What to Wear in India: Tips from Female Travel Bloggers

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What to wear in India? What do women wear in India? I’m sure I’m not the first woman to Google those questions preparing for a trip to India.

When Incredible India invited me to take the iconic Maharajas Express train trip I was thrilled. But the biggest question was: now what do I wear?

I spent more time planning my wardrobe for India than any other country. I don’t have saris or traditional Indian clothing and I wanted to be respectful.

And I also wanted to avoid unnecessary attention. Can I wear jeans in India?

What body parts should I cover?

I only travel carry-on so there was no room for error. I approached it much like I did while exploring local food in Jordan.

My general rule was to cover my shoulders and my knees and to try to find breathable fabric.

This wasn’t the easiest thing to do in the dead of winter in Canada.

So I pulled out summer dresses, a pair of yoga pants and some scarves.

 
What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to dress while traveling in India for comfort.

One of the most important aspects for me was being comfortable while also being respectful.

In certain cases like the Bara Imambara in Lucknow it’s not mandatory to cover your head.

However, it is a sign of respect. In mosques you will need to cover your head.

A light scarf is the way to go. 

The textiles in India are so beautiful it’s hard not to buy all the scarves.

You’ll also need to take your shoes off in mosques and some other locations.

Our hosts with the Maharajas Express gave us foot coverings but I was comfortable going barefoot.

If you’re not you may want to pack a pair of socks. Otherwise I spent most of my days in my Tieks, you can check out my Tieks review here.

 

Oh and can you wear jeans in India? Absolutely…kind of…

In Delhi I saw lots of women wearing a variety of clothing from saris to tunics with leggings to jeans. 

I heard the same was true for Mumbai – the clothing ranges from conservative to very modern. In more rural areas clothing is a bit more traditional.

I never saw shorts on local women. A few times I saw tourists wearing shorts, accompanied by lots of local staring so I wouldn’t recommend it.

For my first (and not my last) trip to India, I was happy with what I chose. I always felt comfortable traveling.

It was easy to pack and I never felt like I may have been offending someone more conservative.

I also asked eight other female bloggers to share their best tips on what to wear in India:

 

What to Wear in India – Female Travel Blogger Tips

What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share tips share what women wear in India and how to dress while traveling India.

How to Dress in India – Advice from an Expert

When I was planning my first trip to India in 2005, I did a lot of research. After all, I was going for six months and wanted to be as prepared as possible.

On the Journeywoman website, I came across a nugget of advice. A reader suggested wearing Indian clothes while travelling in India.

This small but significant suggestion changed everything for me and in some ways set the tone for my trip — and perhaps for so much else that’s happened since then.

 
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One of the first things I did on landing was make a beeline to FabIndia, where I bought a wardrobe of salwar kameez suits in both silk and cotton. I wore Indian clothes almost exclusively for the entire six-month.

The Indian clothes I wore suited the climate and the modesty requirement, and it did so much more.

I found it helped me bond with the people and the culture.

I sensed I was given more respect, and a friendlier reception, than some of the backpackers I saw travelling in typical hippie wear.

Wearing Indian clothes seemed to be a bit like a talisman that helped open the culture to me.

I mostly wore three-piece salwar kameez suits (aka Punjabi suits), but also sometimes wore a sari, if the occasion required it — usually weddings. It’s one piece of advice I am so glad I took!

More from Mariellen on What to Wear in India: How to Dress for Success in India

 
What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to travel comfortably.

What Clothes to Wear in India? Think Accessories

Scarves will be your best friend for so many reasons. They’re easy to pack, work well as a cover up or if you end up needing to cover your head, and look fabulous in photos.

My trick was to wear one and have another tucked in my bag so I could swap between them throughout the day.

That way, I wasn’t wearing the exact same outfit in all of my pictures.

More from Tamara: Globe Guide Palace on Wheels Review

 
What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to travel comfortably.

How to Dress in India and Beat the Heat

When traveling in India or any other country with a conservative dress code for women but still comes with scorching temperatures, I like to go for natural fibers.

Cotton, silk, and linen are my best friends. Anything synthetic makes me more sweaty (and stinky I should add!) and just doesn’t feel nice on my skin.

Natural fibers allow you and your skin to breathe even if you are wearing long sleeves and bottoms.

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While I am usually a skinny jeans and t-shirt kind of girl I love wearing long cotton dresses in India.

They are breezy and extremely comfortable in hot temperatures while still modest enough to visit temples and mosques and to not attract too much unwanted attention.

Don’t be afraid to show some color. I once wore a long black dress to a religious dance ceremony and stuck out like a sore thumb.

More from Annika on What to Wear in India: Travel Fashion – What to wear in conservative countries

 
What to wear in India. Top travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to travel in comfort without attracting attention.

What Women Wear in India – Know Where to Shop

Pop into FabIndia as soon as you arrive to pick up well made, western style kurta and kaftan tops to fit in while traveling throughout India

Wear leggings with kurta tops or long shirts to cover your bottom for a loose, comfortable look that conforms to India’s dress standards.

Avoid clothes that show your cleavage, shoulders (bikini strap tank tops) or knees.

India is a conservative country and even though a sari will show your midriff, this does not mean it’s acceptable to wear short shirts that show your belly!

Wear sandals that are easy to take on/off as you will need to slip your shoes off and on often while visiting temples and even some shops.

Choose sandals with footbeds that absorb moisture and are comfortable. Avoid heels and hiking boots for regular day to day wear.

Choose light, loose clothing that breathes well in the hot and humid weather.

Always carry a shawl or scarf to cover your head or shoulders when necessary or to warm up in cold air conditioned hotels or restaurants.

More from Karilyn at No Back Home

 
What to wear in India. Top travel bloggers share what women wear in India, how to travel comfortably without attracting too much attention.

What to Wear When Traveling to India – Check Your Closet First

On my very first visit to India, I found that I didn’t have to buy new clothes to visit India.

I just needed to choose wisely the clothes that I would be bringing with me to wear.

Since I was going to be on a luxury train, I knew I would need to bring a few elegant pieces for night time dinners.

But I also knew that I wanted to be comfortable.

I chose to bring loose-fitting and shoulder covering tops that I had bought in Italy.

They were made from a free-flowing silky material and allowed for movement. Yet they were comfortable cotton underneath that touched my skin.

I also packed lightweight scarfs to wear around my neck for extra modesty and to cover my head when visiting temples and mosque.

Also, it got cold at night from sitting outside for a dinner and show. so I was so glad I had brought my scarves.

More from Cacinda: What Is It Really Like To Visit Taj Mahal City in India?

 
What to wear in India. Top travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to travel comfortably without attracting unwanted attention.

I’m totally obsessed with wearing jumpsuits in India! I brought several for my trip and they are super comfortable and fashionable.

The photo attached here shows shoulders which is a no-no but I was wearing a shawl the entire time, just took it off for photos!

I also love using India fabrics as head wraps, which also keeps my hair out of my face (it was hot when we were visiting!)

More from Kaila and Her Journey on the Golden Chariot

What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to dress while traveling in India for comfort.

What to Wear When Traveling to India – It Depends on the City!

I love matching clothes with destinations and packing my suitcase for India was a real delight. India is a burst of colors and architecture styles.

Of course, there are cultural differences that need to be taken into account when you choose what to wear on your trip.

In Rajasthan, where I traveled, it is inappropriate to show your knees or cleavage, so better opt for long dresses or pants.

I especially recommend a more bohemian style that will really stand out in the pictures.

And if you still don’t know what to pack, then buy clothes at the spot. There are so many beautiful fabrics to choose from!

More from Marta at Where Life is Great

 
What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to dress while traveling in India.

The One Must-Have Item to Wear in India

Looking for one item women should certainly pack for India! Look no further than a then scarf/pashmina!

Even if you don’t wear or use scarves at home, you will suddenly find plenty of uses for them in india!

If you plan to visit one of the many Mosques, you will be required to cover your head out of a sign of respect.

Having your own scarf you can just pull up to cover your hair will be convenient and will save you from having to not visit a place of worship or from having to wear a headscarf someone else wore.

They are also perfect to protect your skin from the hot Indian sun and then provide a little warmth when it cools down at night!

Scarves pack light and if you forget one, you can always buy one in an Indian market for a few Indian rupees!

More on what to wear in India from Victoria at Follow Me Away 

 
What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to dress while traveling in India.

It’s All About the Accessories in India

India is a very colorful country and the fashion is so unique that shopping is just amazing.

I would say that my best tips on what to wear in India would be to be comfortable, wear bohemian/tribal style clothing.

I packed long skirts, pants that were flowy, along with versatile tops in different colors to mix and match and of course, sarongs/scarfs to cover for temples and sacred places.

Don’t be afraid of your bright colored clothing because you will fit right in.

My most important advice is to avoid overpacking because you need the space for your shopping.

You will find a variety of amazing clothing and accessories for cheap.

So just bring basic pieces that you can combine, and, of course, wear colors to dress with Indian style and flare!

In India, it’s all about the accessories! I truly enjoyed just finding accessorizing items to enhance my outfits.

Like I always say, “I find style and beauty in every culture.”

And that inspires me!

Just always remember to be mindful of the culture, respect it (India is still very conservative depending the area) and embrace it.

No regrets.

Check out what Olga wore in India on Dreams in Heels Instagram

 
What to wear in India. Travel bloggers share what women wear in India and how to dress while traveling in India.

Take a Cue From Locals on What to Wear in India

Shop locally for kurtas and leggings, the standard, safe and pretty Indian combo most women wear in the cities.

Both in Lahore and in India, which I have visited dozens of times, I bought my outfits locally.

That means that you get something beautiful without compromising on quality and at a fraction of the price you would pay back home.

My colleagues in India took me shopping once to this local store called W for Women, which also sells online and has outlets in the major cities.

They carry beautiful kurtas with modern designs and in light fabrics so you do not boil inside when coming in and out of air conditioned areas and onto the hot sun.

The problem with the traditional Lucknowi kurtas with embroidery is that they can be made of really thick fabric so they get very hot in India’s weather.

This is the outfit I wore in my Golden Chariot luxury train trip in India.

Disclosure: All of these bloggers (including myself) were part of the India Blog Train program. It was hosted by Incredible India although none of us were paid. 60 bloggers travelled on four luxury trains over the course of one month. Beforehand there was a discussion about what to wear in India which is why I wanted to share this post.

I really believe it’s important to respect a culture when traveling as we are a guest in the country. I love how each of these participants approached what to wear in India.

Packing list: what to wear in India. 10 travel bloggers share what women wear in India.
Packing list: what to wear in India. 10 travel bloggers share what women wear in India.

Join the Conversation

  1. I’m planning to visit India next month, looking for some information about India and damn your post is awesome and thanks for the info

  2. Jillian Michelle says:

    OOOooo I love the dress that Marta is wearing in Rajasthan. Actually, I’m in love with that entire photo. I’d never even heard of Rajasthan before, but those columns in that picture look so magical that I’m definitely gonna hafta do some more research on that area of India. So so soooo pretty! <3

  3. so lovely lovely . Thanks so much

  4. ayushveda says:

    Excellent post. Your article will definitely guide the solo female travellers from other countries who are visiting India.

  5. Ally Cell says:

    Fantastic Blog it is. You look pretty in each of these dresses. I will visit India in December and I am really excited to wear such dresses I have a long to do list for India, hope it will be fun. I I like your blog very much. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Simon John says:

    This is really amazing and beautiful train in India! You will be treated like a queen or king there. I really love this train so much.

  7. Morgan Teresa says:

    India is a really awesome country. I love India traveling. Many tourists select the holiday trip in India because there is a lot of a good place in India for travel and India’s culture is different from all the countries. You sharing the information is helpful for tourist. Thanks for sharing the great information. Good Luck!

  8. nice collections… Indian dressing always awesome,….

  9. I’m headed there in a few days and people keep telling me it is cool there at night and on the trains. How cool? What kind of coat/jacket should I take? I was thinking of a knee-length lightweight puffy coat that is easily squished up into a small bag. Thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It is surprisingly cool in the evenings. I’m not sure how long you’re traveling but as a Canadian I can take a lot of cold. I think the combination of leggings and a long sleeve shirt with a light sweater is best. But I love layers because sometimes it’s a little cold and other times it’s really cold.
      Also, clothes are cheap in India so if you find you need something heavier there are tons of shops that sell heavier clothing.

      1. Thanks. Just back. For early morning and late night boat rides on the Ganges at this time of year, I’d recommend a sweater, a toque (I’m Canadian too) and a light puffy or fleece jacket. I took my packable long puffy and I’m so glad I did. I also went on an early morning safari—I would have been freezing without it.

  10. So excited to find this post. You look stunning
    nice tips thnku guys

  11. They are all amazing.

  12. Patil Mitesh says:

    All are amazing. but i want to say that nowadays in india that keen thinking problem is no more, every girl has freedom of their own what top wear.
    so keep posting such blogs.

  13. While I love this post and all the photos, as an Indian woman I have to say that you absolutely don’t need to wear Indian clothes unless you want to. India is conservative in general, but wearing trousers and a normal T-shirt is also perfectly acceptable almost everywhere. Jeans are perfectly fine too, but it’s often too hot for that anyways. I haven’t been to the northern plains states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which are among the most conservative, but even there no one will care if you wear trousers and a t-shirt.
    Personally, I freely wear shorts in most areas of my city, simply because of personal preference, but the staring can be rough if you’re not used to it, and for better or worse, I am. So I definitely wouldn’t recommend that, especially if you’re white. You’ll get stared at far too much.
    The problem with Indian clothes such as kurtas and leggings is the lack of comfort, in my opinion. No pockets, the dupatta comes in the way of friggin everything, you have to straighten the kurta underneath you when sitting, etc. I have never worn India attire outside of festivals and functions, and don’t plan to do so either.
    TLDR: If you’re planning to visit India soon and aren’t thrilled about the prospect of wearing Indian clothes, regular jeans/trousers/pants/capris and T-shirts will work just fine. Avoid shorts. At any point, if you don’t feel comfortable, buy Indian clothes from stores like FabIndia.
    Take it from an Indian.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thank you SO much for weighing in. I think it’s so important for people who live in India to give their thoughts. I will say the next time I’m in Delhi I’m definitely wearing jeans as I saw so many women wearing them.

  14. ANKIT PANDEY says:

    Dear.. You should make . The logo of the year like January to December .. Ex. Born on January born on December like. This will give u huge benefit.. ND don’t forget me. ? I also want something . I want to to say that I belong to middle clss family.. Think about it..

    Thank you

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m sorry I don’t completely understand what you are referring to.

  15. KDW Apparel says:

    Such a nice post!

  16. Bharat Taxi says:

    Hey, I am so glad to read your thoughts because I really enjoyed reading this. The way you explain your travel experience is truly awesome.

  17. I love this blog. Thanks for the info. You all look pretty and awesome with your dresses. I’m so excited to visit India next year. But I have a question,since I am a type of girl who wear sneakers/rubber shoes is it ok to wear rubber shoes?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes absolutely, in fact I think sneakers are appropriate in many places where you would not want open toed shoes. I wore ballet flats in some cases and preferred that in some cities where it had rained or was a bit muddy and I didn’t want to get my feet dirty.

      1. Thanks a lot?

  18. Pooja Khandelwal says:

    Very Good

  19. loved reading your posts… in getting different oooo one of what women should wear in India. Me and my sister are looking at going for new year 2019 in ghoa.

    Is India still traditionally that we can’t wear shorts? Or is it simply if we don’t cover up our shoulders and legs we get stared at.

    Thanks!! Loved reading your blog

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think Goa is very different than other areas as it’s a beach town with a lot of tourists. The same for cities where people wear much more modern clothing.

      I will say this, we were in Delhi and someone I was with had short shorts and was showing their shoulders. While no one said anything to her, she received a lot of dirty looks and realized she shouldn’t do that again.

  20. I’m going in Oct for 4 weeks for work. I have a question about shoes. Do sandals work, or should I have closed toed shoes in a work setting? I plan on wearing pants with longer tops. I like the scarf suggestion and have plenty. Is the weather still hot in day and cool at night?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It depends on where you are working to determine the formality of dress but sandals should work and if not there are lots of places you can buy shoes.

  21. pkatherine says:

    H, am going in to the Golden Triangle and then onto Kerala And Mumbai. I was thinking of linen pants with tops…but I mostly see leggings….so are linen baggy pants ok, or will I stick out?? Also, based on a couple of comments, packing an LLBean packable sounds like it might be needed…easier to pack than a sweater…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      What people wear in India really varies. In cities like Delhi and Mumbai you’ll see women in jeans whereas smaller towns it’s much more traditional.
      Linen baggy pants are absolutely ok and will help you stand out less. I wore both baggy pants as well as dresses with leggings to cover past my knees.
      But clothing in India is very reasonably priced so leave some room in your bag as you’ll probably also want to pick up things.

  22. pkatherine says:

    H, am going in to the Golden Triangle and then onto Kerala And Mumbai. I was thinking of linen pants with tops…but I mostly see leggings….so are linen baggy pants ok, or will I stick out?? Also, based on a couple of comments, packing an LLBean packable sounds like it might be needed…easier to pack than a sweater…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      What people wear in India really varies. In cities like Delhi and Mumbai you’ll see women in jeans whereas smaller towns it’s much more traditional.
      Linen baggy pants are absolutely ok and will help you stand out less. I wore both baggy pants as well as dresses with leggings to cover past my knees.
      But clothing in India is very reasonably priced so leave some room in your bag as you’ll probably also want to pick up things.

    2. Just wear whatever you’re comfortable with. Most of the visitors I’ve seen don’t wear traditional dresses (most of the younger Indians don’t either) as it’s not necessary. Do check the weather of the place you’re visiting. Kerala is currently receiving heavy rainfall.

  23. Where to Buy Indian Ethnic dress like salwar kameez, Anarkali or lehenga are hot favorite among Indian women when they want to look extra gorgeous for special occasions like wedding religious functions etc.Heenastyle is the best for online shopping in india.

  24. Stella Mary says:

    What to wear in India not only helps foreign travelers but also the travelers within India from one state to another states. Great post. Thank you for sharing the very helpful data.

  25. Paridhan Lok says:

    The wedding season is all about styling and carrying women lehenga in unique and vibrant styles. Try out women saree lehenga style this season to enjoy a dual ethnic look in a single outfit.

  26. Monica Soni says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. I am loving these tips.

  27. Satyadesigns says:

    Great post and very informative satya designs provide good collection kurti, gown and casual women’s wear

  28. We bought a sweater for my mother from PaytmMall. Because of the winter season, when we are buying that sweater. We don’t have any offer on it. Then my sister searched for the coupons it is available in the saveplus store. we are happy now to use this coupon.

  29. Manel Rodriguez says:

    Very well written article. One thing is sure that India is so many colors. Every state has a different vibe and you can dress as you please. Make sure you respect the places. as the author has mentioned. Really nicely done by Ayngelina.

  30. Pravindra Rautela says:

    You look pretty in each of these dresses. Thanks for sharing this information.

  31. You have really understood the Indian culture and given appropriate tips. Great write-up

  32. its very nice Indian culture For sharing content and such nice information for me. I hope you will share some more content about. Please keep sharing!

  33. It’s very good blog! For sharing content and such nice information for me. I hope you will share some more content about. Please keep sharing!

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