“How to dress in India” is a big question for international tourists, especially so for female travelers. But there need not be any apprehension or confusion if you just remember to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
Summer (February mid to August mid)
Summers can be hot and humid in most parts of India, especially in coastal areas. So, pack light cotton shirts and pants. July to September is the rainy season. So, pack your rain gear.
Winter (late September to January)
Winters are not overly cold in many states, but in hill stations like Darjeeling, Shimla, Kodaikanal, Munnar, the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir and similar places, it can go down to freezing temperatures. So, pack warm clothes, dress in layers.
Here is what international travelers say about the clothing they felt comfortable in when visiting India.
Through a foreigner’s eyes
Natalia from MyTripHack says:
Despite the common advice for women to go for extra size clothes, I suggest not to burden yourself with shopping to “fit in”.
My advice on what to wear in India depends on your itinerary. I wear pants and jeans (as other Indian girls do) when I’m in hilly areas – Himalaya, North-East, and Western Ghats. It’s a practical solution there!
At the same time, I don’t wear jeans in other parts of India as they stick in hot & humid weather. T-shirts, tunics, half-pants, dresses with leggings are my daily choices.
While I have a salwar kameez (suit) and kurtis in my wardrobe for traditional functions, it’s not a mandatory outfit!
It took me a few years to understand that India is not as conservative as many foreigners perceive it. It’s open to different styles and cultures and you are good to go to most of the tourist places in India as long as you cover your knees and shoulders.
Also read: Top sunrise spots in India
Karilyn from NoBackHomeTravel says:
Having lived in and visited India for more than 15 years, I found that I am most comfortable wearing cotton leggings with a kurta, a traditional Indian shirt. Kurtas come in long and short forms, both of which are perfect choices as long as it covers your bum and shoulders.
Many kurtas in India actually come with the bottoms, which can either resemble leggings but is made out of a different type of cotton or baggy pajama-type pants.
Lightweight kurtas can be found all over the country. My favorite place to pick up fashionable Indian wear is at the uber popular chain store FabIndia. They carry beautiful Indian clothes with a little bit of a western fashion sense perfect for tourists and expats alike.
Lastly, you will need a beautiful colorful shawl to accompany your kurta. This isn’t a necessity, but it does provide a bit more coverage and can be used to cover your head when entering temples.
Christine from Christine Abroad says:
When I went to India two years ago, I bought traditional clothes in Delhi during my first days in the country. I bought a set of loose pants and a tunic with neutral print and natural colors to not stand out too much.
The clothing was comfortable, and I didn’t feel weird at all walking around in it. It was the opposite – the locals came up to me and said how beautiful I looked in their traditional clothing, which made me really happy.
Not only was the clothing super comfortable, but also perfect for pictures! I bought it because I think their traditional clothing is beautiful and also because I wanted to blend in with the locals.
Also read: 16 Incredible places to visit in South India
Mar from OnceInALifetimeJourney says:
Before going on the trip I realized that a lot of my fellow travelers were quite confused as to what to wear in India. Luckily for me, my partner is Indian-Singaporean and I have been to India dozens of times for work so I was very comfortable about the appropriate dress code.
If you are still in doubt, wear the most conservative sensible clothes you have when you go out for the first time and look around you to see how the locals dress and try to imitate if possible.
Wearing a saree can be difficult, but a kurta/pants set is always a safe bet and an easy choice. A salwar suit (salwar kameez) is the most commonly worn dress by Indian women and it is a great choice too.
Plain old Jeans and T-shirts
All said, I sincerely feel that western wear like T-shirts and jeans are great to be worn to any place. This is especially true in popular tourist spots like Agra, Rajasthan, Goa and Delhi.
When you go to a temple, try to use a shawl or a scarf to cover your head if you see the locals doing it. And in general, being mindful of the local culture is a great way to know what to wear in that place.
If you are ever in Mumbai, definitely check out Fashion street for great clothes at bargain rates. Same with Commercial Street in Bangalore.
I hope these clothing tips help you enjoy your stay in incredible India. Bon voyage!
Once you are in the country, don’t stop by just visiting North India, check out beautiful places to visit in South India.