What to wear in India?

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What to wear in India?

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Hi!

Im off to India in a month and just need some advice on what to wear. I’ll be visiting Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and then travelling north as part of a group. I know I need to be dressed modestly, full length trousers and covered shoulders and that whatever I choose will need to be cool! Do you think it would be appropriate to buy a few items of Indian clothes before I go? I live near Bradford so have access to plenty shops. I was thinking of wearing my own cotton trousers, but then taking a Kurti, Kaftan or a Salwar….. not entirely sure if any of these are appropriate or are they intended only for formal wear? Would I stand out more wearing something like this than if I just wore western clothes? Please give me some advice! Thanks!!

 

     
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Hey, I’m also going to India in just under a month - doing the same places as you. I’m planning on buying a salwar kameez when I arrive in Delhi. I’ve looked into it and apparently Indian people really appreciate Westerners wearing Indian clothes.

You can have a salwar made for you very easily - just purchase the material and they make it in a couple of hours. It’d be cheaper buying it in India than buying in the UK - and also not as special.

I’m taking a pair of cheap lightweight linen trouser and a short sleeved shirt for the first couple of days until I can buy Indian garments. I’m going to try to get a sari - but apparently they are notoriously difficult to wear and sometimes Westerners and not sold them for some reason.

Check out THIS site for more information about what to wear in India. smile

When are you arriving/leaving India? x

     
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Hi, when I was there I didn’t wear Indian clothes, but I dressed modestly (no short skirts etc) in western clothing. Things like linen trousers, light combats, loose tops and tunics were fine. You are visting very popular places so the locals are used to seeing tourists. There’s no need to cover up completely in places like Delhi unless you’re going into temples ... obviously use common sense and don’t go for the overly revealing look, but you’re able to wear skirts that fall below the knee if you’re feeling hot, without any problems.
I didn’t see many westerners in Indian clothing but I can imagine this would cause a bit of amusement, although also be appreciated. I was working at a charity helping with slum children, and one day at the slum the women pulled me into a hut and wrapped me up in a sari then paraded me about. I think they found it hilarious seeing a white person dressed like this!
Didn’t go to Varanasi but as it’s such a sacred place I would imagine more discretion is needed here.

     
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I’d echo what the other posters said - especially about getting clothes once you arrive as you’ve got infinitely more choice and they’ll be a fraction of the cost.

In general, if you’re covered to the knee and elbow, you’ll be fine (though it won’t stop all the hassle, just the you’re-disrespecting-my-culture hassle). I didn’t find Varanasi any different, though you have to careful not to get in anyone’s way or take photos.

     
deleted-user

Hi, Thanks for the replies!

Alexandra- I’ll be there from June 14th, and then I have a trip with Intrepid going north from June 23rd. Im so nervous and excited at the same time, I’ve never planned such a big trip, or been anywhere where I will have such a big culture shock. Have you learnt any Hindi at all?

Ambermarie- I don’t think i’ll try a Sari, Im not brave enough and i’ve also heard they’re notoriously hard to handle! Im definately planning on wearing linen trousers and hopefully finding long sleeve linen shirts, the kurti’s i was looking at are pretty much just like kaftan’s but with some embellishment, but they’re £15-£20, no doubt I can get them in India for much much less than that! I know some of the places I’ll be going will be fairly accustomed to tourists but some of the places up north will be quite remote, so I really don’t want to offend! Thanks for your advice!

     
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i have been to india, i went to delhi, around rajasthan, up to punjab then across to varanasi, down to mumbai, kerala, bangalore then to goa.

everywhere from mumbai and down (on my list) try to wear non revealing clothes. you wont insult people by showing a bit of leg or a shoulder in places such as mumbai or bangalore as they tend to dress like westerners do anyway. but in all the other places not only should you cover up, but you will want to!!

im the kind of person that if there is a bit of sun i want as much flesh out as possible but in these places my skin never saw any sun, i even wore shorts and t-shirt to swim in if a hotel we stayed at had a pool and still felt like i was parading around naked!!

take linen trousers as they will be cooler, take a top that has long arms and will cover your chest up to near your neck and when you get there get some tops made/buy some. the salwar kameez look really nice and i wish i had bought one. though i wouldnt have worn the trousers just the top with my own trousers. but the scarf you get with it is very handy when your going into temples etc and need to cover your head. i tried a sari on in delhi and it was fun but id feel like a muppet walking round with one. i saw one or 2 people wearing them (westerners) and i admit i thought they looked stupid and did laugh! but if you want one, get one. just remember that with a sari your stomach will be on show! i saw so many fat stomachs and rolls in india, haha!!

     
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Hi,
Welcome to India. This thorough discussion on clothing is surely humourous. It almost makes India sound like an Afghanistan smile
The females (specially) just need to follow common logic only. These points may be handy.
1) While travelling or being in public places one should ideally be well covered. Plunging necklines and legs exposed may surely attract unrequired attention.
2) If travelling by air, its reasonably ok to wear whatever you wear in your home country. If you are on a shoe string budget then there are usually more chances to come across instances you may not like.
3) Salwar suits are far more practical for travelling incase you insist on wearing Indian dresses. Jeans and a top are also ok. Long skirts with a sleeveless top is also fine.
4) In religious places one must obey the common logic. Dressing should be simple and covered. A ‘Dupatta’ on the head usually hides the upper body and also invokes a pious look.
5) Wearing a Sari could be disastrous if you are not used to it before.
6) Buy your Indian clothing when you land up in Delhi. It will be far cheaper here. Some economic places in Delhi for clothes are Sarojni Nagar, Palika Bazar, Karol bagh etc.
7) Auto Rickshaws and Taxi (7 out of 10) will overcharge you. So have some prior information about where you go.
8) At places. that are full of tourists, you can wear what you want. It will be only expected of you to be different than the locals there.
9) Its going to be really hot in India till September. Cottons and Linens are a good idea.
10) Men all over the world are far more similar, so use your common sense. India is no exception. As they say ‘A plunging neckline is enough to keep a man on his toes’ smile
Enjoy the land of wonderful contrasts. The incredible India.
Cheers,
Hersh

     
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Beautiful country as India is, sadly it is inhabited by the most hypocrite race on the planet. In a country where 50% population is illeterate, 76% are malnourished, 80% earn less than a dollar a day, where there is no safe drinking water, electicity and roads, and people are deeply conservative,one must dress in politically correct way. We can not expose in the manner of Khajuraho temple’s Gods and Goddes. It is unacceptable, but not those naked Gods and Goddesses. And yes, there are pockets of Afganistan in India, although India as a whole may not be called “Afganistan like”.

To help those 80% Indians who live on less than a dollar a day, head to Pallika Bazaar in Connought Place or street market in Janpath and in shops along Janpath in New Delhi. Choice of Indian readymade garments are awesome, style contemporary, fabric material reasonably good and they are dirt cheap. But haggle and bargain. As temperature in the planes soars to 45*c, stick to cotton. Fancy kurta in Rs 100 and a trouser in Rs 150 can be had in Janpath ie ££3.50.  Same with ladies too. They sell nice skirt and the top at Janpath in Rs. 400-500 and same for a set of Salwaar-Kameez.

India is a land of contrast. Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore may be in 21st century,but the area around Varanasi and stretch of land from there upto Calcutta still lives in 19th century. Thnkfully, this “Area of Darkness” is away from tourist trail but is a very much Buddhist trail containing all ancient Buddhist monuments and shrine. But Buddhists are tolerent people, they don’t protest.

So, moral of the story is “Dress as the Place”. Conservativey in conservative area, Western in Westernised areas.    :D

     
deleted-user

Having been to India recently, I think there’s some excellent advice here.

Linen trousers are great - I found some brilliant ones in Primark before I left.

Just take enough clothes for the first few days and buy loads when you get there. I went to Pondy Bazaar in Chennai and got some great Kurtas. They didn’t all fit me, but hey, they were only 100R! I did splash out on a couple of occasions and bought a nice top from Fab India for 350R. I still wear some of these clothes now!

Dressing modestly helps, but sadly European (and sometime British Asian girls too, if they hear your accent!) girls will still get disproportionately more unwanted attention than local girls. I was dressed very modestly one day on a crowded bus and some sleazy guy tried to touch me. He was more overt with my less conservatively dressed friend once I’d move away! Don’t let that put you off though, it was only one occasion in a whole month in Chennai.

     
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doesnt really matter how well you dress and how much you cover, if your white then your gonna get attention. when we were in varanasi we got surrounded by a group of rickshaw drivers all wanting our business but all of them charging 5 times what the normal price was and one of the buggers grabbed my boob. i was with a guy who was alot taller than them all, bigger than them all and i was covered from shoulder to toe!! the only skin on show was my face, neck and hands!

     
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I wore local clothes for the vast majority of the time - I was teaching and in school it was compulsory to wear salwaar kameez, and I loved it so wore it most of the time outside of school as well. Whilst travelling around I did wear my own trousers quite often.

I realised just how much difference it made one day, whilst in Kerala, in Periyar (a national park) - I decided to wear a (crew neck) tshirt and trousers, as it seemed more practical for the jungle-type walk we were going on - and the increase in staring and comments was immense.

I did encounter some amusement - but mostly from girls my own age, who often didn’t speak much english, and were intrigued by me wearing Indian clothes - so it was definately a positive amusement! It started up various conversations I never would have had if I was in western clothes.

Note - if you do decide to wear local clothes, make sure you wear the dupatta (scarf)! Lots of westerners abandon it, and it makes wearing local clothes a bit pointless!

     
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im going to be traveling from mumbai to calcutta via new delhi this summer.  is it considered ok to wear shorts?  or should i go for the linen trousers?
cheers

     
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Hey, I’m also going to India in just under a month - doing the same places as you. I’m planning on buying a salwar kameez when I arrive in Delhi. I’ve looked into it and apparently Indian people really appreciate Westerners wearing Indian clothes.

You can have a salwar made for you very easily - just purchase the material and they make it in a couple of hours. It’d be cheaper buying it in India than buying in the UK - and also not as special.

Try Janpath, Karol Bagh and Delhi Haat for cheap Indian clothes. I pick mine at Janpath, shirts in Rs. 100 - 200 each.

I’m taking a pair of cheap lightweight linen trouser and a short sleeved shirt for the first couple of days until I can buy Indian garments. I’m going to try to get a sari - but apparently they are notoriously difficult to wear and sometimes Westerners and not sold them for some reason.

Please don’t, O’ yeah, please don’t wear sari in public. Make you look funny. Can wers on social occasions, but not as a daily dress. Dress taste in India has changed dramatically and it is more business like than sari.

Check out THIS site for more information about what to wear in India. smile

When are you arriving/leaving India? x

 

     
deleted-user

I’m fairly new here.. so not too sure if there are many Indians around (at least it doesn’t seem like it for some reason). Was reading up on all these India related threads and it seems like there is a lot of paranoia when it comes to how safe this nation is for tourists.. all of it was a little disturbing for me and thought I’d clear some points out!

Anyway, I’m an Indian, born and brought up in Mumbai and have grown (quite literally too) to love this country and my city. So coming to the whole clothing issue, I don’t see anything wrong with anyone wearing western wear.. if you ever come down to Mumbai you’ll see a million girls wearing western outfits.. revealing or otherwise the most that’ll do is that it’ll turn a few heads rolleyes  I suppose it is relatively harmless and it’s a typical response of any male; nationality irrespective! (you can drive around in a maserati and probably get the same response).

Now for the serious issue of physical intrusion.. Please report these cases no matter how trivial they are, as not doing so will just encourage these perpetrators to commit such acts again in the future. Please do not let these goons go unchallenged as they are a menace to everyone here; locals and foreigners alike!

Finally.. I’d really like to say that most Indians are very liberal and I trust I just represented that group. As a liberal and secular country, the focus should be on curbing such acts of assault… NOT on forcing girls to cover-up! (reminds me of the taliban!!) So please wear what you wear usually and what you are comfortable in!

Hope that wasn’t too serious or heavy!!

.
.
p.s : As for creeps with staring issues .. it’d be safe to assume they don’t have access to the internet LOL

     
deleted-user

I spent a lot of time in those shorts that come to just above the knee (I think they are called city shorts). I found them great for the hot weather because you didn’t get too hot and you didn’t reveal too much either. They also don’t ride up! Long maxi skirts are also great for the evening or just strolling around but not too good it you are going to be on the move. I don’t find Indian clothing very comfortable especially if you are trekking or doing other activities. That said Kurta’s can be quite comfortable worn with simple elasticated cotton trousers.

I went to a traditional family occasion at a local families house and they dressed me in a Sari. They were having so much fun dressing me up - they were like little girls giggling like crazy! I wore the Sari all day but it was very hard to wear. People don’t realise how many bits there are to a Sari until you put one on!!!! I was also really hot because it was made of thick Assamese silk - a bit like curtain material. It was very beautiful though and I even kept it and have it here at home.

I also felt more comfortable wearing a halterneck bikini top when it got really hot instead of a bra.

The main thing when travelling in India is to be comfortable in what you are wearing. If you feel uncomfortable by the way you are dressed you will really feel so bad. I don’t dress too differently in India to the way I dress back home but just no short skirts or no bra straps on show. The main thing is to be confident. Once you master this you won’t even notice people staring at you. I feel like a local now when I go!!!!

Louise

     
deleted-user

Okay so how about shoes? What are good shoes to wear?
I’m going to be in New Delhi, Bengaluru and Goa.

Will flip flops be ok?