Packing for India’s Hottest and Wettest Weather.
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Packing for India’s Hottest and Wettest Weather

If you're packing for India, you might feel like you have nothing to wear. Figuring out what to wear in India is a conundrum for Western visitors. The culture is conservative, but the weather is almost always hot. And when it's not hot, it's probably raining. You want to look cute, but you also want to be comfortable and respectful. It's enough to cause a complete packing meltdown. Instead of losing your cool, check out our outfit and packing ideas for India's hottest and wettest weather.

Field Notes on Packing for India

Woman standing in front of an ornate building in Agra.

India is the third-largest country in Asia, and it’s home to coasts, mountains, and islands that all have distinctly different weather patterns. The outfit ideas below cover India packing in Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, and Jaipur. With its European beach vibe, Goa is an exception to the dress code rules; it’s very Western and far more relaxed than the rest of the country.

Remember, shoulders and knees should be covered everywhere you go, regardless of the heat. If you do pack a sleeveless top or dress, you can always cover your shoulders with a wrap or scarf, which are widely available across the country. Another hack is to wear a pair of leggings under a dress that hits above the knee. Semi-open backs are generally fine, as Indian saris are often partially open in the back. And remember, super-form-fitting clothes are just as much a no-no as super-revealing clothes. As for fabrics, just say no to polyester and nylon. Look for more breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, and chambray. On the shoe front, hiking boots will make you miserable. Leave them at home, and pack a supportive sneaker or sandal instead.

Feel free to play around with colors or patterns, as women dress quite vibrantly in India. Though bright white is a temptingly cool color choice, it’s not your friend in the rain and will show all sorts of stains (and dust). If bold colors aren’t your thing, go for neutral basics and punch them up with patterned scarves or a knockout handbag.

What to Pack When it’s Hot in India

Your instincts might tell you that covering up will make you hotter, but longer sleeves and pants will actually keep the sun (and dust) off your skin. To stay breezy, the trick is to keep the silhouettes relaxed and not clingy. This linen boyfriend shirt and linen drawstring pants are excellent choices that look flattering without flaunting any skin. A sun hat and silk bandana are glamorous, and practical, considerations for sun protection. These Lucky Brand espadrille sandals provide ankle support and will look good with everything in your suitcase.

What to Pack When it’s Raining in India

Monsoon season is serious business. If you’re visiting India from late April through September, you need to plan for rain. Rain can mean everything from afternoon showers to flooding, so be smart. Avoid wearing full-length skirts or pants, and go for above-the-ankle culottes to keep your hems dry. You might not immediately think of Crocs, but this ballet-flat version is undercover waterproof footwear that’s still pretty cute. A transparent rain jacket with a (nonnegotiable) hood is a good choice, as are a waterproof tote bag and a heavy-duty umbrella that folds down small for easy transportation.

What to Pack When it’s Hot and Raining in India

What about days when it’s hot and raining? Instead of staying inside, dress the part. Amazon’s favorite maxi dress is loose and long, and you can knot the hem if you’re dealing with major puddles. Skip the full rain jacket when it’s this hot, and go for a bubble umbrella to keep your hair dry and your vision uninterrupted. A lightweight wrap is ideal when you want to cover up your arms without adding a lot of bulky fabric. For shoes, Tevas to the rescue. They’re fashion-forward, dry quickly, and let your feet breathe. And how cute is this handbag raincoat? The velcro opening means it works with the handbags you already have. Genius. And dry.

Year-Round Accessories to Pack for India

 

Of course, you’ll need some extras for your trip to India no matter what time of year you visit. It’s smart to pack a refillable water bottle that you can fill with filtered water, and cut down on single-use plastics. Mosquitos can be an issue, especially during and after the rainy season, so bring a travel-size bottle of insect repellent. And in case you haven’t heard it enough, we’ll drive it home: a pashmina-style wrap is your best friend to cover up and look cute.

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