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What To Wear In India

India is a staggeringly diverse subcontinent of varying cultures, differing customs and clothing and fashion traditions.

Figuring out what to wear in India can get quite confusing.

Your choice of clothing should strike a balance between respect for local cultural norms and your style.

Deciding what to wear depends upon which part of India you are planning to travel to, what time of the year you are traveling in and the tourist activities you want to indulge in. It also depends on the occasion and your personal preference in styling and clothing.

India is a country that is in the midst of a rapid transformation. Economic growth, growing integration into the global culture, globalization, the internet and social media are the drivers behind this remarkable transformation.

But India is also a country that is a legatee to a 5000-year-old continuous civilization. It prides itself on its culture, tradition, continuity and civilizational heritage.

So, while India is striding confidently into the 21st century with a rampaging economy, cultural soft power, IT prowess and growing global political clout, it is also a stay true to its soil by cherishing its culture and tradition.

While this might sound difficult to wrap your head around, our guide will demystify it for you.

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Essential Tips On What To Wear In India


In this comprehensive guide, we unravel for you the nuances of what to wear when you are traveling in India.

Here are a few general tips to keep in mind before you pack your bags.

Dress Sensibly


While India is no rigid theocracy where you are forced to drape yourself in long shrouds, it is still quite a traditional and conservative country, (especially in small towns and rural India).

Dressing provocatively is not advisable.

In modern cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkata or Delhi, you can dress the way you would in Europe or North America, but in smaller towns and villages and conservative states of India, you would be better off dressing modestly (with covered shoulders & knees).

Respect the Sanctity of Religious Places


In places like temples, mosques, Gurdwaras and other historical centers of religious and spiritual significance like Varanasi, you will be expected to cover your shoulders, chest, and legs and also expected to take your footwear off before you enter.

Shorts, skirts, tank tops or low tops are inappropriate for such sacred places.

Pack in Breathable Fabrics for Travel


India is warmer than the Western hemisphere and the heat in the summer can get quite scorching.

You will therefore be well-advised to pack lightweight, loose-fitting and breathable fabrics made out of cotton or linen.

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Do Not be Reluctant to Try on Traditional Indian Attire


Trying out traditional Indian attire like a Salwar Kameez (a long loose-fitting tunic or top worth with a pair of loose trousers) or a Saree (a long piece of cloth draped elegantly by women around the body) can be great cultural immersion and a way to vibe with the locals.

Indians appreciate when foreign tourists put on traditional Indian attire.

For men, a Kurta or a Nehru Jacket are good options.

Avoid Revealing or Tight-Fitting Clothes


Except for the modern city centers, in much of India, provocative clothing may not be the prudent way to go and may garner unneeded attention and disapproving frowns.

Never wear swimwear outside of designated beaches or pools in the hotel.

When in Doubt, Grab a Pair of Jeans, Pants, and a T-Shirt or Knee-Length Skirt


The younger generations in all regions of India wear jeans to colleges, universities and everyday work.

A pair of jeans and a shirt that covers your body will go just about everywhere in India.

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Invest in Good Footwear


India is a very walkable place. The sights and attractions in major tourist destinations will require a lot of walking.

Do bear in mind that you will be expected to take off your footwear inside temples, mosques and other places of worship.


Other Essentials


A good pair of sunglasses, a cap or a hat and some good quality sunblock will go a long way in shielding you from the intense sun in peak afternoon hours.

If you traveling in the summer, throw in a bandana or a wide-brimmed hat to keep away from the sun.

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What To Wear In India In Winter


Winter (November-March) in India is not as intense as the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

It is dry and cool and the sunshine is balmy. Temperatures range from 50 °F to 68 °F.

The only place where it snows or the temperatures fall close to the freezing point is in the Northern Himalayas.

In much of northern India like Delhi, Rajasthan or Agra, light clothes with a warm sweater or jacket for cooler evenings is the right way to pack.

The south of India, being a subtropical region, is slighter warmer than the north.

What To Wear In India In Summer


Summer in India (April-September) can be cruelly hot and temperatures in most parts of India rise to 95-110 °F.

The monsoon season (July-August) can bring in torrential rains along with the heat and humidity.

Loose summer-oriented clothes made from cotton or linen can be a good option. The Himalayas are your best option for an escape from the heat of the low-lying plains.

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Frequently Asked Questions About What To Wear In India


What should tourists wear to India?


India does not have an official dress code. What people wear in India varies tremendously across regions and social strata.

You as a tourist are not compelled to dress a certain way, except for places of worship like temples, mosques and gurdwaras, where you are expected to dress modestly, covering your body.

However, India is still largely a traditional and conservative place. So, you are expected to dress sensibly and respect the local cultural norms and traditions.

What is appropriate to wear in India?


It depends upon where you are visiting in India and what time of the year you are visiting in. But in general, a pair of jeans or trousers with a shirt or tee is a good enough combo for all of India.

If you are visiting India during the summer (April-September), the mercury can rise over 95 °F. Loose-fitting fabric and breathable clothes are a smarter option to deal with the heat.

What clothes do girls wear in India?


In bigger cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, girls can wear anything they want and dress like they would dress in Europe or North America.

However if you are visiting a place of religious or spiritual significance, it is better to put on a shawl or long sleeve shirt.

In smaller towns and rural heartlands, which tend to be traditional and conservative, it is advisable to dress appropriately and wear clothes that cover your shoulders, chest and legs.

What do most people in India wear?


India is a vast subcontinent of 1.4 billion people with considerable diversity in terms of cultural norms and traditions. You will find a lot of variety when you travel from one region of India to another.

In urban areas, the younger generations often wear Western-style clothes (jeans, t-shirts, sneakers).

In the more conservative rural areas and small towns, you will find tremendous regional variety.

In northern India, the salwar kameez (a long loose-fitting tunic or top worth with a pair of loose trousers) is the common traditional attire for both men and women.

For formal occasions, women often wear Sarees (a long piece of cloth draped elegantly around the body) and Lehenga cholis. Relaxing wear in this part of India may be a Kurta (a longer summer-friendly loose-fitting form of Kameez).

In South India, women traditionally wear the Saree, whereas men wear the Lungi (a simple cloth wrapped around the waist) or Mundu (the Keralan form of Lungi worn in white or cream-colored cloth) or Dhoti (rectangular cloth tied around the waist) with a loose shirt.

Here as well, the younger generations commonly wear Western-styled clothes.

How to dress in India as a female tourist?


When you are in doubt and do not know what to put on, just pick a pair of jeans or full-length trousers with a full or half-sleeved shirt. This combo is good for everywhere.

In bigger urban areas, you can dress the way you want. Dress more modestly in smaller towns and rural areas.

Is it okay to wear crop tops in India?


Crop tops can be frowned upon in conservative small towns and traditional regions. You can keep a cover-up like a scarf or a cardigan handy to cover yourself if you venture outside of the modern city centers.

Is it OK to show your belly in India?


Only if you are in liberal urban areas. In much of India, it is not advisable to show your belly as it might attract frowns and undue attention from the locals.

Is it OK to wear jeans in India?


Yes. Absolutely. In fact, most young people in India wear a pair of jeans and T-shirts.

Can foreigners wear shorts in India?


You can wear shorts in modern cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore and almost all tourist places and monuments, (except places of religious significance).

Can I wear sleeveless in India?


Yes, you can. However when you enter a place of worship, make sure you wrap a shawl around yourself.

Is short dress allowed in India?


There is no bar on any kind of dressing in India per se, but it is more advisable to err on the side of caution and dress more modestly, especially in the conservative parts of India.

Can I wear a knee-length dress in India?


Yes. In cosmopolitan tourism-oriented cities like Goa, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, you can wear a knee-length dress.

What is the clothes law in India?


India does not have a clothes law or any strict dress code. But it is still a conservative country.

Therefore it is advisable to keep the local customs and traditions in mind and be sensible about them, when you choose what to wear in India.

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