in your India Packing List
Now that you know exactly what you need to add to your packing list for India, let’s talk about what you DON’T need to bring.
Pack for the season
Weather in India differs significantly from the wild and wet monsoon to the scalding summer months. Make sure to plan your trip and pack your India travel clothes accordingly.
Don’t bring too many clothes
I highly doubt that India is going to be your first travel experience, so I won’t lecture you on how to pack light.
You don’t need bulky towels
Again, buy a lightweight, packable travel towel instead. Big, bulky towels can take up the same weight as a pair of jeans and a sweater combined.
Avoid fancy shoes
The streets of India always make your shoes turn a grimy, grey colour. This is something that you just can’t avoid. Instead, bring a pair of Tevas or a comfortable pair of running shoes.
Don’t get a “travel card” or bring too much cash
The days of “travel debit cards” and “traveler’s cheques” have gone to the wayside. Why pay more for something more difficult? These days, you should always just use a regular debit card or credit card that doesn’t charge exchange rate fees or overseas transaction fees.
Update: Every traveler should now be using a Wise (formerly TransferWise) for all transactions overseas. This is the cheapest and most convenient way to spend money internationally.
What About Clothes and Things to Wear in India?
The clothes that you include in your packing list for India will depend on the season and the region you will be visiting. However, just remember that India is a more conservative country than many in the west, and plenty of exposed skin is usually not appropriate.
Essential Clothing Items:
- Lightweight Rain Jacket
- Comfortable walking/jogging shoes
- Light and breathable long-sleeve shirts or tops when visiting holy sites in the heat
- Light, breathable long pants
- 2-3 pairs of socks
- Flip flops
Clothing Packing Advice for Women
Generally speaking, men’s clothing customs are much more lenient than women’s. This is especially true in places like Rajasthan. The advice that my partner Haylea gives is that it’s much better to respect local customs and cover up. It’s probably not a good idea to think that you’re liberating Indian women by dressing what is considered to be “skimpy” in a culture vastly different from your own.
However, that also doesn’t mean that foreign women are expected to wear a traditional full Sari. While big, westernized cities like Delhi and Mumbai are much more progressive on female clothing expectations, women still don’t tend to wear overly tight or revealing clothing.
It’s best to just wear, long, comfortable clothing that isn’t too tight. Long, loose skirts and long-sleeved tops or shirts are Haylea’s go-to in India. She also recommends getting a big, lightweight scarf or wrap to wear on top of your tops.
Another thing that Haylea highly recommends for women to add to their packing list for India is female sanitary products. She struggled to find regular products, especially in more remote regions.
Clothing Packing Advice for Men
Many parts of India are very patriarchally-dominant societies. As you’d expect, men tend to get an easier ride when it comes to dress-codes.
However, it’s still recommended to dress modestly. You can wear t-shirts but shorts can be frowned upon in certain places. When visiting temples, you always want to cover up your arms and legs.
The Camera Gear I Pack for India
Living on the road means that I don’t have the comforts of a home base to store and swap camera equipment and gear depending on the destination or project. Due to this, I’ve been forced to create a camera kit that I can carry everywhere, and that allows me to create content no matter where I am.
Read more: Camera Gear for Travel
Otherwise, here is my recommended camera equipment to include in your packing list for India. I’ve based this gear selection process on what I believe to be essential for a professional kit and I’ve included what I bring, and a “budget” alternative.
If you’re not a photography enthusiast, don’t want to deal with interchangeable lense and just want a camera to pack for India that is compact but will get you some nice shots, then I recommend getting a Panasonic Lumix TZ200 or a GoPro Hero 8.
A Good Camera to Pack For India
Best Travel Camera: Sony A6500
For hobby photographers that want high-quality images without the bulk, then the Sony A6500 is probably the best travel-friendly camera on the market. Paired with a couple of good lenses, and you’re good to go in any situation.
My Everyday: Canon 5D Mark IV
The Canon 5-series range has been the go-to camera for professional journalists and photographers for a long time – and for a good reason. The 5D Mark IV is a workhorse that just gets the job done every time. It’s a little heavy and on the expensive side but if the aim of the game is photography, you won’t be disappointed.
Wide Angle Lense
Sony E 10-18MM F4 OSS
One of the best wide-angle lenses for Sony crop-sensor cameras (A6500) is the Sony 10-18mm F4 OSS. Having a good wide-angle lens allows you to get a whole landscape or building in the frame.
Canon 17-40MM F4L
The Canon 17-40MM is a super underrated wide-angle lens for full-frame cameras that provides quality on-par with $2000 glass for less than a quarter of the price. When you don’t really need the extra stops of light, this wide-angle for full-frame Canon lenses is perfect.
Walk Around Lens
Canon EF 24-70MM F2.8L II
The Canon 24-70MM F2.8L II is usually the lens glued to my camera. It’s arguable Canon’s best variable zoom lens and I use it for landscapes, portraits, buildings, and pretty much anything you can point a camera at.
Drones in India
India is one of the most difficult places to deal with drones that I’ve ever visited. To kick things off, I had to leave check-in security just before boarding and walk to another section of the airport just to put my drone inside my checked luggage. India is the only place this has ever happened.
Generally speaking, drones aren’t allowed to be flown unless they are registered with a UIN. For commercial purposes, you also need to get a special permit. Find out more here.
While it was a bit of a nuisance, I’m glad I did bring my Mavic Pro to India and I will for future trips too. If you do, educate yourself on the laws and make sure you follow them to avoid having it confiscated and having to pay large fines.
JODHPUR: The Blue City of Jodhpur, Rajasthan
More Useful Information About Packing & Travel in India
And that sums up my Ultimate Packing List for India. Below I’ve included a final section dedicated to answering some commonly asked questions and to help get prepared for the adventure of a lifetime!
1. How to Avoid Delhi Belly
The only true way to avoid Delhi Belly in India is to not eat or drink anything. Obviously, that’s not realistic. So, the only thing you can really do is try do do things that minimize your exposure to harmful bacteria or parasites. Taking preventative supplements like the ones I mentioned above is a good step. I love street food and I firmly believe it’s part of the India travel experience, so I’m not going to tell you to avoid it.
Just be diligent in your hygiene and make informed decisions as to what you eat and drink. Avoid getting water from showers or taps in your eyes or in your mouth too.
2. Is it Safe to Travel in India?
When I was first researching travel guides and India packing lists for my first trip, all I saw were warnings and a fair bit of over-the-top fear mongering. Is being careful warranted when traveling to India? Of course it is – that’s true anywhere you travel in the world. The truth is that India is a safe country to travel to, as long as you use common sense and trust your instincts.
3. What Should I Wait to Buy In India?
Some things you shouldn’t bring to India because it’s readily available and cheap to buy once you arrive. This includes medication, light cotton clothing, toiletries, and most other day-to-day items. India also has some of the world’s best hand-made jewelry, so if you plan on picking up a souvenir or gift, you’re in luck.
4. What Shouldn’t I Wait to Buy in India?
It’s fascinating that India’s economy seems to still run primarily through small markets, merchants, and street vendors. In many parts of India outside of major shopping districts in Mumbai and Delhi, you won’t find large supermarkets or franchise department stores.
Things you should add to your India packing list before you leave include electronics (they’re cheaper on Amazon), sunscreen without whitening agents, feminine hygiene products, makeup, sunglasses, and shoes.
4. Should I Bring Valuables?
Many people suggest that you don’t add valuables to your India packing list. However, I’m going to say that it’s up to personal preference. If you work on the road or you love to take photos, then not bringing a camera or laptop because you’re scared of losing them is just counter-intuitive.
Instead, make sure you are covered by good travel insurance. Things like fancy jewelry, shoes, or clothes, on the other hand, might not be worth bringing, since there’s a good chance they’ll get ruined.
5. Vaccines and Immunisations for Travel in India
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You need to consult one for proper medical advice.
The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines and immunizations when traveling in India.
- Hepatitis A + B
- Yellow Fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Rabies (probably not necessary unless you’re working with animals)
- Mumps and Rubella
- Pneumonia + Influenza
7. Do I Need to Bring Malaria Medication?
While there are cases of Malaria in India, don’t expect to catch it in major cities outside of the monsoon seasons. Most likely, you won’t be visiting in the monsoon either. However, if you are, you should consider consulting a doctor and adding some preventative malaria medication to your India packing list. Also, make sure to research the effectiveness and the side-effects before you make your choice.
Many malaria medications cause terrible irritation to the skin and sensitivity to UV light. My tip for you is if you do decide that you need malaria medication, make sure to pack some good sunscreen before you leave.
More: Free India Travel Guides and Blog Posts
That concludes my Ultimate Packing List for India. In hindsight, it ended up being a little longer than I anticipated. However, I wanted to provide all of the information I had on packing for a trip to India to make the most comprehensive packing list guide I could.
If you enjoyed the guide, have any questions, or any tips/suggestions, please let me and other travelers know by leaving a comment.
Otherwise, make sure to check out some of my other travel guides and blogs to make the most of your India travels! Enjoy!
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