I recently visited India for the first time and being
a control freak the organised person that I am, I did plenty of procrastination research into what to wear. I had a few considerations to take into account: 1) my light untanned Western skin which sunburns easily; 2) the local culture; 3) the variety of places I was going to visit; and 4 making sure I was comfortable. So here is the result, my guide on what to wear as a woman in India:
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What to wear as a woman in India
In general my focus was on being fairly covered up. The reasons for this were the strong sun – I burn super easily – and cultural. Whilst the majority of the areas I was visiting were Hindu, there is definitely a cultural expectation for women to be relatively covered up. This is a little different to the majority Muslim areas, where the culture is to be even more covered. However I still want to respect the local customs when I visit a place and so I made sure that I had plenty of long sleeves and long trousers/skirts. My clothing was made up of some of the items that I used for my visit to Oman and some new items.
Where did I go in India?
I joined the Northern India Flash Pack tour, which started in New Delhi and went around the ‘Golden Triangle’ that is made up of Delhi, Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Jaipur in Rajasthan. I visited at the beginning of April, which is the start of the hot season. Temperatures were a lot cooler at the start of March apparently… However my birthday is at the start of April and ‘shoulder season’ was also good for lower crowds at the main tourist areas like the Taj Mahal. We had a mixture of sightseeing, evenings out at nice restaurants and dusty excursions. So I had to be prepared for all these activities.
What to wear sightseeing in India
Here comfort and coverage are key! I went with layering long line tops over loose trousers, similar to how the local women in the towns dressed. However I didn’t buy specifically Indian clothing. My thought process was that if I needed a particular item of clothing I would be able to buy it there and for cheaper than getting it in the UK.
Tunics and long tops
This tunic dress from GAP was great over some loose light weight trousers. Paired with a scarf and sandals this completed my look.
See more pictures below of the loose, longer line tops I took.
Again these are lightweight cotton from GAP and I wore most of these in Oman too!
Trousers and leggings
I took a few trousers – some loose linen ones, my sturdy GAP girlfriend chinos, the grey trousers above and some leggings. All these could be layered with longer tops over them, so despite being tight on the behind, I wasn’t dressed indecently.
I had a pair of workout leggings for the hike we did (and on the off chance I would find the hotel gym – this didn’t happen!). Trousers were the best thing for climbing in and out of a the hot air balloon in Rajasthan too.
Long skirts and maxi dresses
Another great way to keep covered up, with skirts in cotton or other cool loose material/styles.
Although I knew I could definitely buy scarfs when in India, I took a few with me. I do like to travel with a scarf on the plane, in case it’s colder and also layers just make sense when moving from one climate to another.
Layering a scarf over my outfit also made me feel more like the local women and meant I had access to head coverage when visiting temples etc.
The traditional way that the local ladies wore the scarf and tunic combo was with the ends over the backs of their shoulders. However with my scarf, it simply wouldn’t stay on!
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One of the best experiences I had on my India tour with @flashpack was being welcomed into Mita’s house for an Indian cooking class and dinner! . Scroll to see our traditional welcome with marigold garlands and a blessing with a sindur ‘bindi’ on the forehead. . It was awesome to be able to see a local’s house and to get hands on making our own dinner. I have the recipe book so I can try out some of the recipes at home – first I need to get the right spices! . #whatskatiedoingblog #jaipur #breathedreamgo #mitasculturalparadise #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #darlingescapes #traveldreamseekers #proudtobeFTB #untilIfindhome #picsworthsharing #flashpack
A hat was a necessity for me under the hot sun in the middle of the day too.
Whilst my Dad insisted I take a face mask, I didn’t actually use this in Delhi. The reason why he insisted was because Delhi is notorious for it’s high levels of pollution. However what he forgot is that I live in London… maybe not as bad, but my lungs are definitely used to a lot of pollution already! If you want to be cautious then you can get masks from Amazon here [affiliate link]:
I took three pairs of shoes – I know, I know, this can be considered under-packing by some! I only needed my trusty flip flops, some smarter sandals and some trainers. I wear the Havaianas flip flops in the style with a back, so they look more like sandals. These I find quite comfortable and easy to take on and off [affiliate link]:
My ‘nice’ sandals were from Oliver Bonas, great for evenings when we went out and I wanted to look smarter (& more sparkly).
I travelled in trainers (so they took up less room in my bag). I also needed these in the colder climate of the UK when I left. They were useful for hiking and when I needed to have shoes with more coverage, e.g on cobbles and rough floors. Some people prefer to have slip on shoes that cover more of the feet rather than flip flops, as these will stop you getting dirty feet from the street. However I preferred having cooler feet and just watching where I stepped!
I’d highly recommend taking a fan – whether that be a manual hand held one like mine – or a battery operated one. I was also recommended to take cold water mist in a can, which is why I look very dewy in some pictures!
What to wear when visiting temples in India
For all Indian temples the main thing you need to remember is that you need to take off your shoes. So don’t go for a day of temple visiting wearing shoes that are tricky to get on and off. You need to be quick about these things and comfortable leaving them by the entrance. Just remember that they are considered unclean so you shouldn’t take them inside the temple, even inside a bag. Everyone does this so your shoes should be fine outside, but if you are worried about them going missing, take cheap flip flops or sandals for this purpose specifically. In addition leather should not be taken inside a temple at all! This is because cows are sacred in the Hindu religion.
With regards to dress, it is best to have a modest top (no cleavage and shoulders covered) and to have legs covered by loose trousers or a long skirt. In general shorts, jeans and leggings without a tunic top over them, would be considered inappropriate, but as you can see men can get away with most things!
Sikh temples have stricter rules, with head coverings required for both men and women. The men traditional wear turbans, but if you are not Sikh then a bandanna can do the job. This was what they were handing out to tourists at the Sikh temple we visited in New Delhi. I had brought a scarf with me, so used this to cover my head.
Then it’s important to remove your shoes & leave them outside, and to wash your feet and hands. There are basins and water troughs with soap to do this.
Regarding clothing – again it’s about being modest and comfortable. A lot of the temple complex we visited was outside, so in the sun. So you want to be covered up to be respectful, as well as protecting yourself from the sun. Loose long clothing is best for this. Things that are comfortable to wear and easy to sit down in, if you want to take in the worship, are ideal.
What to wear visiting the Taj Mahal
For the Taj Mahal we got up super early (like 4:30 am) so basically I wanted to roll out of bed and not spend time getting ready. However my roomie had other ideas and spent at least half an hour getting ready, with a full face of makeup and an all white outfit. So not to feel underdone compared to her, I wore a fancy tunic over leggings and hid my bed hair under a headband. I also put some makeup on (luckily it wasn’t so warm that it melted off at that time of day!)
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Back to the Taj Mahal…. . This time you can see what I’m wearing – a traditional tunic over leggings (thanks @cbhtravels!) . Beautiful Taj Mahal . #india?? #whatskatiedoingblog #tajmahal #incredibleindia #incredibleindia?? passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #darlingescapes #traveldreamseekers #proudtobeFTB #untilIfindhome #picsworthsharing #agra #breathedreamgo
To be fair I don’t think it matters much what you wear here. It’s such a stunning place to take in that it’s not about you really. I’m glad that I put a bit of effort in though, but most of the photos didn’t have me in them at all!
What to wear going out in Delhi and Jaipur
In both Delhi and Jaipur we had some free evenings where we chose to go out for dinner and drinks near our hotels. In Delhi we went out in Khan Market, which is an upmarket shopping center with lots of cool restaurants and bars. As such this meant hair and make up, nice clothes and shoes.
Here was where I wore some of my maxi dresses and my fancy sandals.
I wore my trusty long leopard print shirt over leggings on a night out in Delhi:
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Today for #ginadaymay the theme is #away – so I’m flashing back to India with this shot of me and Anand from @greaterthangin & @hapusagin drinking negronis made with the @andazdelhi own ‘Delhi Sapphire’ gin . I do look out for local gins and cocktail bars wherever I travel, so was delighted to try something different – Juniper Bar at the hotel infuse their own gins, so they have a VAST selection to try whichever way you want! . I can’t wait to catch up with Anand when he is back over in the UK at @junipalooza introducing Greater Than Gin to the masses! . #gin #whatskatiedoingblog #delhiindia #india?? #breathedreamgo #incredibleindia #incredibleindia?? #negroni #ginspiration #❤️gin #ginlush #gintasting #gintime #ginstagram #ginforthewin #ginformation #ginoclock #gintastic #whynotgin #imbibegram #imbibe #instacocktail #instadrinks #drinkstagram #womenwhodrink
Find similar long length leopard print top here [affiliate link].
What to wear on safari in Ramthambore National Park
Well this is more what I wished I’d worn. A sports bra was definitely needed for the bumpy jeep rides. All the women on my tour agreed afterwards that we wished we’d worn one to avoid the post safari boob ache! Most of this was from chasing through the park from the other side to see a tiger! We had literally gone the other side of our zone and our driver raced back, up and down hills, over bridges, with the jeep juddering all the way. But it was worth it to get soo close to this majestic beast:
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Interrupting Taj Mahal coverage for breaking news!! I saw a tiger on my birthday!!!! ????????????? . We drove past this spot first thing in the morning but the tiger didn’t come out til it was a bit hotter and drank buckets of water before going for a snooze . We were enraptured! ? so happy that we were so lucky to be this close and on my birthday too! ♥️ . #ranthambore #india?? #whatskatiedoingblog #safari #tigerspotting #tiger? #breathedreamgo #incredibleIndia #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #darlingescapes #traveldreamseekers #proudtobeFTB #untilIfindhome #picsworthsharing
In addition to strapping your boobs down well, I’d suggest making sure you are covered up. Long sleeves and trousers and a hat are a necessity. Make sure the hat fits so it doesn’t blow off your head on faster driving.
A scarf or face mask is a good shout as defense against the dust that the jeeps kick up and sunglasses will keep some of that dust out of your eyes.
This is the mask that I got from Amazon – more for city pollution, but it proved useful here too [affiliate link]:
What to wear biking around Jaipur
Well they give you a helmet… everything else is up to you!
As you can see we went for a mix of items – some of the girls wore gym wear. I was the only one in flip flops, but this proved helpful later when we visited the temple & had to take shoes off. You can also see I had my trusty cross body Kipling bag with me throughout the trip. Find a similar bag here [affiliate link]:
That’s what I wore as a woman in India! So what do you think of my outfit choices? I know they might not be for everyone, but I was comfortable and covered without worrying about offending people or getting sun burnt.
Great post! You look fab Katie (plus, those clothes are perfect for the jumping photo!!)
Thanks Josy! ?
Great post with tips on what to wear in India. Breathable, light, but not ‘exposed’ clothing (except for wearing a sari then that’s acceptable).
Yes exactly – some skin is ok in context, but for me it’s also about being comfortable.
Thanks for this informative post. It’s great that you are so conscious of being respectful to the culture, particularly when visiting religious sites. Thanks for educating about shoes and leather in temples. Your photos look great as well!